Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Hands-on: A Better Laptop-Tablet Combo

The original Surface Pro tried to be a tablet and laptop in one, but the typing experience was too awkward in your lap and it didn’t last long enough on a charge. The Haswell-powered Surface Pro 2 ($899) attempts to address both weaknesses with 75 percent longer battery life and a new position for its built-in in kickstand. Plus, there’s a new plug-and-play docking station for getting real work done at your desk with an external display. Is the Surface Pro 2 the only PC you need? We spent some hands-on time to find out.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Surface Pro 2 is its more colorful display. In fact, Microsoft claims this design has 46 percent better color accuracy. The design is still somewhat hefty at close to two pounds, but we really appreciate the new kickstand angle for typing. You can choose from 24 degrees (the first position), which is best for viewing content or 40 degrees for typing. In the latter position, the Pro 2 had a wider stance in our lap, which made for more comfortable typing. It doesn’t feel as sturdy as a MacBook Air, but it’s improved.

MORE: Top 8 New Features of Windows 8.1

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When you’re back at your desk, you can plug the Surface Pro 2 into a new docking station that adds additional USB 3.0 port, three USB 2.0, a Mini DisplayPort, Ethernet and audio. The accessory worked flawlessly in our testing. We plugged the Surface Pro in, slide the two connectors flanking the tablet closer to the tablet, and its screen instantly popped up on an external monitor. We also had no problem dragging and dropping windows onto the second screen. This will be a boon for multitaskers. The dock supports up to 3840 x 2160 resolution.

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There’s a Core i5 processor under the hood, as well as 4GB of RAM, and you’ll have your choice of 64GB and 128GB configurations. The Surface Pro 2 also supports pen input. You attach the pen the same way as before via the magnetic power connector port. We wish there was a holster, but it’s better than nothing.

When it comes to the keyboards, the Type Cover 2 is a much better option than the Type Cover 2 in our opinion. Which the Touch Cover offers gesture support–you can swipe left on the delete row to delete a word–the new Type Cover offers better travel. Both keyboards are backlit.

You are getting a lot of power and (hopefully) endurance for the money in the Surface 2, but we have some reservations. You still have to pay extra for Office, unlike the RT-powered Surface Pro, and the keyboard isn’t included. If Microsoft is trying to create the ultimate Ultrabook, the Touch Cover should at least throw the Touch Cover in for free, and the Type Cover Stay would be an upsell. Stay tuned for our full review.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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