Microsoft delved into the tablet space about a year ago with its Surface and Surface Pro slates, and now the Windows device maker is back for round two. The new Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 tablets embody the same laptop-tablet hybrid feel of their predecessors, but Microsoft has added improvements that help them both function more efficiently as productivity devices.
The $899 Haswell-powered Surface Pro 2 boasts 75 percent more battery life, a sharper 1920 x 1080-pixel display with 46 percent more color and an improved kickstand. The $449 Surface 2, comparatively, runs on a Nvidia Tegra 4 chipset and features the same 1920 x 1080 resolution display and redesigned kickstand as its more powerful bigger sibling. Here’s what the first reviews are saying.
The Good: ”The Surface Pro 2 may look like a tablet, but inside it’s all laptop…This is one of the fastest tablets on the market.”
The Bad: “However, it’s still bulky for its primary tablet purpose and nothing has changed to address that.”
The Good: “Top-notch craftsmanship is one of the reasons you’ll want to go with the Surface Pro 2…Turned off, the tablet’s metal surface feel smooth, cold and..expensive. Fortunately, it’s also durable: the Pro emerged from my week of testing scratch-free, and with only a light dusting of fingerprint smudges.”
The Bad: “As a tablet, the Surface Pro has made fewer strides. And that’s a shame, since the Pro is, at its heart, a tablet. The improved battery life helps, sure, but the Surface Pro 2 isn’t any thinner or lighter than its predecessor, and can be cumbersome to use as a standalone tablet.”
The Good: These devices feel more refined. They keyboards are more responsive, the battery life, cameras and displays are all better.”
The Bad: But it [the Surface] has a real software problem that doesn’t appear to be getting much better and may even be locked in a downward spiral.”
The Good: “Surface Pro 2 is a good improvement over its predecessor. The platform is quicker, quieter and boasts longer battery life as well…If you were tempted by the original Surface Pro, its successor is a solid evolution and that much more tempting.”
The Bad: “What I was hoping for this year round was an even thinner/lighter chassis, but it looks like we’ll have to wait another year for that.”
MORE: Best Tablets 2013
The Good: “Compared with the very similar Sony Vaio Tap 11, the Surface Pro 2’s screen was brighter and crisper, with excellent off-axis viewing angles.”
The Bad: “The biggest disappointment is that it’s still got that first-gen hardware look, while Sony has managed to shave its competing Tap 11 system down to a thinner, lighter package.”
The Good: “Even on its first try, Microsoft showed impressive aptitude for hardware design. The Surface 2 continues the trend, a beautiful, beveled rectangle made of Microsoft’s aluminum-like VaporMg material.”
The Bad: “The bad news: a good Surface still isn’t a great device. Not right now, anyway. It’s not a great tablet — it’s too big, too tall in portrait mode, and missing way too many crucial apps. It’s not a great laptop either, not unless you’re willing to tote around a mouse and keyboard.”
The Good: “Microsoft has already proven that it can build better hardware than just about any Windows OEM. Indeed, the Surface 2 is a top-notch product. It’s thin and well- built, with a nice display, improved webcam, and generous amount of storage.”
The Bad: “Still, recommending the Surface becomes harder when there are other Windows tablets that cost less and run full Windows.”
The Good: “…The Surface fell about 12 feet, tumbled down a couple of steps, and smacked and skittered across the hardwood floor below…But not only was the Surface unblemished, the movie it was playing never even stuttered. It was as if nothing had happened.”
The Bad: “And when you do use Desktop mode on either device, the interface elements feel very, very small. Almost unnavigably so. It’s hard to operate menus or hit buttons, which is exacerbated by the very small trackpad on both style keyboards.”
The Good: “Surface 2’s construction feels every bit as solid and expensive as its predecessor. Both devices remain the absolute best built Windows tablets/notebooks on the market.”
The Bad: ”Unfortunately, Surface 2 faces the same struggles as its predecessor – primarily around the limited use of Windows RT.”
The Good: “The Microsoft Surface 2 has a sturdy build, smooth gaming performance and high-quality cameras. Windows RT 8.1 is easier to use than ever before, and the built-in photo-editing tools and Xbox Music are fantastic features.”
The Bad: “App support still lags behind competitors, and Windows RT is still incompatible with legacy programs.”
There’s no doubt about it — Microsoft has addressed some of the legitimate concerns and criticisms that stemmed from its original Surface and Surface Pro tablets. With premium hardware, durable design and longer battery life, Microsoft’s new pair of Surface slates sound like the perfect productivity devices on paper. However, based on early reviews, the Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 still appear to suffer from the same primary problem its predecessors did. Neither device functions better as a tablet or laptop than other (sometimes cheaper) devices on the market. That combined with the limited app selection of the Windows 8.1 ecosystem holds the Surfaces back from reaching their full potential. We look forward to bringing you our full review soon.