Surface 2 Pro Review, Second Time is the Charm
There is no shortage of tablet options on the market, but people have begun demanding a lot more from their mobile devices, and only a few have risen to the demand. Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Pages and Keynote, are just a few of the hardware-needy apps that set the top-tier tablets apart from the rest of the group. Many customers are demanding that their tablets run the same applications, not a tablet version or stripped-down mobile version of their favorite applications, that they run on their laptops or their desktops.
These are the target consumers of Microsoft’s Surface 2 Pro. This is Microsoft’s second addition to the Surface Pro line, a series of laptops that had trouble when it first launched because of its high price-point, though still sees continued success and upgrades to this day. Another factor to consider was the dual launch of the Windows RT line ‘Surface’, a tablet that appeared on the outside to be just as functional as the Surface Pro, but at a fraction of the cost.
The new tablet comes equipped with Windows 8 (now 8.1) another example of Microsoft’s ‘second attempt’ strategy, the software aims to fix the consumer hangups from the original launch of Windows 8 and personally I think they nailed it. The Surface Pro 2 is a power-user’s tablet, it’s incredibly fast, functional and expensive. If the past has proven anything in the tablet market though, it’s that people will pay for breakthrough features, if they sense that the tablet will maintain itself with their demanding workflow.
The Surface Pro 2 is a workhorse, capable of running anything I threw at it for my daily routine . As an editor I require a lot of media-consuming applications, and these applications have to work together, and I have to use them at the same time. That is something that the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 does better than any other tablet on the market, multitask applications. With the use of USB attachments and bluetooth connections (external hard drive, mouse, keyboard, and an external monitor) I was able to turn the Surface Pro 2 from a tablet into my personal workstation, then at the end of the night, I could unplugged and unwind with Netflix, Hulu and personal emails on the couch.
It was an easy transition, one that almost every tablets promise but few can actually deliver. At $899 the tablet is on the higher-end of the market and I think Microsoft will have a challenge convincing the mid-user to spring for the MSRP. The tablet easily offers a stunning list of possibilities, functions, software capabilities and hardware upgrades that justify the $899 price point, though a lot of the extras, tweaks and functions may be hidden to most shoppers.
The great thing about working with Microsoft’s Surface line is that as a consumer you have so many options (third party and first party) to choose from. Using the the Arc Mouse Surface Edition, Photoshop and Lightroom became a very pleasant experience on the tablet (while using an external monitor at a proper desk) and the external accessories were all setup in an instant.
Easily my favorite upgrade in the accessory category was the new Type Cover 2, it has the same design and functionality of the original that won over critics, only this time you have the extra benefit of a backlit keyboard and actual keys. Sticking with accessories I also wanted to mention the upgraded kickstand, unlike the original design, you can set the stand at multiple positions. Microsoft really improved the kickstand, allowing me to set a comfortable position when sitting at a desk, lying on the couch, or cooking while it sat on the microwave. The digitizing pen clocks in at 1,024 points of pressure and if you use photoshop, it works rather seamlessly.
With Windows 8.1 Microsoft has created a sustainable ecosystem for consumers; information, files, preferences and apps can be easily shared and synched thanks to the cloud. If you are a PC user already running Windows 8.1, the Surface Pro 2 will offer you so much more flexibility and mobility than you would find if you moved to another tablet’s OS. By the end of my first day with the Surface Pro 2, it was easy to see just how powerful this tablet is, it’s one of the true tablet-hybrids on the market, bringing the portability of a tablet along with the processing power and speed of a laptop.
Cosmetically you won’t find too many updates to the Surface 2 Pro, the original design was highly praised from both consumers and the media, and Microsoft seemed to only adjust the issues consumers voiced from the original line. The overall weight and the tablet’s dimensions haven’t been altered, and the screen is the same as well (a 10.6-inch display at 1,920 x 1,080). You will also find all of your ports in the same location, but instead of the Windows 8 logo on the back you get ‘Surface’. Microsoft seems to have shied away from the ‘weight wars’ that is currently taking place between ultrabooks and other tablets. Instead of making the tablet as thin and as light as possible, Microsoft chose instead to make it powerful and accessible, something that most users in the target demographic should appreciate. Still, at two-pounds, the tablet was a noticeable addition to my work bag while standing on the subway.
It’s a small price to pay for having an Intel fourth-generation “Haswell” processor at my beckon call. Unlike the original Surface Pro however, the battery-life in the Surface Pro 2 never let me down. At the original press-reveal Microsoft stated that the battery offered a 75% longer charge, and I found that to be true, steady use gave me anywhere from 7-7.5 hours of use while running on battery power.
Microsoft won over a lot of people when they announced the 200GB of free SkyDrive storage with every Surface purchase, though it’s easy to see why they chose to do that. Just a few apps into the day and my 64GB hard drive was filling up fast. The Skydrive integration works beautifully however, and storing files (even large video files) in the cloud was just as responsive, and a whole lot more convenient, than if I had more local storage.
I loved the multi-monitor support, it’s the most crucial factor when I choose a tablet because I often write on my tablet, or edit images, and frequently travel from couch to desk to finish writing the article. If you follow this work pattern as well, then the Surface Pro 2 should be an equal delight to you as well. The tablet does almost all of the work when switching to monitor use, auto-scaling both the Desktop and the Windows UI to the perfect size, even if you are mirroring displays or extending screens.
The real hurdle that Microsoft faces is with the power-users, it’s targeted demographic, and a tough bunch to please when talking about hardware and software features. The tablet is the best in its class when running full-featured software like Photoshop or Office, but power-users are on the bleeding edge of technology, and they are ready to push anything to its limits the moment it comes out of the box. The Surface Pro 2 is easily the best multitasking, workstation-capable tablet on the market and if you find yourself needing full-fledge apps on the go, and want a tablet that can turn from deskside hub to entertainment screen on the couch, then I don’t think you’ll find anything better this year.
more info: microsoftonline