Surface Pro 2 touted as hybrid, but more of a laptop: reviewers

With Microsoft Corp. launching two new Surface tablets in the last week or so, it’s easy to get confused with the difference between the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2. However, reviews are in, and so far, they look pretty favourable for both devices.

Here’s our review roundup of the Surface Pro 2. (Surf on over here for our roundup of reviews for the Surface 2). And of course, stay tuned for full reviews from our own staff later this month.

Given the Surface RT really didn’t fare well among both reviewers and consumers, many were waiting to see what Microsoft would do next. Turns out Microsoft wasn’t so ready to give up – however, it has done a rebranding job of sorts and dropped the “RT” from its names for its tablets.

Kane Fulton of TechRadar says the Surface Pro 2 is a huge improvement. As he puts it, “The Surface Pro 2, which doesn’t so much step through the door as put a 10.6-inch foot through it, indicates that Microsoft has no intention of lying down in the heat of battle.”

Microsoft has definitely worked to improve its premium tablet offering. Many of the problems with the Surface RT have been addressed, like the device’s poor battery life and a design that prevented it from sitting comfortably in a user’s lap, notes Dana Wollman of Engadget.

(Image: Microsoft)
(Image: Microsoft)

However, on the hardware side, the tablet remains pretty much unchanged. It has the same dimensions, and it weighs two pounds, which makes it one of the heavier tablets on the market.

Essentially, you’re looking at a quality product, Wollman writes.

“Top-notch craftsmanship is one reason you might still want to go with the Surface Pro 2. Once again,
Microsoft’s design team went with black magnesium alloy, and it’s as tactile as it is minimal. Turned off, the tablet’s metal surfaces feel smooth, cold and … expensive,” she writes.

“Fortunately, it’s also durable: The Pro emerged from my week of testing scratch-free, and with only a light dusting of fingerprint smudges. And that’s even after I carried it around in a tote bag with other objects, like a wall charger and the included stylus.”

It comes with a 10.6 inch display, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, “which is what we’d expect from a laptop or tablet in this price range. That’s a major point of differentiation from lower-cost Intel Atom tablets, which usually have lower 1,366×768-pixel-resolution screens,” writes Dan Ackerman of CNET.

“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.”

And like the Surface 2 tablet, the Surface Pro 2 is compatible with two kinds of keyboard covers – the Touch Cover 2, and the Type Cover 2. However, both are add-ons and will cost you extra, a gripe among reviewers since they’re about $120 and $130, respectively. They’re also pretty necessary if you want to use them as a laptop.

With CNET showing a battery life of about seven hours during its video playback battery drain test, and Engadget showing about six hours, 27 minutes, the Surface Pro 2 doesn’t really have the juice to last all day. However, reviewers note, it is a very fast device.

(Image: Microsoft).
(Image: Microsoft).

“The Surface Pro 2 might look like a tablet, but inside it’s all laptop. During its launch event, Microsoft spent a lot of time explaining the Pro 2’s performance improvements, with good reason: this is one of the fastest tablets on the market … It’s clearly aimed at professionals and those who need raw power, and it doesn’t disappoint,” writes Tom Warren of The Verge. He notes he never experienced any real slowdowns when using Windows 8-style apps, Chrome, or even Photoshop.

“It boots up within just four seconds, and resumes from sleep in less than two. That’s even quicker than my original Surface Pro, and insanely fast for a Windows PC,” Warren writes.

Ackerman of CNET notes it can do almost anything a laptop can do.

“With its almost-laptop feel, thanks to the kickstand and keyboard cover, the robust Surface Pro 2 feels like you can throw any mainstream workload at it, from Photoshop to HD video playback to office tasks, and have it feel just as zippy as the bigger laptop probably sitting on your desk right now. The main barrier to all-day productivity is probably going to be the smaller screen size,” he writes.

One of the key differences between the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2 is that they are running different operating systems. The Surface 2 runs Windows RT 8.1, while the Surface Pro 2 gets the “real-deal Windows 8.1,” writes Ackerman of CNET.

Warren of The Verge mentions all of the extra features Microsoft has bundled into the Surface Pro 2, like 200 gigabytes of free storage for SkyDrive for two years, plus a subscription to Skype’s world and wi-fi service. That gives Surface Pro 2 owners free unlimited calls for one year for landline phones in about 20 countries.

Still, that doesn’t mean the Surface Pro 2 has a vast advantage over its competitors. Microsoft didn’t add any major new features to differentiate the Surface Pro 2, Ackerman notes, so it feels as though it is just a better version of its predecessor, albeit with some good accessories.

And of course, as many reviewers have pointed out, the Windows app store is still relatively empty compared to its competitors.

“Despite its improvements, the Surface Pro 2 still suffers from something of an identity crisis. It isn’t really a better tablet as it’s still chunky and heavy, and Microsoft’s Windows Store has a long way to catch up to Apple’s App Store (and Google Play),” writes Fulton of TechRadar.

“That Facebook has only just bothered to release a Windows 8 app just about sums up the general lack of urgency around developers and the platform.”

Then of course, there’s the price tag – the Surface Pro 2 starts about $899.99, but that doesn’t include the accessories. Still, if you’re looking for something that can help you get your work done, this may be a good choice.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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