Microsoft Surface 2 review
- Kickstand & keyboard combo
- Vivid display
- Useful multitasking
- Barren Windows Store
- Desktop mode
- 16:9 ratio not great on tablet
It’s fair to say that the original Microsoft Surface didn’t exactly set the world of tablet computing alight. Even though it had a unique kickstand, nifty cover that doubled as a keyboard and a free version of Office installed, it ended up costing Microsoft over $900 million.
Since the inception of the Surface, we've seen a slew of new tablets, including the slimline iPad Air, the iPad 4 and the S-Pen toting Samsung Note 10.1 (2014 edition), and they’re just the 10-inch models. The 7-inch slates are also piling on the specs, with Google’s Nexus 7 2 boasting a beautifully high-res display, nippy processor and a form factor that a catwalk model would be proud of.
So, here we are. A year later and with the tablet scene clearly hotting up, the maker is back with the Microsoft Surface 2, hoping things go a little more to plan this time around. First impressions are strong too; it clearly cares about this product. The screen's fantastic, the Tegra 4 processor flies and Windows 8.1 RT (yep RT is sticking around) seems to right many of the wrongs of its predecessor, but could it be your next tablet? Read on to find out.
Microsoft Surface 2: Size & Build
With its straight edges, strong lines and a lovely new silver colour, the Surface 2 is a real looker. It still has that industrial feel of its predecessor, but everything feels a bit more engineered this time around. The matte back is grippy, yet smooth and it’s a joy to hold.
Microsoft has really made an effort to make the whole device much more manageable, though it weighs more or less the same as the original at 676g. The iPad 4 comes in 652g, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition) tips the scales at a much more impressive 540g. The new iPad Air however, is the lightest, weighing just 468g.
Seeing how much is packed into the Surface 2 though, it seems impressive Microsoft managed to keep the weight at what is it. This is down to the use of a VaporMg alloy, which is around three times lighter than aluminium - the material used in the iPad.
The chamfered edges, paired with curved corners make the Surface 2 comfy to hold, well for a fairly short period anyway. Settling down to watch a film was doable at first, though after a while we found the edges began to dig into our palms and became a bit uncomfortable.
Fear not though, Microsoft has kitted the Surface 2 out with a fantastic kickstand, a much improved version than we saw on the model from last year.
Whereas last year you were confined to one angle, a fairly rigid one at that, this year Microsoft has added a second, far more usable angle that instantly makes the device a much better product.
One area where last year’s kickstand disappointed many was its lap use. Resting the Surface on your lap and trying to get some serious work done was almost impossible, it simply just bobbed around and lost all sense of balance.
Luckily ‘lapability’ (as Microsoft calls it) is a key feature of the Surface 2, all due to a second angle for the kickstand. When angled at 40 degrees (the other angle is 24 degrees) it sits much more rigid on your lap, plus it gives you a much improved view of the display for general usage.
Hidden under the kickstand is a useful Micro SD slot, which is joined by an even more useful USB 3.0 port. Continuing around the device you’ll find a volume rocker switch, Micro HDMI, headphone jack, the power switch and a connector for the proprietary charging cable.
This magnetic port is particular finnicky and it’s a pain actually fitting the charger in. Last port of call is another magnetic connection on the bottom; this is where you plug in the Touch Cover or Type Cover.
We tested our unit out with a Touch Cover, a thin keyboard and case combo that has been shrunk down to just 2.75mm thick. The cover clips into the Surface with a reassuring clicky noise and it stays attached even when you turn the device upside
When paired with the Office suite, this keyboard is one of Microsoft’s key selling points for the device and it works well, though it really does take a while to get used to it.
At the start you’ll be using the backspace key more frequently than any other and your spelling will be all over the place. The lack of a real reaction when you press the key doesn’t help. Give it time though and it does become really useful. We also love the addition of a backlight, typing in the dark without it is not enjoyable.
One downside is the price, it costs £99 (the Type Cover will you back £109) which is rather pricey, though the Surface 2 feels oddly lost without it, because it’s really the thing that sets it apart from the competition.