Last year I couldn’t recommend the original Microsoft Surface RT. The device had great potential – but was hampered by performance issues, software issues, horrible marketing, and a ridiculous price point. (I should also note that the pro model had horrendous battery life) Microsoft has addressed many of these issues in the latest iteration of the tablets and for the past two weeks I’ve been putting the New Surface Pro 2 (8GB Ram/256GB Storage) through it’s paces. I must say this is one of the best computing devices that I’ve ever owned. Microsoft has truly built a device that is without compromise.
The new surface retains or improves on all of the good points of the original model:
- Solid metallic chassis.
- An upgraded kickstand.
- Improved detachable keyboard covers.(And backwards compatibility with last years models)
- Upgraded USB 3.0, secure digital external storage, and a video connector.
- Bright and vibrant 1080p display.
- Accurate touch input as well as a powerful WACOM digitizer pen.
- Full support of all legacy windows applications including Adobe Flash.
In terms of the pro model the biggest improvement is the battery life. I get over 7+ hours of power from the device which easily gets me through a work day. And the upcoming powered keyboard cover promises to offer an addition 3-4 hours of battery life as well.
On a recent trip to the west coast the Surface 2 Pro was my only device. Unlike other tablets the Surface gives me the full functionality of a touch based tablet combined with the power of a high end ultra book. I was surprised at how versatile the device is. Where I used to carry a laptop and a tablet(along with the associated power-cords etc) I can now get by with just the Surface. Here are some of my activities during my trip:
- Spent 4 hours editing documents and reading emails on a flight.
- Played X-COM Enemy Unknown while waiting for my luggage.
- Used the pen to sketch out a client-server architecture with OneNote.
- Used Visual Studio to build a prototype application.
- Used photoshop to edit a friends wedding photos.
With the Surface 2 I find myself enjoying it’s flexibility. When I’m sitting on the couch I detach the keyboard and use it like a pure tablet. When I’m in a coffee shop I’ll attach a mouse and write documents or email. I constantly switch between touch, mouse, keyboard, and pen inputs, and I find myself preferring this level of flexibility.
It’s not all ice cream and sunshine – there are a few problems:
- The 2 lowest priced skus only come with 4GB of memory. In my opinion that’s really pushing it for Windows 8.1. But to be fair it probably depends on how you are using the device.
- The magnetic power connector is a little temperamental.
- The keyboard covers are expensive and should come standard with the device.
- I’m not a big fan of the 16:9 layout. It makes the device a bit awkward when holding it in portrait mode. However it is a perfect fit on an airplane tray table.
- When running traditional windows applications the 10 inch screen is a bit small for my aging eyes. Tablet applications are perfectly fine though.
- They didn’t upgrade the cameras on the Pro version. To be honest this isn’t a big deal as I only use the camera to photograph whiteboards. And it does that well enough.
- Why does the consumer version of Surface ship with Microsoft Office and the Pro version does not?
- The machine is not easily repaired – so I would spring for the extended warranty.
If you read the reviews from other sites you will see two basic complaints:
- The first is that there aren’t enough pure tablet applications. My personal belief is that simply counting the number of applications is a silly metric. What matters are the quality applications. And in my experience Microsoft has done a great job of getting the most popular and useful applications on the platform. Examples include Kindle, Evernote, ESPN, USA Today, and Netflix.
- The second criticism is that it’s not a great tablet experience. I initially had this impression as well. The problem is since the surface supports pen, mouse, and keyboard input – it’s very easy to use it like a laptop and forget that it’s also a full blown tablet. When I forced myself to disconnect the keyboard I discovered that it’s an excellent “pure” tablet as well.
The bottom line:
The surface pro is an excellent device. It’s a light weight and versatile device that’s capable of solving most computing problems. If you are someone that travels – the fact that you can effectively use the surface on an airline tray table is a huge plus. The Surface has also forced Microsoft OEMs to tighten up their game in terms of hardware design. We’ve been seeing some amazing Windows 8 tablets and hybrids from Sony and Lenovo – where their initial offerings weren’t very good. So the very presence of Surface makes computing better across the board.
I wholeheartedly recommend the Surface Pro. It’s an amazing device.
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