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Microsoft Surface 2: Great hardware that needs more apps

Published on May 5, 2014 5:20 AM
Microsoft Surface 2

Microsoft deserves a score of 10 for effort. Its new Surface 2 is mighty impressive. Besides being slightly lighter and thinner than its Surface RT predecessor, the tablet has an attractive matte grey chassis with a textured feel. It seems less prone to fingerprints than the previous version.

The screen resolution gets a massive upgrade from 1,366 x 768 pixels to full HD. Powering this 10.6-inch tablet is an Nvidia Tegra 4 chip, which managed to last a solid 9hr 47min in Digital Life's battery test.

In addition to the original 24-degree stop, the integrated kickstand now opens at 40 degrees, which is more stable when you place the Surface 2 on the lap.

The two cameras boast higher megapixel counts than the ones on the Surface RT, while the full-sized USB port supports the faster version 3.0 instead of USB 2.0.

The microSD slot is now more conveniently located behind the kickstand. Besides adding up to 64GB of storage, the microSD card also makes it easy to transfer files between devices.

Both keyboard covers now come with backlighting. The Touch Cover 2 ($168) feels more accurate than before as the number of sensors have increased from 80 to 1,100. Unfortunately, Microsoft said there is no stock for this cover at launch.

Personally, I preferred the Type Cover 2 ($183), which has more key travel than its thin profile suggests. This accessory is now available in three additional colours. While pricey, it helps to convert the Surface 2 into a decent laptop substitute.

Crucially, the launch price has been slashed from $668 for the Surface RT to $618 for the Surface 2. Microsoft is also throwing in 200GB of OneDrive cloud storage for free for two years, with a year of free voice calling to landlines using Skype.

In fact, the only complaint about the Surface 2 hardware is that there is still no 4G option.

Like the Surface RT, the Surface 2 runs on Microsoft's Windows RT operating system. This platform was built specially for low-power ARM processors typically found in mobile devices and it is not compatible with traditional Windows apps.

Desktop apps such as PC games cannot be installed in the usual fashion. You can download and install apps only from the Windows Store.

Windows RT is further undermined by the lack of support from hardware manufacturers. Besides the older Surface RT and the Surface 2, the only other Windows RT device in the market is the Nokia Lumia 2520, which is not yet available here.

This situation gives developers few incentives to create apps for Windows RT. To be fair, the operating system no longer feels half-baked, thanks to improvements in bundled apps, such as Mail and Calendar.

The Surface 2 also comes with the latest version of Microsoft Office 2013. The office suite now includes Outlook, which was sorely missed on last year's Surface RT.

The Windows Store, too, has improved since its debut and now features high-profiles apps, such as Facebook and Flipboard.

However, it still lags behind rival platforms, such as iOS and Android, in the variety of apps.

For instance, I had to use Internet Explorer because popular alternatives, such as Chrome and Firefox, are not available.

If you are a staunch user of Microsoft software, the Surface 2 may be good enough.

But there is a bigger world of apps out there that you would be missing, especially games.

  • The Surface 2 has great hardware just waiting for the latest apps. Unfortunately, it could be a very long wait given Windows RT’s  lack of traction.

This story was originally published in Digital Life on March 5, 2014. 

Background story


Price: $618 (32GB), $748 (64GB), available from March 14

Processor: Nvidia Tegra 4 (1.7GHz)


Screen size: 10.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

Connectivity: USB 3.0, micro-HDMI, microSD card slot

Battery: 31.3 watt-hour


Features: 4/5

Design: 4/5

Performance: 4/5

Value for money: 3/5

Battery Life: 5/5

Overall: 3/5