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Microsoft Surface Pro 2 review

Has Microsoft's beefy Windows 8.1 machine found its feet?

Display and kickstand

The Surface Pro 2 features near identical measurements to the Surface Pro and packs the same 10.6-inch Full HD display with a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution. It's a crisp IPS panel with wide viewing angles, and though its 208ppi is far from market leading, it still produces deep blacks and vibrant colours with 46% better colour accuracy than its predecessor.

Let's be clear - it's not the sharpest display in its category - that accolade goes to Dell's quad-HD toting XPS 11. However, as with the Surface 2, it benefits from Microsoft's ClearType pixel rendering technology that gives fonts a smoother appearance.

iPad 3 vs Surface Pro 2

Unfortunately, it doesn't fix Windows' high-resolution scaling issue, which results in text occasionally appearing ugly and jagged - imagine a monitor running in a particularly jarring non-native resolution. It's present in apps such as Chrome, Spotify, Steam and others that are yet to be updated to take advantage of the Surface Pro 2's HD stylings.

Though the scaling issue has been improved in Windows 8.1, it's still annoyingly prevalent, which is a shame because the operating system's UI shines - particularly when twinned with a striking HD wallpaper. If you've always appreciated OS X's neat and tidy UI but fancy a switch to Windows, if you ignore the scaling hiccup (which will sort itself in time), there hasn't been a better time to make the switch.

Skyline

The display itself is plenty reflective, but we still managed to (just about) read text on the screen with its 400nit brightness notched all the way up. We wouldn't recommend taking it on outdoor excursions regularly, but it's good to know that it's at least readable should you need it to be.

If outdoor readability is an absolute must, it might be worth hanging on for Nokia's upcoming Lumia 2520, which the company claims is the brightest on the market. Of course, you would have to put up with Windows RT, so it would be worth finding out if Microsoft's stripped back OS is for you.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 screen

Microsoft has fitted the Surface Pro 2 with an adjustable kickstand that also appears on the Surface 2. It's certainly a welcome addition - the Surface Pro's 22-degree viewing angle was fine for hard surfaces, but stick the device in your lap and neck pain soon came calling.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 kickstand

The second, deeper 55-inch angle makes the Surface Pro 2 much easier to use on your lap and feels more natural, though we found that the kickstand repeatedly slipped from the first to the second position under slight pressure when placed on a hard surface. It's safe to say that we panicked a few times thinking that the thing had snapped off, as unlikely as it would be.

Touch Cover 2 and accessories

We found that Microsoft's Touch and Type Cover keyboards that debuted along with its first-generation Surface tablets were a world apart in terms of usability. Where the Type Cover offered satisfying travel and felt relatively sturdy, the Touch Cover was an exercise in style over functionality. We were almost moved to put up with the tablet's on-screen keyboard, such was its teeth-gnashing inaccuracy.

Thankfully, Microsoft has carried out work under the Touch Cover 2's hood to increase precision, upping the number of key sensors from 80 to over 1,000. It results in far more accurate key presses and allows you to almost glide from key to key.

Touch Cover

But let's be clear - even if Microsoft tripled the number of sensors in it and doubled the width of the keys - it still wouldn't come close to keyboards that offer tactile feedback, including the original Type Cover (which has been replaced by a new Type Cover 2 that can extend the battery life of Surface tablets).

Shelling out the extra £10 (around $16, or AU$17) for tactile input is simply a no brainer - particularly if you regularly bash out longer documents.

Microsoft has pointed out that its new keyboard covers are stronger than before, and though we can't speak for the Type Cover 2 having not being provided one to test, typing on the Touch Cover 2 with the Surface Pro 2 in your lap still makes the device wobble too much for comfort.

On the plus side, they're far lighter and thinner than keyboard docks offered with tablets - such as the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix or Asus' Transformer Book T100 - and they now light up in the dark. The keys don't illuminate quite so brightly as those on Apple's MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models, which leak light from the edge of the keys themselves, but letters and numbers light up sufficiently to aid typing in low light conditions.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 dock

Another new accessory is the Docking Station that turns the Surface Pro 2 into a fully-fledged PC when the device is inserted. We're seeing an increasing number of docking stations with 10- and 11-inch tablets, including the Dell Venue 11 Pro, most of which offer similar features such as allowing users to hook tablets up to multiple high-resolution displays.

Microsoft's dock accessory offers a charging port, a Mini DisplayPort, four USB ports (three USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0), audio ports and an Ethernet port, so there's plenty of scope for charging multiple devices brought into the workplace or home.

Tech Specs

Product TypeTablet PC
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ModelHD 4400
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Solid State Drive Capacity512 GB
DisplayPortYes
Product FamilySurface Pro 2
Front Camera/WebcamYes
Operating System PlatformWindows
ColourDark Titanium
Operating SystemWindows 8.1 Pro
Brand NameMicrosoft
Form FactorSlate
Processor TypeCore i5
Screen Size26.9 cm (10.6")
Screen Resolution1920 x 1080
Standard Memory8 GB
Weight (Approximate)900 g
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Memory Card ReaderYes
TouchscreenYes
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Display Screen TechnologyClearType
DigitizerYes
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0 + LE
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Height13.5 mm
Width274.6 mm
Depth172.5 mm
Screen ModeFull HD
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
ManufacturerMicrosoft Corporation
Product NameSurface Pro 2 Tablet PC
Product LineSurface Pro 2
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberA4Y-00003
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.microsoft.co.uk
Marketing InformationPro. Form.

Touch that's fast and precise

With a next-gen Intel Core i5 processor providing incredibly fast performance and longer battery life, Surface Pro 2 is the tablet that can replace your laptop.

Snappy. Apps.

Fast apps that run side-by-side

Windows 8.1 runs beautifully on Surface Pro 2. Multitask with side-by-side apps, even when you're using an app and a program on Windows desktop. There's virtually no limit to how many apps you can run simultaneously.

Maximum Memory8 GB
Package Contents
  • Surface Pro 2 Tablet PC
  • Standard Battery
  • AC Adapter
  • Stylus
Limited Warranty1 Year