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Microsoft Surface Pro 2 review

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

Video and audio

We fired up the Surface Pro 2's Xbox app to play some video trailers in 1080p while the device was hooked up to a 42-inch full-HD Toshiba TV, and playback was buttery smooth.

Videos looked great on the Surface Pro 2's screen, and we failed to detect any input lag between the tablet and the TV when swiping and prodding our way through the app's menus. Playing YouTube videos set to 1080p was a similarly hassle-free and enjoyable experience.

The Surface Pro 2's audio capabilities could best be described as adequate. You won't be using it to blast out party anthems at a house party, but it's more than up to the task for casual listening sessions or watching video content.

Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 2's front and rear facing 0.9-megapixel cameras are something of a disappointment. Microsoft has made sure that its 720p snappers are just about up to the task of holding video calls on Skype (Microsoft is throwing one years' worth of unlimited International calls with the device), but they're fairly useless at taking stills, which we'll cover in more detail shortly.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2

Apps and games

The Surface Pro 2 is never going to compete with the Razer Edge-type devices of this world thanks to housing an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 chip, but it improves upon the Surface Pro's HD4000 by supporting DirectX 11.1, OpenCL 1.2 and OpenGL 4.0, turning the Surface Pro 2 into a novel option for on-the-move gamers with realistic expectations.

Our Surface Pro 2 was configured with 4GB of main memory, though the availability of an 8GB version means that it would be worth stumping up extra for the added performance in games. If you are thinking of picking one up for gaming, be warned. Windows 8.1 is something of a bloater and only leaves 26GB of free space remaining on the 64GB Surface Pro 2 before you've done anything with it.

Unlike the Surface 2, the Surface Pro 2 isn't designed to be a device that relies on cloud services (compared to, say, the Surface 2), so you might want to consider loading movies and other large files onto micro SDXC cards. Installing a few Steam games on that hard drive would see space gobbled up in a snap.

Benchmarks

We fired up 2007 game Team Fortress 2 to warm the Surface Pro 2 up. Powered by Valve's Source engine, it's a rough indicator of how the device will handle other games - such as Left4Dead2 and Portal2 - will fare.

To test the game, we ran a one-minute benchmark with it set to the Surface Pro 2's native 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. We tuned all video settings to the highest option except for Filtering (which was set to Bilinear) and Antialiasing (which was disabled), and Vsync was left on.

The Surface Pro 2 hummed along without a hitch at a smooth 60FPS, resulting in a playable experience that looked great and allowed us to sniper our way around the map with confidence. As expected, upping Antialiasing to 8x MSAA and Filtering to Anisotropic 8x caused framerates to drop dramatically to an average of 22FPS, rendering it practically unplayable.

Skyrim

Next up was Skyrim, which initially refused to load until we deleted the game's local content from within Steam before reinstalling it - something of a hiccup in Windows 8.1 according to Steam's forums. As with any new OS, it's a good idea to keep all graphics drivers and Steam games updated to avoid compatibility issues.

Running at native resolution with all of the settings tuned to low, we managed to crank an average frame rate of 26.3 FPS out of the Surface 2 Pro. Keeping the settings the same but dropping the resolution to 1,280 x 720 pixels resulted in a much more playable average of 37 FPS, and image quality was still more than bearable, if a little blurrier.

Better yet, hooking up an Xbox 360 gamepad gave us a portable console-like experience. Slaying dragons on PCs has been a pastime throughout the years, but not many can say they've done it using a tablet while sat on the train.

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