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Microsoft’s new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2: the definitive review roundup

Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 device

Microsoft’s brand new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 are set for release on October 22nd and we’ve got a roundup of reviews from all the major news outlets who were lucky enough to get their dirty little hands on Microsoft’s latest Surface products. Sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and read on!

Before we dive into the reviews, lets go over a few basics. The Surface 2 comes in 32GB and 64GB configurations and will start at $449. The Surface 2, while powered by Windows RT 8.1, no longer sports the “RT” brand name to avoid consumer confusion. The Surface 2 comes in silver, and is thinner, lighter, and faster compared to the Surface RT.

The Surface 2 also features Full HD. Microsoft has increased the CPU speed “dramatically” and revamped the Surface 2 so consumers can see the true power of the device. Microsoft has also added the Surface logo, so you can brag about what device you have. The Surface 2 features a full 1080p ClearType display, as well as USB 3.0 and a Tegra 4 CPU. 

Starting at $899, Surface Pro 2 will be offered in 64GB and 128GB configurations with 4GB of RAM, as well as 256GB and 512GB configurations with 8GB of RAM. The Surface Pro 2 operates cooler, quieter, and was designed around battery life. The Surface Pro 2 has seen an increase in speed by 20%, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft has added Intel’s Haswell chipset to the Surface Pro 2, adding a much better battery life. In fact, battery life has been improved by 75% compared to the first generation! The Surface Pro 2 features a ClearType HD display, adding 46% more color accuracy to the screen compared to the first generation. Microsoft has also added Dolby to the Surface 2, enhancing the device’s speakers. Microsoft has also increased the graphics performance by 50%!

Surface 2

According to Microsoft, both Surface devices along with accessories will launch at Microsoft retail stores and select retailers in 22 initial markets including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the U.S. on Oct. 22.

Lets dive into the reviews. We’ve added the “bottom line” from each of the major tech news outlet out there who initially covered the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. Of course there will be numerous reviews written by the time the device hits retail, but here are the initial reviews.

Engadget

Surface 2: Microsoft has already proven that it can build better hardware than just about any other Windows OEM. Indeed, the Surface 2 is a top-notch product. It’s thin and well-built, with a nice display, improved webcam and a generous amount of storage (32GB for $449). Still, recommending the Surface becomes harder when there are other Windows tablets that cost less and run full Windows.

Surface Pro 2: In the meantime, the new Pro is much improved, but it’s still at its best in notebook mode. Indeed, whoever buys this needs to want a tablet and laptop in more or less equal measure. Because if what you really want is a laptop you can occasionally use as a tablet, you’re still better off with a convertible Ultrabook.

Mashable

Surface 2: If you love Microsoft, Windows and, especially all things Windows 8, this is your ultimate do everything tablet. However, if you want a mobile device that is unabashedly a tablet, this is probably not the tablet you were looking for.

Surface Pro 2: So although I’m still skeptical whether Microsoft’s tablet experience has any value over competitors (and it’s worthless in the Desktop), the Surface Pro 2 succeeds because that part is just gravy anyway. This is a tablet with the heart of a PC and its brain in the cloud. For a serious workhorse machine that you can really take anywhere, it’s hard to beat.

AnandTech

Surface 2: I really like everything about Surface 2 as a physical device. The chassis, the weight, the kickstand, the feel, everything. The software/services side of the story needs work, and until it gets there that puts a good amount of pricing pressure on Microsoft – at least if it wants broad adoption.

Surface Pro 2: Surface Pro 2 is a good improvement over its predecessor. The platform is quicker, quieter and boasts longer battery life as well. The new kickstand is awesome, as are the new touch/type covers, and the new display is a big step in the right direction. If you were tempted by the original Surface Pro, its successor is a solid evolution and that much more tempting. Surface Pro 2 isn’t the perfect notebook and it isn’t the perfect tablet. It’s a compromise in between. Each generation, that compromise becomes smaller.

The Verge

Surface 2: Microsoft made almost everything about the device better. Gorgeous screen, fast performance, usable kickstand, useful new software. It’s a better Surface than last year’s Surface, by a long shot. The bad news: a good Surface still isn’t a great device. Not right now, anyway. It’s not a great tablet — it’s too big, too tall in portrait mode, and missing way too many crucial apps. It’s not a great laptop, either, not unless you’re willing to tote around a mouse and keyboard. I still hope that Microsoft is right, that it will eventually figure out how to combine tablet and laptop in a way that doesn’t just come with new, frustrating compromises.

Surface Pro 2: There are plenty of tablet and laptop alternatives, or even a myriad of hybrid devices out there. Windows 8 has really helped push the idea of a tablet and laptop combination, but nobody has perfected this yet, not even Microsoft. A PC maker needs to produce the answer in a package that doesn’t compromise on battery life, weight, or lap use. That may be achievable, but it feels a long way off. Until then, the Surface Pro 2 is a great machine if you can deal with some of the compromises. If you can’t, there are plenty of great tablets, and plenty of great laptops. Microsoft still needs to convince the world that we only need one device, and that it can make the only one we need.

CNET

Surface 2: The Microsoft Surface 2 is great for getting work done, but those looking for extensive app support (beyond Office) will find top Apple, Android, and Amazon tablets to be better options.

Surface Pro 2: Microsoft’s subtly updated Windows 8.1 tablet feels more like Surface Pro 1.5 — improved battery life and better accessories make it a worthwhile (albeit pricey) laptop replacement, but it’s still not an iPad-level category killer.

Gizmodo

Surface 2: Probably not. The better screen, better camera, and better processor help make the Surface 2 a much more compelling tablet than the Surface RT, but it’s not quite as compelling as the competition, and what unique value it does bring to the table is not for everyone. Not for many.

Surface Pro 2: The Surface Pro 2, like the Surface Pro before it, aspires to be All Things to All People. But you are not All People. You are A Person, and there are a wealth of options out there that can and probably do fit your exact needs more specifically. Surface may still very well be the future. That just doesn’t do you much good today.

There you have it. These are the initial reviews of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. Based on the opinions of these major tech sites, the Surface 2 is a great successor to the Surface RT, but isn’t quite as good as the competition. In CNET’s opinion, the Surface 2 is a great choice for getting work done but don’t expect to see extensive apps in the Store. Gizmodo believes the Surface 2 isn’t quite as compelling at the competition. In essence, the Surface 2 didn’t get too many positive reviews from those who were extremely critical about the device’s ability and features.

On the other hand, the Surface Pro 2 receives mixed reviews, with some of these sites praising the device as a great competitor and tablet/notebook hybrid, while others gave it negative marks for not being good enough as the competition. For example, CNET believes the Surface Pro 2 is a worthwhile laptop replacement but is no iPad killer. AnandTech summarized it perfectly. The Surface Pro 2 isn’t the perfect notebook and it isn’t the perfect tablet, but a compromise in between. 

Just remember that these reviews are subjective. The bottom line is, Microsoft has introduced its second generation of Surface devices offering consumers a notebook/tablet hybrid powered by the latest Windows operating system. We highly recommend reading these reviews in their entirety along with heading over to your local Microsoft Store to actually “test-drive” the device before you form your opinion. Who knows, you might just like it and purchase on the spot.

What are your thoughts on the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2? Have you pre-ordered one or are you still on the fence about purchasing?

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