Surface Pro 2 – My First Impressions
As you may know, I am a Surface user from the first moment. I owned a Surface RT, which I use at home in the living or bedroom to browse the web, read, watch some videos, or listen to music. Since February of this year, I also own a Surface Pro which replaced my notebook. I use my Surface Pro every day for work, to deliver presentations, write blog posts or articles, or at university to take notes.
Last Wednesday, my new Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2 arrived. In the past days, I had some time to work with both devices and replace both devices with the new ones. Of course, I cannot say a lot about devices after only a few days. I have the chance to travel a lot in the next month, and I will write a final review about the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2 at the end of November.
One of the reasons why I am writing this small review is because I have read a lot of reviews about the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2 on the big gadget sites. I was a little confused about the reviews because I think most of them were not clear and did not see the real value of the Surface.
I know I am not a professional reviewer and writer, but I am one of the Surface customers who use these devices day for day and not just for some hours or days to write a review about it. In most of the reviews, the Surface gets some bad points for not being a laptop or tablet, and I think that’s true, but this is not something bad. This is a new category of devices, and people should not think about it as a typical notebook or tablet; it’s something different.
Another point a lot of reviewers were complaining about is the App ecosystem. I don’t understand the problem here. Of course, there are not as many apps in the Windows Store as in the Apple App Store, but that’s not the only possible way to install Apps. What reviewers don’t see is the huge Application ecosystem it the “classic” Windows Applications you can run and install on the Windows tablets, and this is a huge deal especially for companies that can make all their existing applications available for employees. Of course, everybody would love to have the new Windows 8 Apps as their business apps, but to rewrite these classic Windows Applications to Windows 8 apps, companies need some time, and IT is typically happy if they get some time. And when we talk about the quality of Apps, and you take the key applications which would be Office, then there is no better option than Microsoft Office, which is better than all alternatives on other platforms.
The third problem a lot of reviews mention is that you still have a desktop and not just Windows 8 Apps. But why should this be a bad thing? I like to have one device where I can work in both worlds. Sometimes tablet mode is good for some tasks, but in other cases, you are much more productive on a classic desktop. By offering both worlds Windows and the Surface make me much more productive.
Now let’s see about the specs of the Surface Pro I am using:
- Windows 8.1 Pro
- Dimensions: 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53 in
- Weight: 2 lbs
- Casing: VaporMg Dark Titanium
- Physical buttons: Volume, Power
- 256GB SSD Storage
- 8GB RAM
- 10.6 inch ClearType Full HD Display 1920 x 1080 Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (widescreen) Touch: 10-point multi-touch
- 4th generation Intel® Core™ i5 Processor
- TPM chip for enterprise security
- Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
- Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy technology
- Two 720p HD cameras, front and rear-facing
- Stereo speakers with Dolby® sound
- Full-size USB 3.0
- microSDXC card reader
- Headset jack
- Mini DisplayPort
- Cover port
- Ambient light sensor
- SkyDrive Offer with Purchase: 200GB free storage for two years. Free Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote Web Apps in your browser.
- Skype Offer with Purchase: One year of Unlimited World calling to landlines in over 60 countries, and unlimited Skype WiFi at over 2 million hotspots.
- 1-year limited hardware warranty
- Surface Pen
Design and Durability
For me, a great device includes three different things, design, features, and a great ecosystem for applications and accessories. And this was one of the reasons why I was an Apple user for a long time because they offered great design, great hardware features, and they had an ecosystem were software and hardware worked perfectly together. Microsoft does not disappoint with the Surface line, the first generation was already great, and the second generation does not stop there. The design of the Surface Pro 2 did not change, and it looks the same as the Surface Pro. The chassis was still the same size and is made of the VaporMg, which looks great. But Microsoft did change the kickstand to have a second position, so the angle of the display in front of you can have two positions. This should make it better if you are using it on your lap. After I have seen this in the Surface 2 keynote, I was not sure if this solves the problem. But after trying this, I have to say this works perfectly. I can now work with the Surface Pro in my lab, outdoors, in trains, or if I have just a small coffee table in front of me.
The build quality of the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is just impressive. As a former Apple product user, I am pleased with quality, design, and the durability of the Surface Pro 2. Microsoft sends here a clear message to his partners and competitors about the quality of tablets and notebooks. Everything seems to be at the right place, and all buttons and the whole chassis is feeling very “high-class”. I like the size and dimensions of the Surface Pro. The Surface Pro is around 0.53 inches or 13.5mm thin and is 2 lbs or 900g light. I was using a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 for a long time until I got my first Surface Pro and I have to say that there is still a huge difference in terms of portability between the Surface Pro and the most ultrabooks.
I can only find one problem, I am using the device as my primary device on the road, and if I am working on a customer site, most of the time, I get a screen to plug my notebook or Surface in. But in some cases, this is not possible, and working 8-10 hours in front of a 10-inch screen is not fun. So I would love to see a 12 or 13-inch Surface in the future.
Display and Audio
The Surface Pro and the Surface Pro 2 has the best screen I have ever used. The Surface Pro 2 10.6 inches ClearType Full HD (1920 x 1080) display adds 45% more color accuracy to the screen if you compare it to the Surface Pro screen. I cannot see a difference because, for me, the Surface Pro screen was already amazing, but for graphic designers and photographers, this should be a big deal. I don’t have to mention that the 10-point multi-touch display works perfectly.
One of the most underestimated features of the Surface Pro and the Surface Pro 2 is the integrated digitizer pen, which allows you to use digital ink. The Surface Pro comes with a digitizer pen, which is perfect for taking notes with OneNote and other stuff. As I mentioned, I am using the Surface Pro at work and university. At university, I am using the pen mostly to take notes and mark some important stuff in documents. At work, I am not only using it to take notes, but it’s also great during workshops or presentations, where you quickly want to draw something instead of using a whiteboard or a flipchart. And for all iPad or Android users, this is not just a normal Pen which buses capacitive touch, which basically is just a simulated finger, this is a digitizer pen which only works with special displays and for example offers pressure sensitivity and automatically deactivates touch input during your writing so you can place your hand on the screen.
The Audio on the Surface Pro was not bad, but it wasn’t good, Microsoft adds Dolby to the Surface Pro 2 speakers which make the sound quality a lot better. It’s better than on pretty much all notebooks and tablets I have seen, but still, if you love the sound, you should maybe use some great headphones or external speakers.
Ports and Internals
Microsoft offers some different options when it comes to ports. The Surface Pro 2 has Full-size USB 3.0, microSDXC card slot, a headset jack, a Mini DisplayPort, and at the bottom a Cover port for the options like the Touch, Power or Type Cover. The position of the ports is the same as on the Surface Pro so that you can use the newly announced docking station for both the Surface Pro and the Surface Pro two.
Heat and Fan Noise
The Surface Pro 2 comes equipped with a powerful 4th generation Intel i5 processor, but even when running some 1080p flash movies or converting some movies, it does not get hot. You can feel a little bit of temperature on the back side, but this not hot. And even if you run some of these heavy workloads, you can not hear any fan noise.
The wireless performance of the Surface Pro 2 is just excellent. I never had any issues or bad performance.
Type Cover 2
One of the great new features is the new Type Cover 2. I liked the Type Cover 1, which was a good keyboard. The new Type Cover 2 comes with backlit, which makes it perfect if you are working low light conditions. The backlighting is automatic and turns off if you are not using it. If you hover over the keyboard with your hand, the Type Cover will automatically turn on the light again. Another change is the size, Microsoft made the Type Cover 2 even thinner, and they made the distance you need to press a key to get it to respond even shorter, which makes it an even more comfortable type and quicker experience. They also added new color options two the lineup, and the Type Cover 2 is available in purple, magenta, cyan, and black.
The Type Cover 2 also has a broader trackpad uses now the same material the Touch Cover is using instead of this hard plastic. This makes it not just feel a lot better than the first generation Type Cover, and it also adds a more elegant look to it. Overall the Type Cover 2 is a very nice upgrade for new and old Surface customers.
Battery life and Performance
Well, the performance was never a problem with the Surface Pro, but Microsoft said it did even add 25% more performance and 50% more graphic performance to the Surface Pro 2. And that’s not a lie. The Surface Pro 2 is just lightning-fast, and it may be the most powerful machine I have used so far. Of course, if you are a graphic designer, there are options with more graphic power with dedicated graphic cards, but the question is, do you need more performance. For me, this thing is a beast.
Microsoft promises a 75% longer battery life with the Surface Pro 2 if you compare it to the first-generation Surface Pro. In my tests, the Surface Pro 2 does excellent. During a typical workday, I could use the Surface Pro for about 5-6 hours with the Surface Pro 2 I got for the same workloads around 10-11 hours.
The Surface Pro 2 ships with Windows 8.1 Pro, which is, in my opinion, the most productive operating system available at this time. Together with Office 365 or Office 2013, this makes it the perfect work machine. For me, the main applications are OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Lync, RDP, and some of the integrated Windows 8.1 apps like Xbox Music or Skype. Especially to have both worlds, the tablet, and the desktop world together in one system is just perfect. There are a lot of tasks that are great to do on a tablet and touch-optimized apps, but there are also some tasks that are more comfortable if you can use the mouse, keyboard, and standard desktop apps. Windows 8.1 brings both worlds together and makes the same experience available on every device. If you are using a Windows Phone, a Windows tablet, a notebook, a desktop, or with the Xbox on your TV, you always get the same experience. And with SkyDrive, all your documents, photos, videos, and settings are synced over all your devices. This makes life much easier; in my case, I can sit in front of one of my devices and work without having to worry about copying files.
Accessories and Offers
With the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2, Microsoft not only included some great offers like 200GB SkyDrive Storage and one year unlimited Skype calls, but they also made some great accessories available. Besides the next-generation Touch and Type Cover, they also offer a new Power Cover, which extends the battery life of your Surface.
- Type Cover 2
- Touch Cover 2
- Power Cover
- Surface Docking Station
- Microsoft Arc Mouse Surface Edition
- USB Ethernet Adapter
- Mini DisplayPort-to-VGA
- Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI
- Car charger with USB port
- Surface Pro Pen
Well, the Surface Pro was already my primary device, with the Surface Pro 2 upgrade Microsoft improved the device and made it even better. The most important point being the battery life, with the Surface Pro 2 I get around 10-11 hours on a normal workday, which is just amazing. The other big thing I love about the Surface Pro 2 is the new kickstand, as mentioned I didn’t really think about this as a significant improvement at first, but it is. It is not only better on your lap, but I also like the new position if I am working with the Surface Pro 2 on a regular desk or a coffee table.