Surface 2  screenshot

Surface 2

It’s been only a year since the technology giant launched their first generation of Windows tablets. Surface RT and Surface Pro were born to suit the needs for domestic use and professional activities respectively. Now, after one year transition, Microsoft has recently introduced sophisticated features and improvements to their two new ‘babies’, although the first lucky users who have tested them notify that they only have been able to detect slight differences compared to the previous versions. Having launched the first update of Windows 8 almost at once, the question is: is the new Surface 2 edition really necessary?

A fresh new look to start with

This surprisingly new edition of tablets present some novelties that the average would consider more comfortable according to their preferences: Surface 2 supports two positions thanks to the adjustable Kickstand feature, so if we are watching the TV on the sofa we can tilt our tablet at our ease. Otherwise, with the other way your Surface device will shift and offer you a better position to work on your desk.

Microsoft also has incorporated better specifications, regarding the CPU and HD screen to provide users with a better performance and a pressure-sensitive experience. That’s right, considering that the former Surface was based on a previous version of NVIDIA Tegra processor, but first let’s talk about the exterior appearance. Although Surface 2 is quite similar to its predecessor, it provides a noticeably different aspect.

The benchmark of this new product is its design. This release is a magnesium alloy with a light silver tone instead of the black color of the first tablets, which makes it look a little bit more sophisticated. It follows with the kickstand feature and the rounded corners which make look thinner, stylish and resistant to fingerprints. Nevertheless, the fact of carrying it everywhere could damage its beautiful appearance making it a delicate device in which could be necessary to ship with a case every time you take it.

Leaving behind its aforementioned style, Surface 2 comes with some third-party software and changes on its peripherals accessories which can be acquired separately. First of all, the two keyboards with backlighting that can turn this device into a laptop: you just need to adapt it to your tablet and you will be able to type almost like in a computer. These new accessories –which have added shortcuts and use Bluetooth-, are the Touch Cover, quite slimmer than the previous version, and the Type Cover with an integrated indicator to see when you enabled the Cap Lock. Both keyboards have backlight, which fades in when you touch any key, a useful feature that can help you in case you are in a dark room.

The stability issues of this new way of typing have impressively improved, since in the first release it was more difficult to touch the keys without pushing the rest of keys around as well, because the trackpad was a bit small. The Type Cover also provides you with space to move your cursor and the possibility of right-clicking for correcting any spelling mistake it finds. Plus, Surface 2 also provides you with a Bluetooth adapter in case you want to separate your keyboard from your tablet.

When it comes to connectivity, Surface comes with its micro-hdmi and its top-notch full-size 3 USB port in the right-hand of the tablet, with enhanced connectors in which your external drives will be connected more quickly. The microSD card connector can be easily spotted thanks to the noticeable silver tone of the device, so thanks to its additional devices you can have a solid-state storage besides the memory it has incorporated.

Take a look at the world in high-quality

When you buy a tablet, one of the things you care the most is the screen resolution. Surface 2 provides you with 10.6-inch HD screen, although it has to work harder if it aims to compete with the other technology giant, Apple. Anyway, with this release, graphics are generally more intense in which you could see figures on-screen with more accuracy, especially for watching movies.

Its high-end 3.5 megapixel front-facing camera is quiet enough to make videocalls and take snapshots - you don’t need much more MP for using a tablet- and its 5mp rear-facing has also improved, taking pics at reasonable quality (don’t expect to shoot the best photos in the world). Colors of pictures are bright and well enough to muddle through and you can even use its panorama tool to get a 360-degree picture.

Maybe you are wondering if this is really useful for a tablet, to have a camera with these megapixels for taking pictures with the highest quality. Our answer may be the same as yours: not really. Usually, what you are going see in your tablet’s built-in camera will not be so special to be in the best quality ever; the most important function you may do with your camera may be to ‘skype’ your friends through a videocall with the webcam. If you want to take good photos you grab your digital camera, or even your smartphone since their lens will be probably better.

Microsoft scores in its performance

Above all the novelties, what users have noticed the most is the improvement in performance. We talked about the 1080p Full HD higher-end graphics, but Surface 2 also has significantly enhanced the audio with Dolby which offers a faster experience when it comes to enjoy your media content and Xbox games. Watching movies, listening to music and enjoying all the multimedia in your device will be a way better than previously.

In general, this new functional version of the MS’s tablet notably works at higher speed than the Surface RT, with a faster start-up time and smooth scrolling. The 32GB Surface, with its 2GB of RAM, 1920x1080 cleartype display, quad-core 1.7GHz Tegra 4 integrated, magnetometer, accelerometer and gyroscope proves that it does not matter if you have multiple apps running; it is able to continue like if the program you are launching was the only one opened. Battery life lasts about six or seven hours, depending on the sites you visit –in some websites it can spend more time loading the page if it has Flash animations, i.e.- although Microsoft determines it is able to stay connected without charging for 10 hours.

This dual-band device comes installed with the new update of Windows 8, the multi-touch 8.1 version which has been also criticized for not having so many novelties regarding the previous version. Your device will have integrated the apps of the last version of Windows, made for mostly touchscreen devices. In its capacitive Start button you will customize the icons appearance on your desktop to increase or decrease their sizes as you want and classify them by categories- gather applications altogether like Flipboard, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Instagram, Pinterest, Photoshop,etc.

Your Surface also brings Skype installed with one year of landlines calls in more than sixty countries and hotspots access, along with the latest updates of OneNote, PowerPoint, Outlook, Word and the entire Office package and the SkyDrive service: all the benefits for making you think this is the best operating system you could come across.

Is this update necessary?

Microsoft has created a multitasking device with more flexibility, resistance, design, performance and a new full OS. If you ask them why they found necessary to launch another device in that little time, they will say that they just respond to users’ needs and reviews. People needed an upgrade since, according to the manufacturers, there is market for both Surfaces; there are people who would pay for a better product.

We agree that Microsoft has spent a lot of money working hard for Surface tablets to become ridiculously similar to the iPad, and finally we think they made it. Nevertheless, at the moment if you put it side-by-side with the scary competition, iPad Air, you realize that comparatively it is ahead of the game as well as the Apple Store or Google Play for Android, which are still better than Windows Store.

In our opinion, we think that MS has done a good job, but there is still a long way to go to become the best option of the market. Surface 2 has a well-built design but a low-power processor, an awesome two-stage kickstand feature and some thankful extras like the Skype hotspot access or the 200GB of SkyDrive space that provide a good and low-light performance.

On the other hand, we think there are more affordable and cheaper options with similar results for satisfying consumers’ needs. In terms of the exterior and its increase in speed, this upgraded version of Surface may have work well among users, but we bet they might be reluctant to pay a questionable amount of money for a Windows device, instead of opting for its arm-based competitors.