Microsoft Surface 2 Windows RT 8.1 Tablet Review

Introduction and Specifications

The first generation of Microsoft’s homegrown Surface RT tablet delivered mixed results. The hardware was solid and well built, but the OS and software ecosystem left a little something to be desired. Many thought pricing was a bit on the high side as well. Finally, competition at the time was also quite fierce, to say the least and still is, of course.

Undaunted and still hungry for a chunk of the tablet market, Microsoft recently revealed its second generation of Surface tablets, the Surface 2 Pro, which runs the full version of Windows 8.1, and the Surface 2 (that we’re reviewing here today), which runs Windows RT 8.1.

Microsoft really needs its Surface 2 tablets to do brisk business, because other manufacturers have been bailing, or at least souring, on the Windows RT platform. And not without good reason; Windows RT didn't quite live up to expectations. In this case, though, slightly missing the mark is not like falling short and ending up with something that’s still pretty great. It’s more like jumping between two cliffs and not quite making it.

The Microsoft Surface 2 tablet with Windows RT 8.1 and the Type Cover 2 in Magnesium

So yes, there’s been a software problem, but things haven’t been all bad by any means. The Surface hardware was good from the get go. The touch UI was built specifically for tablets and touchscreens and it’s nice having the option to pop over to a more familiar desktop environment when you need it. There are (free) Microsoft Office 2013 RT apps (as well as built-in Skype and SkyDrive), which are a huge value-adds. And for what it’s worth, the look and feel of the original Surface was pleasing as well, including the handy kickstand.

But let's take a look at the new Surface 2 and see how Microsoft has advanced the platform and offering.

Microsoft Surface 2
Specifications & Features




Battery Life:

Cameras, Video,
and Audio:



In the box:

Windows RT 8.1, Microsoft Office 2013 RT
Dimensions: 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.35 in
Weight: 1.49 lbs
Casing: VaporMg
Color: Magnesium
32 GB
Screen: 10.6 inch
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (widescreen)
Touch: 5-point multi-touch
Durable display
NVIDIA Tegra 4 (1.71 GHz)
Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
Bluetooth 4.0 technology
Up to 10 hours
7-15 days idle life
Charges in 2-4 hours with included power supply
Two video cameras on front and back
3.5 megapixel front-facing camera
5.0 megapixel rear-facing camera
Two microphones
Stereo speakers
Full-size USB 3.0
microSDXC card reader
Headphone jack
HD video out port
Cover port
Ambient light sensor
1-year limited hardware warranty
Surface 2 with Windows RT 8.1
24W power supply
Quickstart guide
Safety and warranty documents
$449 MSRP
($579 with Type Cover 2)

The second-gen specs inside the Surface 2 are appropriate for a generational bump, including the NVIDIA Tegra 4 chip (with 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4), an impressive hi-res (1920x1080) 10.6-inch display with 5-point multitouch, and rear 5MP and front 3.5MP 1080p HD cameras, all of which are notable improvements over the Surface’s Tegra 3 processor, 1366x768 screen resolution, and 720p HD front and rear cameras. There’s still a full-size USB port on the tablet itself, but this one is USB 3.0 instead of USB 2.0, and the Surface 2 is slightly taller than its predecessor (6.81 inches to 6.77) and a hair thinner (0.35 inches to 0.37 inches).

The Surface 2 also features 2GB of RAM, 32GB or 64GB of storage, two microphones, stereo speakers, a headphone jack, HD video out, a microSDXC reader, and a Cover port (for accessories), and the list of sensors includes an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, and a magnetometer. We should also note that the Surface Pen is not supported on the Surface 2.

Windows RT 8.1 is on board, and Microsoft includes its spate of Office 2013 RT apps--Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and now Outlook--as well as Skype with unlimited minutes to landlines and free calls over WiFi for a year and 200GB of free SkyDrive storage for two years.

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