Microsoft Surface 2 Windows RT 8.1 Tablet Review


Tablets tend to be built in a certain way--glossy screen, smooth edges, unimaginative body--but the Surface 2 is quite different. True, the display is a glossy affair with a thick black bezel around the edge, but the rest of the chassis is pure industrial sexiness.

The casing has the same excellent VaporMg back that we saw on the original Surface, and the molten magnesium alloy is gorgeous. The look pops even more with our Magnesium-colored (read: light gray) edition. When you look closely, you can see that the finish actually sparkles, and it resists fingerprints with the best of them.

The edges are angled slightly toward the back with crisp, sharp edges that actually contribute to the grip of the device when the kickstand is engaged because the angle of the edges follows the angle of the device when it’s propped up.

The top edge of the tablet is bare save for the power button, and down the back is a camera and microphone. Hiding behind the kickstand is the microSDXC slot, and the bottom edge of the Surface 2 has the Cover Port you use to connect Cover peripherals and accessories. There’s a speaker apiece on the upper right and left edges, and the second camera and mic are at the top middle of the display.

The right side also hosts the HD video out port, USB 3.0 port, and the four-pin 24W power supply connector; the headphone jack and volume rocker are on the left.

You can actually use the kickstand in two different orientations, one where the display is propped up at a steeper angle, not unlike how you’d position a laptop screen, and one where the kickstand is at a 90-degree angle to the body for more gently-angled use.

The design isn’t perfect, though. We’re not the first to note the substantial heft of the Surface 2, and at 1.49 lbs it’s not very comfortable to hold in one hand for extended periods. That’s what the kickstand’s for in part, but opening up the kickstand can also be an awkward experience. There’s a little notch on the left side of the device designed to give you a way to grab the stand when you want to flip it out, but our largish fingers struggled to catch it every time.

Further, the only good way to hold the Surface 2 when you want to flip out the stand is by gripping the top right corner with one hand and using your left thumb to pop it out. Otherwise, your right hand is in the way of the extending kickstand; or, as we kept doing much to our annoyance, your left hand keeps bumping the volume rocker. (Now if you’ll excuse us, that minute level of nitpicking has given us a headache.)

All that said, the construction feels beautifully solid, and we’re still amazed that the fingernail-thin kickstand and it’s commensurately small hinge is so solid and stable. With the kickstand out and the Touch Cover attached, you’d swear you were using an ultrathin laptop, which is exactly what Microsoft was hoping for.

The Surface 2’s 1920x1080 display is a significant upgrade from the Surface’s 1366x768, which is saying something because we found the original to offer strong contrast, saturation, and sharpness as well as responsive touch. We’ll go ahead and repeat ourselves for the Surface 2's display, which also boasts terrific viewing angles and a brightness level that’s almost uncomfortable to behold at full blast.

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