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Review: Microsoft Surface 2 RT

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When Microsoft presented the Windows Surface RT I instantly loved the hardware design and could see a lot of potential in combination with the touch cover and Microsoft Office. A lot of reviewers where more skeptical and the sales numbers have proved that the customers didn’t get the Surface as a product. Having a pro and RT edition didn’t make things easier. Now that MS unveiled the Surface 3 (instead of a Surface Mini) you can expect a big price drop for the Surface 2. But let’s see if it makes sense to get one at this point.

Microsoft Surface 2 RT – Hardware Design and Build Quality

Microsoft did a reasonably good job with the surface hardware design. It does look sleek and has its own style which doesn’t resemble any other tablet out there with its hard edges and futuristic look.

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You won’t notice that on the front though as there aren’t many ways you can design a front panel on a tablet nowadays. But you can see the ultra wide screen ratio, which basically makes it impossible to use in potrait mode. Furthermore MS has used a specific magnesium material for the tablet case which really feels great and isn’t prone to fingerprints.

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The power button is on the right side, while the volume buttons can be found on the left.

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There is also a full size USB slot available, which can be used to hook up other devices like a digital camera and import data. This sounds great until you realize that connecting the camera to import pictures means that you will be thrown to the old Windows Desktop UI which is not tablet optimized.

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I can remember Microsoft talking a lot about the kickstand feature of the Surface. They claimed that they invested heavily to make sure that the stand feels sturdy and like an expensive car door when it’s closed. It really seems well built, and with the Surface 2 you have two different stand positions which is nice. Surprisingly using the kickstand on your lap is OK. I would have expected a much worse result since the Surface is not a laptop and primarily meant to be used on a table. But it’s still miles away from a laptop in this regard.

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Sadly the overall build quality is not as high as I would have hoped for. There are many issues to be found if you look at the details. The components do not always fit perfectly and I could see some places where there is a visible gap between two components that shouldn’t be there. If you are used to iPad or the better Android devices out there you will be surprised to see that the Surface 2 can’t compete in this regard. But the build quality is the smallest problem if you try to use the Surface 2 as a tablet. The thing is that the Surface is supposed to be touch driven tablet device when needed, but I just can’t see that happening due to multiple reasons. One reason is the weight. It’s VERY heavy. In fact it’s so heavy that you wouldn’t want to hold in in your hand at all, and will primarily use the kickstand. And unlike the other tablets out there it looks straight comical to hold the Surface 2 in portrait mode, due to the screen ratio. Personally I prefer portrait mode on my Nexus 7 as well as my iPad, so being basically forced to stay with landscape mode is a setback.

Microsoft Surface 2 RT – Display

The Surface 2 comes with a resolution upgrade to 1920*1080 and nice color reproduction. Reaction to touch input feels good. So you get a pretty decent screen, which isn’t bad but also won’t impress anyone. It’s really nothing standing out compared to the competition.

Microsoft Surface 2 RT – Software/ Performance

At first i was really let down with the Surface 2 performance. Everything was slow and a farcry from the current highend iPads or Android tablets. But after all updates had been installed in the background the performance made a jump. While it still can’t really compete with the mentioned alternatives, it was generally fast and really workable.

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The main problem with Windows 8 RT was and still is that you are constantly moving between two totally different worlds. This makes a lot of tasks more complicated than on other OS.

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You just never know when the Surface will hurl you back to old Windows UI elements while you are currently using it as touch based Tablet. This is a source of constant frustration even on RT devices which are supposed to give you Modern UI only experience.

Microsoft Surface 2 RT – The Verdict

Microsoft unveiled the Surface 3 recently and they don’t even market the Surface as competition to other tablets anymore but as Laptop replacement which makes more sense to me. The Surface 2 is caught in an uncomfortable space between a laptop and a tablet. It’s sadly not good in any of both modes. As a tablet it doesn’t have enough optimized apps and is way too heavy and as a laptop the screen is too small while not being nearly as usable on your lap as a real laptop. It’s not all bad though, one of the things I like is the hardware design and Microsofts implementation of gestures, which allow for nice navigation and multitasking. Having a splitscreen view with two apps running at the same time is also great, and a lot of people would wish for something like this on other platforms.
But overall I just can’t suggest getting an MS Surface 2 at this point, even if it gets some serious price drops due to the Surface 3 announcement. If you are open to the Surface idea you should definitely put up some more money and take a look at the Surface 3 instead.