It's NOT an iPad - but that's FINE: I learned to LOVE Microsoft's Surface 2
Delightful hardware, disappointing apps
Don't mention the app store
I tested the new cover versus the old with online typing tests and found around a 20 per cent improvement in speed, thanks to its greater responsiveness. More to the point, typing on the new cover is a better experience; it is usable where the old model was a struggle other than for the most determined. This review is typed on the Touch 2 cover. The Type cover is still preferable for best productivity, but not by much, which means the elegance and smaller bulk of the Touch 2 cover may now swing it into favour.
Is it any good for typing on your lap? The kickstand now has a second position designed for this scenario and it really is an improvement, though the Touch 2 cover still flexes slightly in use. I am fine with it, but tastes vary.
A bug I have encountered with my Touch 2 keyboard is that it sometimes stops responding. Opening device manager seems to fix it, which is odd. The keyboard sound also sometimes fails. Either I have a faulty unit, or Microsoft has some work to do with its drivers.
The Windows Store of apps remains disappointing, though the software selection is gradually improving. It is not a complete dead loss. Using Surface as a tablet, you have at your fingertips the Internet Explorer 11 browser, Mail, Twitter, Skype, maps, music, photos and videos, games, a decent official Facebook app, and more. That said, Surface is a little odd as a tablet since it is most comfortable in widescreen mode whereas tablets are normally held portrait.
A single USB port is not enough and it is a shame Microsoft has not found space for a second one.
Surface 2 starts at £359 for the base model ($449 in the US) with a 32GB flash drive, or £439 ($549) for 64GB. Office works better with a keyboard and trackpad, so most users will want at least the Touch 2 keyboard cover at £99.99 ($120). Yes, you can get a reasonable laptop, an iPad, or an armful of budget Android tablets for the same money, so why Surface?
Games like Pinball FX, which struggled on Surface RT, now perform acceptably
The answer is that it is well made and carefully designed, and if you are in the market for a compact, light tablet with long battery life that runs Microsoft Office, it is compelling and perhaps more secure than an x86 tablet thanks to its locked-down OS.
Although Surface Pro 2 is faster and runs full x86 Windows, Surface 2 is better as a tablet, thanks to its thinner, lighter build, as well as being more affordable.
There is an inevitable comparison with Apple’s iPad, though it is a very different device. The usability, elegance and rich app ecosystem of iOS is way ahead of Surface; but if you want the capability of Microsoft Office, multiple app views, USB connectivity, and the familiar Windows desktop with its accessories, then Surface makes its case. As a client for Microsoft’s cloud platform, whether Office 365 or Outlook.com and SkyDrive, it is excellent.
Whether the market will take to Surface 2 is hard to judge. It is expensive enough that consumers will be put off, and users have to come to terms with the limited app availability. Remote Desktop is a solution for some business scenarios but not all.
The hardware is delightful, though, keyboard glitches aside: a refined and faster version of what was already a strong design. ®