As a tech-minded individual, you appreciate a solid hands-on experience with any device before you purchase it. You storm your local electronics haunt and play with display models for hours on end before making a decision. We’ve always been the same way (“Mommmmm, I gotta play all the levels on the demo before I can be sure I want it”) and can’t blame you one bit. But you’re still here reading because you want the deets up front from a reliable (thank you) source. With this in mind, we must first explain that no matter how many of the glorious specifications, design and interface highlights and general accolades we spout over the next page, we simply won’t be able to scratch the surface (huzzah!) of the technological nerdery that makes up Microsoft’s newest versions of their tablet duo. But are we ever gonna try.
The Surface 2 ($449) and Surface Pro 2 ($899) are, as their names imply, the tech titan’s second-gen offerings, upgraded in myriad ways over the original Surface and Surface Pro tablets. Of course, Microsoft also decided to keep many of the features that worked well the first time around, creating in the ’2s the best of both worlds. Most notably, the shapes and constructions of these iterations are rather similar to their forebears. Their simple black borders cascade into beveled edges and corners smooth as glass (well, it is glass, but you know). In back the classy, rectangular cases angle nicely to finish out the form, affording space for the multiple inputs: a USB 3.0, a MiniDisplay port (which allows two daisy chained monitors to supplement your workspace) and a microSD card slot that can expand memory up to 64GB.
Visually, the Surface 2 is most changed: instead of the original’s near-black back panel, the tablet shows off its VaporMG material’s handsome face, now colored a chic gray-silver. Surface Pro 2 models are available only in black. The VaporMG case on both models is an aluminum-like Magnesium with a PVD finish; it’s thin (Surface 2 is 8.9mm thick; the Surface Pro 2, 13.55mm) and pleasant to the touch, light enough (1.5 and 1.9 pounds, respectively) to keep you working comfortably for long stretches and to allow for easy carrying, and it looks killer too. First-gen Surface tablets were known for their included kickstand; both the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 keep the beloved feature, but this time their stands have a second, 55-degree angle perch point, making propping the slate on your lap much less stressful on the ol’ neck area.
We know, we know — you’re aching to scoot out to touch one and feel how light and awesome it is to hold, but there’s so much more to tell. Meanwhile, program your GPS to direct you to the nearest Best Buy, where the Surface family lineup is on full display, and get ready to do your scooting the moment you finish reading about the screen and other tech specs. The 10.6-inch 1080p display is shared between both models, and an upgrade for the Surface 2; it boasts 46 percent better color accuracy than the outgoing models, so black is black and you can watch double rainbows all day with no complaints. Both models feature dual stereo speakers and system-wide Bing search capability as well.
But enough on how these two are alike. Like fraternal twins, one of whom plays competitive chess while the other captains the lacrosse team (and teaches its brother chess on the side), these are two similar yet different machines, mostly on the inside (which is what counts, right?). The Surface 2 boasts a faster processor than its predecessor — a 1.7GHz Nvidia Tegra 4 chip — and thinks with 2GB of RAM. It can be had in 32GB or 64GB iterations and comes with Windows RT 8.1 all ready to go. A front-facing 3.5MB camera does video chat and selfie duty, while the 5MP rear camera can snap high-quality photos for days; both shoot 1080p. Pro 2 models (the smart lacrosse player from our earlier analogy) runs a fourth-generation Haswell processor that boosts battery life by up to 75 percent. It’s available with 64GB, 128GB, 256GB or 512GB of internal storage and either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, and also runs Windows RT 8.1. Also included with Pro 2 tablets is a slick digital pen infused with Wacom tech (and featuring 1,024 levels of sensitivity) that works with many of the device’s apps, including Photoshop.
While touchscreens — those devices of the future — are all the rage, sometimes you need to do some actual typing, keyboard-style. It happens that Microsoft upgraded their two keyboard accessories of magnetic “snap” commercial fame. Both function as covers and are built around a magnetic connection that’s surprisingly strong. Touch Cover 2 features over 1,000 sensors (up from the last generation’s mere 80) and provides a flat, touch-sensitive pad-typing experience. The Type Cover 2 keyboard, on the other hand, is fully mechanical with moving keys and perfect for the analog set. Both covers feature a smart backlight that responds to ambient light; a wireless adapter is available so you can control your tablet from afar with a simple touch of the keyboard. Dare you to find that kind of kit for any other tablet out there.
In fact, it’d be difficult to find this kind of computing power in another set of tablets, period. The Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 are meant to go head-to-head with laptops as well as their tablet competitors. Starting at 450 bucks (the original Surface is now going for $350), Microsoft’s new tablets offer a combination of computing, surfing, movie watching, social media perusing and more at a bargain price you won’t find anywhere else. Which is why you’re heading out the door now — we know. Go grab one of Microsoft’s new slates at Best Buy. Touch it, use it, pick one up and let us know what you think when (if) you..surface…again.
ADVENTURE IS ONE CLICK AWAY
Subscribe to GP for a daily dose of the best in gear, adventure, design, tech and culture. 5pm sharp.