They say it makes Jack a dull boy, the whole single-sided approach to life. We’ll go one further, though, and say that even being able to switch from fun to serious or from any identity to another, for that matter, isn’t all that impressive. Sure, Batman saves lives, fights crime and delivers justice, and sure, Bruce Wayne is an impressive capitalist and philanthropist; but superheroes can’t be both simultaneously (unless you consider Schrödinger’s Cat a superhero, which we do not). Surely there must be a true two-in-one out there though, someone or something able to manage both sides of his coin simultaneously, an überhero if you will…
Well, there is, and if you’d already guessed that we’re referring to the new Surface 2 ($449) and Surface Pro 2 ($899) tablets from Windows, you are quite in the right. These tablets aren’t so much multifaceted as they are one homogenous facet: a tool and a toy at once. There are no switches to flick, no costumes to change in order to appreciate the way Microsoft’s tablets work and play. Both are inherent in a singular device that’s always ready to put its nose to the grindstone or kick its feet up and take a load off — because it’s already doing both.
We must all work. Whether it’s to get an A on tomorrow’s spelling test, eke out a 4.0 for the ol’ transcript, bring home the bacon or keep an empire afloat, there’s plenty to do. You’re a busy person and always on the go, so a tablet makes sense. The Surface 2 weighs only 1.5 pounds, the Pro 2 a half pound more, and both are smaller than a sheet of legal paper. Since both tablets are half an inch thin or smaller, they’ll give many notebooks and most tablets a run for their money, especially since they’ll run desktop versions of Word, Powerpoint and Outlook standard. This generation of Surface tablets boast a seamless “dual” personality, and that seamlessness carries through to their relationship with your home computer: you can leave the house and simply pick up your last task where you left off without having to adapt to some sort of watered down, under-intuitive mobile app. What’s more, the Pro 2 can run legacy Windows apps, so your more involved desktop work can be managed and manipulated on the go as well. (The Surface 2 runs Windows RT, which means its apps are all downloaded via the Windows Store, and therefore it won’t run legacy apps.)
In a truly excellent “but wait, there’s more” move, Microsoft has done us all a big favor in terms of extras. Both the Surface 2 and Pro 2 feature a dual-stage kickstand for easier viewing and easy typing on laps and tray tables alike. For more intricate work, Pro 2 tablets come with a special stylus that integrates nicely into plenty of apps including Photoshop. Two magnetically attached keyboard peripherals — the slim, mechanical Type 2 and the touch sensitive Touch 2 — are available for longer emails, dissertation or just for those folks who generally like to type offscreen. Battery life is improved too, so that long trans-Atlantic flight shouldn’t be a bother: you’ll get up to 75 percent more battery life out of the latest Surface generation, depending on the activity at hand. And to supplement all the other goodies, as a bonus to Surface 2 and Pro 2 buyers, Microsoft is including a free one-year subscription to Skype, which features unlimited worldwide calling and unlimited Skyping via wi-fi. You’ll never miss another meeting.
Now that we’ve come dangerously close to “dull boy” territory, let’s expound a bit on the ol’ fun factor (actually, more than a bit). The entirety of any tablet is a screen, and the HD display on Microsoft’s next generation slates could easily be considered the stars of the show. The Surface 2 received a huge upgrade to match the Pro 2’s 10.6-inch 1080p face — a face whose color accuracy is improved by nearly 50 percent in this iteration, translating to richer, more immersive visuals in apps, games and movies. And watching movies on a tablet has never been less of a pain in the neck. With a new, second kickstand angle (a 55° tilt), propping either ‘2 on your lap to take in a flick is comfortable as can be. Should you care to avoid work in other ways, there are of course a plethora of social networking apps available to the Windows user via the Windows store: browse Facebook or get into a Twitter fight (Twit Fit?) with the swipe of a finger and, thanks to the Windows 8 tile layout, see Timeline updates from your home screen without opening the apps themselves. Games are in abundance as well, so you can fling Angry Birds at pesky pigs all day long (though we’ve got our eye on Halo: Spartan Assault, personally).
Owing to its rather wieldable size and weight, the newest Surface 2s are portable as hell, whether you’re in an airport lounge, the conference room, a coffee shop or curled up in bed hitting snooze over and over (just us?); the included 200GB of free Skydrive space will veritably swallow pictures, files, music and more, allowing you to easily shift from work to play without hesitation. You can work and play on these things all day long and they’ll keep up, effortlessly — these superhero slates are purpose-built to save the day, save your sanity and keep you sharp.