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A challenger surfaces: The Microsoft Surface Pro 2

Microsoft
Microsoft
full shot

My Year of the Chromebook series is meant to give you a more detailed look at Google’s Chromebook Pixel. Google’s not quite a laptop/supercharged tablet is a one of a kind device without question. I still haven’t featured a device on this site, large or small, that has a richer, more detailed screen. Gorgeous wallpapers of sweeping landscapes aside, clear issues have started to emerge in my evaluation of the Chromebook Pixel. So much beautiful hardware is only amplification to inferior software. Enter the Microsoft Surface Pro 2. The Surface Pro 2 is also an in-betweener, just on a different side of the spectrum from the Pixel. While the Chromebook feels like a tablet stuffed into a laptop – The Surface Pro 2 feels like a very capable computer compacted into a tablet.

Microsoft
MS

Is one better than the other? That question won’t be answered in just one article. To give us some perspective in the Chromebook discussion, keep checking back on the site for updates to this (ongoing) companion review series - a closer look at the Surface Pro 2. Read on…

Main advantage: Beautifully minimal high quality build, powerful among portables

Main concern: Small screen with weak resolution, heavy when compared to tablets, type cover 2 connection isn’t consistent

Unique features: magnetic charging cable, very well done stylus with magnetic storage design, extremely well designed built-in two angle kickstand.

If the Pixel is still a question mark, then the Surface Pro 2 is a period in bold - the tablet has evolved.

My initial thought on Google’s Chromebook Pixel is that it’s an experiment still in progress. I don’t see enough devices on this site that don’t show obvious compromises. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 is as close to a complete thought in a tablet/laptop that I’ve seen to date. The one thing I’m left wanting for is a better screen and that’s really just because I’m spoiled by all of the amazing currently available tech. I feel obnoxiously privileged as I complain about a widescreen full HD (1920 x 1080) screen. It’s enough for most, but more can be done. Viewing angles are also slightly below average to what I’m used to.

Like the Pixel, the Surface Pro 2 is almost fully crafted from metal (magnesium alloy versus the Pixel's machined aluminum). It’s definitely a thicker device in this age of the razor thin, but the thickness is for a few acceptable reasons. You’ll find a full sized USB 3.0 port on one side, a built-in two position kickstand on the back, and a battery that doubles the life of the original Surface Pro at a little over 6 hours per charge. It’s good to look at that as a good life for a laptop battery rather than a shorter life for a tablet battery. It’s enough for me to work through a long flight without anxiety or write at a coffee shop while remaining untethered. There’s also an optional power type cover on offer from Microsoft that increases battery life substantially.

The Pixel is Google’s top of the top Chromebook, but it suffers from TREMENDOUS lag despite a fully capable laptop-class processor in Intel’s core i5 and 4GB of memory. The Surface Pro 2 sports the same capable processor and amount of memory and does so much more with it. I literally haven’t had a single slow moment during my early testing of this device. On paper, I’d expect exactly opposite results. The Surface Pro 2 runs a full Windows OS (reputation for bulk) while the Chromebook’s are all vessels to show off Google’s homegrown ChromeOS and should be tuned to a much higher clip.

Past performance would hint that Microsoft might start to rest now and allow the Surface line to go stagnant while Google works to consistently improve the ChromeOS experience. Oddly enough, ChromeOS hasn’t changed much since its release and Microsoft seems genuinely hungry with Surface. Improvements between gen 1 and 2 are subtle, but still powerful enough to drive the line forward. The world needs to start considering Surface and Microsoft needs to stay hungry despite a great start. The future of Surface is bright should the pace continue. The next time I check in with Surface Pro 2 we’ll look at its functionality as a daily drive for the business user.

Thank you again to Microsoft for supplying their product for review.

Surface Pro 2 - 128GB by Microsoft

Manufacturer – $999.00

Amazon - $998.02

Google Pricing

Alternatives: Original Surface Pro, Original Surface, Surface 2, and Surface Pro 2 with more or less memory.

Is it worth buying: Though this is an ongoing series and I try to refrain from quick recommendations, the Surface Pro 2 is an extremely well made device. A windows OS means that it’s familiar enough for most anyone to pick up and start working. The form of the tablet is different enough to still make the experience exciting for more experienced users. If you're newly intrigued about Surface, stay tuned for more detail as I update this series regularly. If you already want a Surface Pro 2 and you’re looking for a nudge, I’ll make the decision for you and stand by it. BUY WITH CONFIDENCE.

ENJOY YOUR GADGETS!

@ExaminerPhil