The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (which starts at £719 for the 64GB model) is the second-generation model of Redmond’s slate, updated with a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor. Otherwise, it’s similar to the original Surface Pro, but improved battery life, along with better day-to-day performance and benchmark scores means that unlike its predecessor, the Pro 2 manages to scoop one of our Best Buy awards.
The Surface Pro 2 should look familiar to fans of the first-generation Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro. Like the previous iteration, it measures approximately 280 x 13 x 175mm (WxDxH), and comes boasting the same magnesium construction. Internal storage has improved, with 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB SSD options available. The identical dimensions mean that you can use the same Surface accessories like the older Touch/Type Covers and the new Type Cover 2, which adds backlighting to the mechanical keyboard. Unfortunately, the Type Cover 2 (£110) is an optional accessory.
Competitors like the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix and the Sony Vaio Tap 11 both come with keyboards included, saving you that expense. Alone, the Surface Pro 2 weighs 890 grams; with the Type Cover 2, it goes up to 1.15kg. That's pretty good, though alone it's imperceptibly heavier than the aforementioned Lenovo Helix (which weighs 835 grams). The system can be equipped with a custom docking station, which was unavailable at the time of this review.
The Surface Pro 2 and Lenovo Helix are physically connected to their keyboards, but the Sony Tap 11 is connected via Bluetooth, which means you can continue to use the keyboard while it's detached. That said, we really like the way the Surface keyboard covers magnetically snap into place, making them close to idiot-proof. The Dell XPS 11 and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S are stuck with permanently attached keyboards that swing around to enable tablet mode. Detachable slate tablets like the Surface Pro 2 give you the flexibility of a system that works like a clamshell laptop with the ultimate portability of a tablet.
Unlike a tablet running a mobile operating system, the Surface Pro 2 will run all the Windows programs you've come to depend on, including third-party browsers like Google Chrome and any x86-programmed plug-in.
There's a two-stage kickstand like the one on the Microsoft Surface 2 (see the images above and below). This gives you a little more flexibility than the first-gen Surface models, but the system still digs into your legs if you prop it up on your lap like a traditional laptop. On a flat work surface, like a desk, the kickstand works perfectly.
The Surface Pro 2 has a microSD slot, and a mini-DisplayPort along with the power button and volume control, but just a single USB 3.0 port. The primary I/O method on the system is the 1,920 x 1,080 resolution 10-point touchscreen along with the included active stylus. Swipes and taps are accepted without delay both on the screen and on the relatively tiny trackpad of an attached Touch or Type Cover 2.
There's no bloatware; it's essentially a bare Windows 8.1 install, along with coupons for one year of Skype worldwide calling and 200GB of OneDrive cloud storage for two years. Connectivity on the tablet itself includes dual-frequency (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 802.11 a/b/g/n W-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. The system has a TPM chip and Bitlocker support for enterprise environments. It comes with a one year warranty, along with two year software support and Microsoft Store support.
The Surface Pro 2 comes with an Intel Core i5-4300U Ultrabook-class processor, along with 4GB of memory and a 64GB SSD. As configured, the system topped our benchmark charts for the day-to-day PCMark 7 test, 3DMark11 gaming tests, and even our multimedia tests like Handbrake (video encoding), CineBench (3D software rendering in CPU), and Photoshop CS6. Essentially, if you want a powerhouse Windows 8 tablet PC, this system won't let you down, even compared to ultraportable systems like the Apple MacBook Air.
The Surface Pro 2 lasted 7 hours 19 minutes on our battery rundown test, compared with Windows 8-equipped tablets like the Sony Tap 11 (3:39) and the Microsoft Surface Pro (4:58). The Lenovo Helix lasted about 20 minutes longer than the Surface Pro 2, but only when connected to the keyboard dock with its built-in batteries. For ultimate portability, the Surface Pro 2 is the best you can do with an Ultrabook-class processor.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is a more than worthy follow-up to the original model. It improves performance and battery life, while keeping the form factor and wide accessory catalogue the first-gen Surface Pro had going for it. In short, this is a great productivity tablet for getting work done on the move.
Manufacturer and Model
Microsoft Surface Pro 2
1920 x 1080 pixels
Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro
280 x 13 x 175mm (WxDxH)
Intel HD Graphics 4400
4GB (or 8GB)
Storage Capacity (as Tested)
Video Camera Resolution
Intel Core i5-4200U
1 x USB 3.0, microSD, mini-DisplayPort