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Microsoft Surface 2 deep-dive review: Better hardware, but still with Windows RT

Preston Gralla | Oct. 25, 2013
Microsoft's upgraded tablet offers some nifty new hardware features, but is any Windows RT device worth $449?

And it really shines when it comes to watching videos. I'm a Johnny-come-lately to the TV series Breaking Bad, and the quality of the display fed my fervor for binge-watching. The new display is, in fact, one of the best things about the new tablet.

The Surface 2 also has stereo speakers on each side of the frame: When I was watching movies, they delivered surprisingly vivid, realistic sound.

Microsoft has also introduced new keyboard/covers that work with both the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2: the Touch Cover 2 for $120 and the Type Cover 2 for $130. Both do double duty as covers and keyboards.

The Touch Cover 2 is a pressure-sensitive keyboard like the original Touch Cover, which is still available for $80. It is thinner and lighter than the original; it also adds backlighting, a nice touch.

The Type Cover 2 is a follow-up to the original Type Cover, which is no longer being sold. The Type Cover 2 improves on the original with the addition of backlighting, but aside from that is essentially the same mechanical keyboard.

I tried out the Type Cover 2, and it's a surprisingly good keyboard despite how thin it is, with good tactile feedback. It's slightly more cramped than most laptop keyboards, but that didn't affect my typing much. I found the illuminated keys helpful in low-light situations.

Microsoft is working on other keyboard/covers, including the Power Cover, which will be available in early 2014 and which combines a touch keyboard with a battery. And there's also a Surface Music Kit for DJs to remix music. It's not for sale yet, although Microsoft is running a contest to give some away.

Under the hood
A new hardware release usually means new power and more capabilities, and that's certainly true of the Surface 2. It's got an Nvidia Tegra 4 1.7GHz ARM quad-core processor with 72 graphics cores, and comes with 2GB of RAM. That processor makes a difference. It's speedier than the original Surface RT and comparable in power to the original Surface Pro. I ran the Surface 2 side by side with the original Surface Pro, and found the Surface 2 to be generally comparable to it in performance, albeit a tiny bit slower when launching and running apps and games.

The Surface 2 also has a micro HDMI port for connecting to a TV or other device and a full-sized USB 3.0 port, along with Wi-Fi and low-energy Bluetooth 4.0. Depending on the price, it comes with either 32GB ($449) or 64GB ($549) of SSD storage. Nothing startling here, but that's a solid number of ports and reasonable storage for a tablet.


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