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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?

As for the operating system itself, you get Windows RT 8.1. It's essentially the same as Windows 8.1, except that you can't run Desktop apps. Oddly enough, there is a Desktop, but it's only there so that you can run Office, because there is no Modern version of Office. As a result, when you run Office and minimize an Office application like Word or PowerPoint, you find yourself on the Desktop (even if you didn't start there) so that you can run another Office program and switch between them. You can also run Internet Explorer from the Desktop, but not any other Desktop apps.

Bottom line
The Surface 2 doesn't come cheap, especially if you want to use it as a productivity tablet with a keyboard. Take its base price of $449, add a Type Cover 2 with its $130 price tag, and you come up with a price of $579. That's a lot to pay for a machine that doesn't run full-blown Windows 8.1 or any desktop applications other than Office. For those who want a tablet that can really double as an Ultrabook, there is the more expensive (it starts at an impressive $899) and more powerful Surface Pro 2 from Microsoft, or any of the many convertible devices that are coming onto the market in time for the holiday season.

In addition, at $449, it will be difficult for the Surface 2 to compete with the just-announced iPad Air which starts at $499 and is a lighter tablet with a potentially more powerful processor and a higher-resolution screen — not to mention access to the vast universe of iOS apps. The Surface 2 also has to contend with the many bargain Android tablets available.

The upshot of this is that the Surface 2 is no winner. And that's too bad, because it's a well-designed tablet with solid hardware and an improvement over the original Surface RT — but it's doomed by a problematic underlying operating system and a too-high price. It's not likely to save the Windows RT operating system for Microsoft by itself.


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