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The other tablet: How the Surface 2 beats the iPad

Brad Chacos | Oct. 23, 2013
Apple's iPad may be more well-rounded, but the Surface 2 and Windows RT 8.1 win screens-down for Office-centric productivity

Of music notes and massive niches
Rather than alphanumeric keys, the intriguing Music Cover comes packed with controls designed to help budding producers tune and tweak musical tracks with ease—with the help of a unique app that installs when you connect the cover.

While the idea of customized "blades" (as Microsoft calls these covers) is pretty much still in the womb, they hint at an almost platform-esque future for Surface, one with a strong focus on productivity niches bolstered by special Touch Covers like the Music Cover. Imagine, if you will, a easel-like blade designed for use with Fresh Paint or Photoshop, or a cover created for video editing?

During an "Ask me anything" session with the Surface team, one Redditor asked for a blade designed to work with the Xbox and Windows 8's Smartglass app. Microsoft also tasked students from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, with dreaming up blade ideas and received all sorts of crazy suggestions, as seen in the video below, ranging from solar chargers to credit card readers.

Still a specialized slate
The Surface 2 still follows in the footsteps of its failed predecessor despite its beefed-up internals and retooled software. The Windows RT operating system remains an albatross, Outlook RT 2013 be damned. And in an age of surging small-screen slates, the Surface's 10.6-inch display stands out as particularly bulky.

But as far as all-day-plus Office machines go, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything more focused than Microsoft's own tablet. The Surface 2 crystallizes the productivity tasks that shone in the original version, sharpening them into a machine that could excel in school or business scenarios.

And even if you pick one up for work, you'll likely find the Surface capable of meeting most of your casual play needs, too. While there are still several glaring no-shows in the infant Windows Store, big-name apps like Facebook and Netflix (and Twitter, Hulu Plus, ESPN, and...) are there, and Web versions of most missing apps are only as far away as Internet Explorer 11.

Even so, none of that prevented the first Surface from failing miserably.

The iPad's Retina display and fleshed-out ecosystem simply make it the better option for all but the most ardent Office lovers—and that's before we even see what's unveiled at today's Apple event. Plenty of people use their iPad for work, too: Third-party keyboard accessories abound, and Apple is literally giving iWork away for free now. And yes, Microsoft plans to release Office for the iPad...someday. (Though if it's anything like Office for the iPhone you'd be better off with iWork.)

If you absolutely, positively need the full-fledged version of Office in long-lasting form, the Surface 2 should be right up your alley. But for everybody else, the iPad is still the superior option.


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