Microsoft Surface

Fact sheet: Microsoft Surface Pro 2

Derek Schauland lists some features and answers a few basic questions about the Microsoft Surface Pro 2.

Surface Pro 2

The Microsoft Surface 2 line of devices was released in October of 2013. I purchased a Surface Pro 2 with 64 GB of storage, and so far, the experience has been interesting. I'm not completely sure that I'm sold on the device yet, but it does have some nice features.

 What we know

  • Total disk space: 64GB | 128 GB | 256 GB | 512 GB
  • Available disk space: 36 GB in the 64 GB model | 89 GB in the 128 GB model
  • RAM: 4 GB (in the 64 and 128 GB models) | 8 GB (in the 256 and 512 GB models)
  • OS: Windows 8.1 Pro is installed and able to run any Windows 8 compatible applications, not just the apps from the Windows Store
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi (b/g/n)-only, which is a tad depressing given the portability of the device, but most places do have Wi-Fi available (this makes it more tolerable)
  • Bluetooth: The Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 support Bluetooth 4.0 low energy technology
  • Screen size: 10.6", which is a bit odd (it's wider than the iPad in landscape mode, but not as tall -- and it does use 16:9 aspect ratio)
  • Screen resolution: 1920x1080
  • TPM chip support: Yes, TPM is present in the Surface Pro 2
  • BitLocker: The Surface Pro 2 supports Bit Locker encryption; and new in Windows 8/8.1, it can encrypt used disk space, which speeds the overall setup time
  • Battery: Out-of-the-box, the battery life showed up as 2 hours remaining, and that was fairly accurate; the battery charges in 2-3 hours, and once it's fully charged, the listed idle life is 7-15 days; and finally, during normal use, the battery seems to keep a charge for quite some time (after 4 hours use, unplugged, the stated remaining time was just under 5 hours)
  • Kickstand: The Surface 2 and Surface Pro  include a multi-position kickstand to hold the device upright when it's on a table; the addition of a lower position makes the device easier to use with a keyboard
  • Storage: Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 can support external micro SDXC card storage to expand the amount of local storage available
  • USB: Surface devices also support a full-size USB 3.0 port for connectivity to external storage, external mice or presenters, and other peripherals
  • Stylus: The Surface Pro 2 includes the Surface Pen, which is a touch sensitive stylus; when not in use, the pen can clip into the charging port for easy storage

Is the Surface Pro 2 a tablet or a laptop? I think the Surface Pro 2 is a combination between the two devices. With optional accessories, it's a fairly solid laptop, and the touchscreen makes it a tablet. I found a Bluetooth keyboard to be very handy with the device, but for use in a meeting, the stylus was usable. This device seems to be built for the moderate power user who wants a tablet.

Is the Surface Pro 2 an everyday full-time laptop? This answer depends on your workload. It certainly could be, but the limitations here come with disk space more than anything else. Pairing the device with a SkyDrive account would be the optimal way to manage the storage limitations.

Can I get more disk space by messing with the recovery partition? Many of the complaints I've seen with the Surface center around the amount of storage Microsoft allocated to the recovery partition. This is "just in case" storage, which makes resetting the OS to factory and even complete recovery easier and somewhat faster. Doing this costs disk space, but there's a way to move the recovery partition to external USB storage. Since the Surface Pro 2 supports a USB port, this might be a great option for the recovery partition. To make this move, complete the following steps:

  1. Plug the Surface Pro 2 into a power source
  2. Plug a USB drive into the Surface
  3. From the charms bar, search for recovery
  4. Select Create a recovery drive
  5. When a drive is selected, all data on the disk will be erased when the recovery files are copied
  6. Click the Delete Recovery Partition link if the recovery partition data should be removed from the Surface
  7. Click the Delete button to remove the partition
  8. Click Finish

Note: If the recovery partition is deleted from the surface, the USB disk will be required to refresh or reset the Surface. It's also recommended that no other data be stored on the disk with the recovery information.

Are there any perks included with the cost of entry for the Surface Pro 2? At launch, Microsoft is offering 200 GB of SkyDrive storage for 2 years (renewable at $100 following that) and Unlimited Skype World (including Wi-Fi) for 12 months.

How is the overall performance of the device? The i5 Intel chip is a great addition to the Surface Pro 2, and it definitely moves it more in the direction of a laptop. I haven't found the device to be slow (OneNote is quite snappy), but then again, it's brand new and still a downgrade from my normal laptop.

Are there any annoyances with accessories? I had a bit of trouble keeping the Wedge Mouse and Keyboard active when returning to the Surface from out of range. The mouse would show as connected but not available. Later, I found 11 updates, including a firmware update for the device, and they appear to have fixed the issue.

Does Windows 8.1 perform well on the device? Windows performs very well with out-of-the-box applications, and I haven't noticed anything in terms of lag or lacking functionality. All of the features in Windows 8.1 Pro are available on the Surface Pro 2.

How is the camera on the device (front and rear)? The rear camera is passable. It takes photos, but I would not suggest that this device replace a smartphone camera. The front camera is also decent, but given technology advancements in mobile device cameras, I think both could be better, especially given the cost of entry for the Surface Pro 2. This would have been the place for Microsoft to consider using the Nokia Lumia 1020 camera… not that anyone needs a 41 MP camera in a tablet.

What is the best feature so far? I'm not completely sure what my favorite Surface-specific feature is.  The ability of Windows 8 to snap things together to work side-by-side is very solid and helpful when working on notes. The fact that there was less lag than on other tablets I've tried is a great improvement as well (although that could be due to my typing skills).

What apps have you tried on the Surface Pro 2, and what are your thoughts? I've been sticking with the standard/included apps so far to get an idea of how the device performs out-of-the-box. OneNote is outstanding on the Surface. Since the application was completely redesigned to live in a touch-enabled world (as opposed to being "included" as an afterthought), it really is a great experience. 

What feature(s) are you most excited about or interested in on the Surface Pro 2? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.


About

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

10 comments
wbobrowski
wbobrowski

You missed a very distinguishing attribute: the Surface Pro 2 is the only tablet that I am aware of with 'palm block technology' for use with writing with stylus while in OneNote. You can rest your hand on the UI in a normal manner while jotting notes. All othe tablets require you to hold your hand/arm in an unnatural manner above the surface otherwise they get confused. No one writes with pen/paper without resting their arm.

tcoburn4
tcoburn4

and just like Windows, comes with NO accessibility options whatsoever!    unlike Apple products that come with VoiceOver, invert colors, and Zoom (among others) right out of the box.  Apple has always done Accessibility right, unlike Linux and WIndows.  Not an Apple fanboy by any means  I still have to run Windows because its much cheaper to custom build a $200 machine, then spend $2 grand on a comparible Apple,  but for Acessibility,  Apple has 'em all beat   even Linux doesn't hold a candle to Apple in the Accessibility department.   Don't know why Linux hasn't adopted apples Accessibility features since Apple is the only company that does it right.

vamoore99
vamoore99

I moved to Surface Pro II from a desktop running XP which I tried to keep going as long as possible.  I love the Surface Pro II and even though I haven't been able to snag one of the docking stations yet (they have been soft-released on a very limited basis), I set up a makeshift docking station for home office using a multi-port USB 2.0 plug in which is allowing use of mouse and keyboard as well as sound through an old Dell monitor.  I had to get the adapter for the Surface Miniport and another one to go from DMI to DVMI (hope I have those initials right) but everything's working great.  

I downloaded Office 2010 and Quicken 2010 - both run like a charm.  I use the Desktop a lot and it's seamless to get to it from the start page.  I've put all my regularly used programs such as Dropbox and Quicken on the Start Page.  

My only issue has been the fact that there's no clear way to "close" most of the apps and some of the programs and I'm concerned about having so much running in the background (I have the 4G RAM unit). You can do an "upswipe" (I think) on the SPII itself to close, but the set up with the USB  feed into a non-touch monitor makes that awkward.  I tried an ACER touch monitor from Best Buy and ithe touch didn't work out of the box without corrective programming so I took it back (this was discussed in various blogs online but I didn't want to mess with it).  

Documentation on SPII explains that it self-closes oldest unused apps if RAM starts becoming clogged but I'd prefer to keep my screen (and RAM) clean once I'm done with something.

As soon as I can get docking stations I will probably switch to those for both home and office so I can hardwire into an Ethernet connection for security purposes.  I also use double monitors at work and I should be able to hardwire both with the docking station (without again having to program for a daisy chain setup).

All in all, I give it a 9.5 out of 10 - love it and Windows 8.1.  I never had Windows 8.0 so don't have any hangovers from those troubles.   With addition of a 64G card, the memory is approaching that of my "to be retired" Dell desktop and the 4G RAM is twice the 2G I've been working on.  I think it's going to be a great desktop replacement with the ability to unplug and use as a tablet for client presentations and personal use.

BTRDAYZ
BTRDAYZ

Would like to know if the dock offers good throughput under heavy usage of its ports. Is it simple to connect? Will the SPro combined with a dock, screen keyboard and mouse make for a suitable desktop replacement?

mike
mike

As a user of surface pro, I was awaiting 2 with baited breath. For my use, it performs more than admirably and better than any other mobile device we tried for same situation. My only issue is IE11 is ingrained within the O/S and that is not compatile wih my database as it uses the framawork of IE to function. Hopefully there will be a patch soon to allow IE 10 installation. This makes the comment "able to run any Windows 8 compatible applications" faulty.

ecozort
ecozort

@vamoore99 

I added the targus universal usb 3.0 dock to my Surface Pro 2. It supports 2 additional monitors. Works well.

Apps can be "closed" by dragging down and holding until the image rotates. I really like the tombstone concept because it saves me having to redo something. If you have ever accidentally closed IE you'll know what I mean

FTAdmin
FTAdmin

@vamoore99  

To close an application, use your finger or mouse to grab the top-right-ish portion of any native application and drag it to the bottom of the screen. You will notice your mouse turn into a small hand when it's in the correct area for a drag-close. Also, you can close the desktop itself by grabbing it from the right side (when it's not the focused "application") and dragging it out and to the bottom of the screen.

So far I've seen only one "native" application NOT close by this method. It's a desktop/native-mode app that can be completely closed via desktop buttons.

FTAdmin
FTAdmin

@mike 

See if it's possible to remove IE11 from the "View installed updates" link within the Programs & Features section of Control Panel. I've not seen 8.1 natively installed, so I don't know if this would work, but I have done such things before to Windows after major updates. In other words, I wonder if 8.1 is still considered an update on the SPII or if it's a straight up build.

JJFitz
JJFitz

@ecozort @vamoore99 If you have a mouse, you can close your apps by placing the arrow in the upper left corner, right click the thumbnail of the app, and choose close. 

FTAdmin
FTAdmin

@vamoore99 

Took a closer look at my Surface. Yeah... it doesn't really shut down programs, just hides them.