On the outside, the Surface 2 may look like its predecessor, the Surface RT. But Microsoft dramatically changed the tablet’s internal design. And in doing so, made it a real pain to crack open and repair.

For more pictures of the Surface 2 disassembly, check out my gallery, Cracking Open the Microsoft Surface 2.

The Surface 2 is ever-so-slightly thinner and lighter than the original Surface RT. But from the outside, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two. That doesn’t mean however that they’re identical. Far from it.

The Surface 2 a new two-position kickstand, the microSD card slot has been moved down slightly, and the case screws are no longer visible on the back of the case. These subtle, external differences however, pale when compared to the massive internal hardware and design changes Microsoft made on the new tablet.

For more information on the Surface 2, including real-world tests and pricing, check out Eric Franklin’s full CNET review.

Unfortunately when making all these hardware upgrades, Microsoft also completely reworked the tablet’s internal design, and in doing so made the Surface 2 much more difficult to crack open and repair than its predecessor.

Cracking Open Observations

Glued-on front panel, plastic body make opening difficult: Opening last year’s Surface RT, began by removing the tablet’s back cover. Not so with the Surface 2. Like the Apple iPad, cracking open this tablet requires heating the edges of the front panel to loosen the adhesive that holds it to the tablet’s body. While heating the panel, you’ll need to gently pry it away from the body with thin tools. Unlike the iPad however, some of the Surface’s internal components and external trim pieces are made from plastic, which can warp if overheated.

Redesigned interior: The internal hardware is mounted to the Surface 2’s body, with the front panel and display being a single, removable unit. The Surface RT’s hardware on the other hand was actually mounted to the front panel and display assembly, which also served as the tablet’s body. There’s also a new plastic bezel that runs around the tablet’s outer edge and serves at the mounting surface for the front panel/display assembly. The Surface 2 is built more like the Surface 2 Pro than Surface RT, which makes the tablet more difficult to open and repair.

Filled with hardware upgrades: Along with the radically changing the Surface 2’s internal design, Microsoft also gave the tablet lots of hardware upgrades. The Surface 2 has two microphones (compared to the Surface RT’s one), stereo speakers, a USB 3.0 port, better front-facing (3.5-megapixel) and rear-facing (5.0-megapixel) cameras, a new 1920×1080 display, and a faster 1.7GHz Tegra 4 processor.

Difficult, time-consuming to open repair

The Surface 2 is definitely an improvement over last year’s model when it comes to hardware specifications and performance. Kudos to Microsoft for that.

But it has also officially become the most difficult to crack open tablet I’ve ever worked open. The front panel adhesive is incredibly hard to work around, there are more than 60 screws inside the case (of all different sizes), and most of the motherboard connectors are extremely fragile and easily broken. I can only hope Microsoft makes some major design changes for next year’s model. Unfortunately, I doubt they will.

Internal Hardware

Our Surface 2 test unit had the following internal hardware:

  • 1.7GHz NVIDIA Tegra 4 SoC
  • SK Hynix H26M64003DQR 32GB NAND Flash
  • Atmel AT32UC3L0256 32-bit AVR UC3 RISC microcontroller
  • 324 D81 EW
  • Micron Technology 2GB DDR3 SDRAM (3NE77 D9GLJ QLV5)
  • Texas Instruments TPS65913 processor power management unit (PMU)
  • Texas Instruments TPS 650
  • Marvell Avastar 88W8797 Integrated 2×2 WLAN/Bluetooth/FM Single-Chip SoC
  • Multiple RF Micro Devices ICs
  • Wolfson Micro WM8962BE Audio Codec
  • Atmel maXTouch mXT1664S capacitive touchscreen controller
  • Texas Instruments MSP430 ultra-low-power microcontroller
  • ZUF 37K CDYF
  • 7.6V 31.3WH Li-ion battery
  • 3.5-megapixel front-facing camera
  • 5.0-megapixel rear-facing camera