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.