Microsoft are a late comer to the Tablet 2.0 market which was opened by the Apple iPad and have had a hard time if you read the popular press getting this format right. In an attempt to converge the same experience across Phone, Tablet and Desktop the huge changes to the Desktop alone have brought the claws of Users and Reviewers alike out.
The Gen 1 surface gained a lukewarm welcome and was generally seen as being expensive, underpowered and cumbersome. However as a Gen 1 user of a Windows RT tablet the cut down version of the Windows 8 OS a few things have come to light.
The press was wrong, very very, very wrong.. Windows 8 is a touch interface and on a tablet it works, and it works VERY VERY well. As a hater of Windows 8 on the Desktop this suprised me, however it really shouldn't have. Microsoft designed this as a touch interface and bolted on the keyboard and mouse. Most peoples first experience with Windows 8 is on a Desktop PC and that's doing the platform no favours at all. Touch and Click are not the same thing..
So have Microsoft built the reference model this platform deserves with the Surface Pro 2?
This is the Big boy version of the two variants, the Surface 2 is the RT version, the Surface Pro is powered by Intel's latest Haswell Core i5 processor which is less power hungry and aids for about 7 to 10 hrs battery life.
However lets start with a truth, the Surface Pro 2 is a beast, its a lump, its no Ipad Air, this isn't a light weight device, this is a full blown PC replacement. If you are looking for something light then maybe have a look at an RT Tablet.
As a portable desktop replacement the Surface Pro 2 has connectivity built into it in the form of a single USB 3.0 port, a MicroSD expansion port and a Mini HDMI connector. I've had this plugged into a powered USB Hub, and to an HDMI Monitor and happily used this as a Desktop, which I can just detach and move around with. Personally I like this idea..
Microsoft however can't get away from the fact that the finger is mightier than the pen and supply a stylus (as if in homage to Bill Gates?) which if i lost i'd not miss.
All in all this is a solid package, 4Gb of RAM is enough to run everything I've thrown at the unit...
Something worth noting here is I thought the Windows RT tablet (Asus R600) was fast, faster than an iPad, Faster than a Tegra 3 Android Tablet.. Having used the Surface Pro 2 or a week the RT seems a bit of a slouch.. noticeable slower. That's how fast this is..
As I said earlier this is an interface begging to be fingered (uh, hum) and once you get an understanding of the Charms, side swipes and that there are two types of applications Windows 8 App Store and Desktop Windows 8 becomes a slick, easy, well thought out desktop and the interface DOES work on a tablet..
So these apps, again, the popular press would have you believe a platform needs a million apps, the realistic fact is you need about 50 at most for a platform to be functional.. Windows 8 has the Apps you'll need, and Unlike IOS/Android it will also run normal Windows Desktop Apps as well..
Ass like Facebook, Tweetro, Music, Plex, Media8, Weave, Bento provide you with a Metro Style interface and there ARE apps for just about all your Social needs..
The Apps are quick, however you do start to realise quickly that desktop apps are built for the Desktop and while I am a huge fan of Chrome for example, using it on the Surface Pro 2 for example its quick, does what it says on the tin, but its not designed for a touch interface. Firefox are working on this with the Aurora project however the version I used was a tad Unstable..
All in all however every App I run, works great..
So I've gushed my way this far, what's wrong with the thing?
Well if I'm honest, it is far to heavy for a tablet, won't stop me using it, but it is. its also WAAAAAY to expensive, £799 for a 128Gb unit is far too much while Microsoft throw in 200Gb of Skydrive Space (which was nice) for 2 years and 12 months of full blown multi video call the world skype (at the time of writing this) I think you need to be looking at £499 realistically OR market this as a full on Desktop replacement. Remember as well this price is JUST for the tablet and doesn't include the addon price for the Keyboard (which I don't have and don't need)
Microsoft themselves (at time of writing) have acknowledged a problem with the device not coming out of sleep mode which I've had and while annoying, the Tablet boots from cold to usable in 7 seconds.. So not a major issue.
Then there is the PR, some how Microsoft need a Samsung a company who push Android to the masses for Google who are left to create the Nexus devices. I don't think Nokia is this company however beautiful the new Nokia Windows Surface Tablet looks..
One thing also worth mentioning, with Windows RT and its apparently hindering lack of Desktop apps, I'm actually glad I used RT first, as it forced me to use the Microsoft App Store, had I had a surface Pro (2) to play with I think I'd have been looking at this from a very different perspective. Potentially one which most of the press is looking at it from and why the mixed reviews.
This is a fast unit, the fact it runs Office seems to be hugely in its favour (mind you so does the Surface/RT device) and It has good battery life. While it might be a bit heavy I can see it as being a good office Tablet experience if used with some form of docking station. This changes the dynamic of the device and how we work. Something I will be looking into more over the next few months.
7/10 for Microsoft on this one, if you are in the market for a Windows Surface, I'd probably give the RT version a higher score for a home user..