Surface 2: Considering upgrading? Read my in-depth comparison! [UPDATED]

If you read this post, you probably already know how Microsoft has improved the Surface 2’s specs over the 1st generation. This review is all about sharing real life experience with upgrading from Surface RT to Surface 2, which I hope may be helpful to other Surface users who are considering upgrading!

Feel free to ask me questions in the comment section!

PERFORMANCE & STABILITY

  • The single biggest improvement over the RT is in performance. If you use an RT, you probably think some of the apps are crap and badly designed – slow, crashy, painful to use. If you use a Surface 2, you’ll notice that all the apps work fine, it’s just the RT that can’t handle them. It’s not like slow apps are less slow with the Surface 2, no – they are all equally fast!

  • Let me give you some examples: managing tabs in IE is not laggy anymore; the Store app shows content instantly as you start the app; no stuttering whatsoever; websites load about 3 times as fast

  • I have not experienced one single stability issue with the OS or any app after 3 full days of intense usage.

SCREEN

  • The screen is very different from the RT. It’s not only higher res, but also handles colors differently and more accurately. You probably wouldn’t notice without having used the Surface 2, but on the RT certain colors (especially red and purple colours) look pale/greyish. I used to think that Microsoft chose ugly tile colors for OneNote and Calendar, but in fact it was just the RT’s screen that made them look like that. On the Surface 2 those colors make sense now, and anything that involves red or purple colors just looks more natural and beautiful.

  • You won’t notice the higher resolution that much when looking at photos, but for anything else (text, buttons, etc.) the high resolution makes a big difference. Even if you don’t see pixels on the RT’s screen when looking at it from a usual distance, letters, lines and borders look a little blurred. You always know you’re looking at a computer screen. With the Surface 2, everything looks as sharp as on a high quality print, so things look more natural and beautiful, and text is more readable.

  • Scaling in the desktop environment is a little different from the RT due to the higher resolution. Of course you can still adjust it to your personal needs. I set it to 200% to make the desktop look similar to what it looked like on the RT with 125%, but that caused certain elements on the taskbar to disappear. It’s at 150% by default, which is too tiny on this high res screen, especially if you’re going to use the touchscreen in the desktop environment.

LOOK

  • The new silver finish makes the VaporMg casing look more metallic. The RT’s casing looks like solid shiny black plastic until you touch it and feel that it’s metal. The 2’s casing looks more shiny (with almost glittery reflections), so it looks as solid and cold as it feels.

  • You’ve probably read that it’s fingerprint resistant, and it really is. It’s even more than that, you can put your wet sweaty hand (or any other body part) on it and it will leave NO marks at all, even if you try and look from all kinds of angles under all kinds of lighting conditions.

  • Some reviewers say that scratches are less visible on the new finish, and although I haven’t used the device long enough to evaluate that, I’m pretty sure that the more textured and brighter surface of the Surface 2 does a good job at masking small scratches. The silver finish is supposed to be the natural color of the VaporMg material, but I have seen a Surface 2 at a store with damaged coating along the edges of the casing revealing the lighter white color of the actual VaporMg underneath the silver coating. My RT has the same kinds of "white spots" caused by bumping the device at hard edges. Or course these spots are less visible on the silver finish of the Surface 2.

  • Apart from the new finish, the device really looks the same as the RT. In everyday life you will not pay much attention to the new "Surface" branding on the back and other subtle design changes.

  • There’s one more thing I noticed. While the Gorilla glass on the RT is not perfectly even along the bottom edge of the screen (resulting in ugly bumpy reflections), the screen on the 2 looks more even.

FEEL

  • The new finish combines the best of a metallic and a plastic-like feel. It feels cold, absolutely rigid and solid, but at the same time it has a kind of smooth textured feel that you would rather expect from a plastic finish. When sliding your finger across the RT’s back, you feel the oil smearing between the surface and your finger; the Surface 2 feels dry, no matter how oily or sweaty your hands are.

  • Regarding weight and thickness, I must say that the differences are barely noticeable. I held both of them in my hands, blindfolded and wearing gloves, not knowing which one was which, and in all honesty, I couldn’t tell the difference.

KICKSTAND

  • The new kickstand angle does make a huge difference. It doesn’t only allow you to adjust the angle of the screen to your height or the height of your table, but also to put it on your lap or other unstable surfaces (such as pillows or your belly) without ever having to worry about it falling over. Also, the device doesn’t rock back and forth that much when you move while using the Surface 2 on your lap or your belly.

BUTTONS & PORTS

  • The physical buttons (power button and volume rocker) feel very different from the RT’s buttons. They feel more wobbly (as if mounted on springs) but more clicky (the power button makes a sound similar to an old mouse button) and harder to press down.

  • The capacitive Start button feels exactly the same as on the RT. It still has the same issue where it doesn’t take you to the Start screen despite giving vibration feedback when you hit the button off-center.

SPEAKERS

  • My RT had distortion issues with the left speaker, so it’s hard to do a comparison. Anyway, they sound very different. I can’t tell which one sounds better, both the RT and the 2 sound really bad (after all they are tablets). To my ears the RT sounds better when listening to music (the 2 sounds thinner and less powerful), but voices sound much clearer on the 2 (which might be due to the distortion issue on my RT). Both are capable of producing about the same amount of volume.

WIFI

  • Judging by the Wifi signal strength indicator, there’s no difference in reception.

  • According to Microsoft’s Network Speed Test app, the 2 is slightly faster than the RT, but not by much (faster content loading times seem to be the result of other hardware improvements).

CHARGING CONNECTOR

  • Fiddling the connector into the slot is still a pain – actually the slot and the metal part which goes in it have stayed exactly the same.

  • The magnet is a little stronger.

  • The LED light is not only visible from all angles, but also very bright.

  • The slot is located further from the bottom edge now, which releases some stress from the cable when connected with the cable downwards, but there’s still not enough space so I still connect it the other way round.

KEYBOARD COVERS

  • I’m still using the Type Cover (1st generation). It’s fully compatible with the Surface 2 functionality-wise, but there’s one issue that you should keep in mind: When using the Surface 2 at the new wider kickstand angle, the top edge of the Type Cover or Touch Cover (1st gen) is lifted from the table, so the cover does not lie flat on the table and bounces up and down as you type, which is really uncomfortable. It slows you down, and the physical keys of the Type Cover produce more noise. The new covers don’t have that issue, because the top edge of the new covers is more flexible. So if you upgrade to the Surface 2, make sure you upgrade your cover as well!

  • I have used the Type Cover 2 in a store (and will buy one as soon as possible). Some reviewers claim that because of its new capacitive track pad you can’t drag & drop or mark text with it. Of course you can, it works the same way as on the Type Cover 1. Press the left mouse button with one finger and slide across the track pad with another finger, or double click and drag to mark text.

CONCLUSION

  • The Surface 2 truly is a significantly better product than the RT, mainly due to the massive improvements in performance and stability, but also due to improved readability and improved stability on uneven surfaces. Other than that, the device is very similar to the 1st generation.

  • If you use your Surface RT intensely as your main device, upgrading to the Surface 2 may make your everyday life more comfortable and enjoyable.

  • If you upgrade, you need to upgrade your Type or Touch Cover as well.

UPDATE:

I just played around with the Type Cover 2 at a store and noticed that it has the same issue as the Type Cover 1 where the top edge of the cover is lifted from the table when using the tablet with the new wider kickstand angle in laptop mode. I've read about the Touch Cover 2 being more flexible around the top than the 1st generation, so I assume that the Touch Cover 2 does not have that issue - which would make sense, since typing on pressure sensitive keys requires the keys to lie flat on a solid surface. With the Type Cover 2 that's not an absolute requirement, so they decided to keep the part that connects to the Surface rigid. What surprises me is that none of the many reviews have mentioned that issue!

IMAGES OF TYPE COVER (1st GEN) CONNETED TO SURFACE 2 AT BOTH KICKSTAND ANGLES

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