Hands on with The Microsoft Surface Pro 2. Between the Surface Pro 2 and its ARM-based cousin, the Surface 2, the Pro has the most meaningful upgrade: much better battery life. Other than that important spec, though, it hasn’t changed much from its first-generation incarnation. It’s still a powerful PC trapped in the body of a tablet. Surprisingly, it remains a beefy tablet at 2 pounds. Although battery life was the biggest criticism of the original Surface Pro, its relative bulk compared to other tablets (the iPad weighs 1.45 pounds) was noticeable. An upgrade would give Microsoft an opportunity to slim things down.
As it turns out, the Surface Pro 2 is identical in weight and shape to the Surface Pro. I assessed the tablet’s surface for any physical differences, and other than the Surface logo on the back (which replaces the Windows 8 icon), I couldn’t find any.
It’s a little disappointing that the Surface Pro doesn’t slim down even a little — especially considering that some Ultrabooks are even rivaling it in terms of weight. There is, however, something to be said about consistency. After all, any accessory that works with one is guaranteed to work with the other.
Case in point: The new Power Cover, which is basically a Type Cover on steroids. It’s noticeably bulkier than the other keyboard accessories — I’d say it weighs about as much as two Type Covers — but with it attached, you get three times the battery life of the original Surface Pro, or about 12 hours total. It may not get quite that much while driving an entire workstation, but it’ll likely do better than the pathetic 2.5 hours I got while testing the original Pro.
Word of warning, though: The Power Cover does not work with the “regular” (ARM-based) Surface 2 or Surface RT.
Another accessory, the Surface Docking Station, makes driving that workstation much easier. Like its predecessor, the Surface Pro 2 is cursed with a connector deficit, sporting just a single USB port, a Mini DisplayPort and a headphone jack. The Docking station expands its capabilities considerably with three USB 2.0 ports in the back, a USB 3.0 port on the side (for speedy transfers), a MiniDisplay port, an Ethernet port (yay!), audio in and out, and power.
The sides of the Docking Station fold apart to make room for the tablet, and then easily fold back in to dock it. The material feels a little cheap, but it’s a great design, overall. You can even use one of the keyboard covers while it’s docked.
The Surface Pro 2 comes with the same digitizing pen that came with the first Pro, although the kickstand gets an upgrade similar to the Surface 2’s: Now you can set it at a second, lower angle — handy if you happen to be tall. The hinge holds its position well at both angles, although I wonder if it will work as well after years of use.
I didn’t get a chance to test the Pro with any computational challenges (we’ll save that for the full review), but at least there were no hiccups as I navigated around from desktop to Start screen, running several apps at once. Everything responded fluidly, and apps launched fast.
While it feels a little anticlimactic that the Surface Pro didn’t change much after finally earned the “2” badge, it seems Microsoft decided not to mess with a winning formula. The company says the Pro has been a bestseller for its category, and now power users who covet it have what they wanted all along: more power.