Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 tablet

Published: December 9th, 2013

Hello regular reader.

Last month I shared the experience of my purchase and use of the Microsoft Surface Pro 128.  As promised, here is the comparative experience with my newly purchased second generation Surface Pro 2.

When I decided to purchase the next Surface I was, once again, challenged by the Microsoft Store online purchase experience — I tried, but the message was “out of stock”.   I engaged with an online chat support person who, while very friendly, could only tell me the product was “out of stock”.   When I followed up with “when will you have one I can purchase,” the answer was “I don’t know”.  My obvious next question was answered with “there was no way I can find out for you”.  If Microsoft [Nasdaq: MSFT] really intends to use the online store as a means of engaging customers and gaining market share, this attitude of indifference will need to be corrected.

Disappointed online, I headed out to check the major electronics retailers and was happy to find that a local big box electronics store had the Surface Pro 2 available.  I drove over and picked one up, adding the new back lit Type Pad to my purchase. The retail supply chain issues that plagued the release of the original Surface Pro have obviously been successfully addressed with this second generation release.

Now to the new device itself:  Packaging is as slick as version 1 and setup was a breeze.  The simple booklet included in the package gave a couple of helpful hints such as “have your MS account and wireless security information on hand then start up the Pro 2 and follow the prompts”.  It was truly that easy and it took only 10 minutes to be ready to go.  The first thing I did was redeem the two value-added gifts that I found in the packaging: a one year Skype premium upgrade and an additional 200 GB of Skydrive, also for a year.  Redemption was as easy as keying in the url and inputting the code provided on the certificate.

In the month since setup, I have been using my Surface Pro 2 at work.  A number of professional testers have put the Pro 2 through its paces and documented its extended battery life, better cameras, and improved back lit Type and Touch Covers. Given the number of benchmarking articles, there is clearly an overall incremental improvement of the SP Pro 2 over its predecessor. For me, it is still a 0.907 kg package that, so far, has not let me down in my work as a traveling executive.

For years I traveled with a heavy laptop hanging off my shoulder. I experimented briefly with an Apple iPad and quickly ditched that when a complex Excel spreadsheet was distributed at an important meeting.  With the Surface Pro 2 I can keep up with any agenda item sent my way.  The new processor runs cool and does not engage the cooling fans in regular use. This is a welcome improvement in meetings. I really appreciate the back lit keyboards, particularly when the lights go down in a meeting room for a presentation; it really helps on night flights as well. As a second generation Surface Pro owner, I am also grateful that the original peripherals work on my Pro 2.

Overall I am happy with the improvements of the Surface Pro 2.  It is still a bit heavier than other tablets.  It still does not have as many cool apps available as other tablets. It is still mired in the argument between tablet and laptop.  But I can actually work on this laplet. The improved battery life means I don’t have to consciously switch to hibernate mode as often. The promise of the new Type Pad Power could mean a whole day without a recharge. For now, with the improved battery life of the Surface Pro 2, I don’t have to memorize the power outlet locations in airports or find that “right seat” at the board room table.  Finally the inclusion of a rear facing 720p camera means I no longer have to bring along my camera on business trips.

After a month of use, I am convinced the second generation Surface Pro 2 is the best executive work tool currently available. Improvements still need to be made.  The magnet attachment of the stylus to the charging connection simply does not work. I have already lost one stylus and I expect I will lose the one that was included in my Pro 2 purchase as well.  The jury is still out as to whether this workhorse is a tablet or a laptop.  My opinion remains unchanged from my last writing; it is neither. It is a laplet pure and simple. This Surface Pro 2 does all you need it to do at work and when you are done at the office it is a perfectly functional social media and entertainment device. Not perfection, but getting there.