Surface 2 (32 GB) Review

Last week I attended the Microsoft MVP Global Summit in Seattle, Washington. As part of the conference Microsoft allowed MVPs to purchase the Surface 2 device for a discount. For the past two years my family and I have used an iPad for home and game use. So I decided to take a spin on the Surface to see how it would compare to the iPad.

Laptop-Surface2
After picking the device up on Sunday night (almost as soon as I flew into Seattle) I let the device charge overnight so I could use it the next day. However, like a kid at Christmas, I could not resist using the device that same night. I set up my desktop, downloaded a few apps and even configured my business and personal email on the device. I found the Microsoft Store to be a bit of a hassle to use compared to the Apple Store, simply because I could not find a way to search by category. I was able to search by any keyword, sort by relevancy and even highest rating. Only the category was missing from the search capabilities. I did figure out that once I found a game or app I liked, I could click on the category that was listed for that app and find more apps in the same vein. Convoluted, but workable.

AppStore-Surface2
Now on to the device itself. As part of the package, I also received a keyboard that snaps onto the bottom of the device. I found the keyboard and the kickstand made it easy to use the device as a small laptop. The keyboard does take some time to get use to as it really has no tactile feedback at all. About the only thing missing was a real mouse as the track pad on the keyboard just is not sufficient and a little hard to use.

Surface-Netflix
The track pad on the keyboard just is not sufficient and a little hard to use.

Over the four days of the conference I used the device as a laptop replacement. I found the full Office 2013 suite to be useful and perfect for my needs. I was also able to setup two mail accounts, one personal and one business, using the built-in Mail app and Outlook 2013. The Mail application is an ActiveSync based application, which in turn applies any ActiveSync policies to your Surface device. Having One Note is a great feature which allowed me to take notes during sessions.

Mail-Surface2
Lync-Surface2
Beyond the normal Office apps, the Surface also provides for a good platform for gaming. Good screen. Good touch control. Also, if not using headphones, the Surface 2 has a set of speakers one on each side that allow for stereo sound, albeit a bit weak compared to other tablets and not nearly as powerful as other tablets. There are also some good games now on the Microsoft Store.

Gaming-Surface2
One other neat feature for someone like myself, is that PowerShell is included in Windows 8.1. In fact, I Was able to do some debugging and remote PowerShell with my Surface.

PowerShell-Surface2

Lastly, as a parent of 3 kids, I found the parental controls and multiple logins a key feature of the Surface device. I can limit by time and application what my kids do one the device as well as restrict the apps they download. That way my 7 year old is restricted to games for 10 and under and my 13 year old can play games in the Teen+ range, but not Mature. I also get weekly emails on their usage or I can login and check to see what they’ve been doing on the tablet in terms of games, web usage and overall time. This is something our iPad cannot offer. It also isolates their games so they cannot tell me that one of their siblings deleted their game or played their game.

Overall I find the Surface 2 a great device – useable as a temporary laptop replacement, great as a second display or kids gaming device. Being able to use a keyboard, mouse and MicroSD slot make this a device I plan to keep using.

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