Microsoft Surface 2 Review: A Tablet / Keyboard Duo Worthy of a Second Chance

Windows 8.1 RT
But all of that hardware advancement would be for nothing without some software improvements. Windows 8.1, Microsoft’s latest update to Windows 8, includes some much-needed usability improvements and finally includes some easy on-screen instructions for guiding new users through features, including placing two apps side by side.

Windows 8 is a much stronger operating system than a year ago

Windows 8 feels like a much stronger operating system than a year ago, though one still confused about its identity. Am I a laptop? Am I a tablet? Jumping between the traditional desktop and the touch-friendly homescreen of live tiles is jarring and confusing. Still, Microsoft has polished up some features, including the search function, which now searches Bing and the computer. It has also added new apps like the Reading List, which makes it really easy to save an article and read it in an RSS App, and it has improved core apps like Internet Explorer and Mail. This version also includes a full version of Office.

 Windows 8.1: Microsofts Big Update Explained in Photos
Windows 8.1: Microsoft's Big Update Explained in Photos

However, while the Windows Store is stocked with more apps than a year ago, it is still missing some of my go-to tablet applications, making it hard for me to feel fully at home on the Surface. While the new Facebook and Twitter apps are nicely designed, the store still lacks apps I use on a daily basis, including Flipboard (though it should arrive soon), Feedly and Rdio.

And because this is running the RT version of Windows 8.1, you cannot simply download apps through the browser. The $899 Surface Pro comes with the full version of Windows 8.1 capable of running all types of Windows applications. We’ll forgive you for being confused.

Bottom Line
The Surface 2 is a vastly improved tablet. It’s what the first Surface should have been — a thin, light, long-lasting machine with a nice screen. But while Microsoft has been busy catching up, the competition has been staying a step ahead. Apple’s iPad Air hits shelves today and the tablet is nearly half the weight and thickness of the Surface. It also has a bigger breadth of apps and now has a free version of iWork, Apple’s Office alternative.

What the first Surface should have been

The Surface’s keyboards continue to set it apart, but with that added on you’re looking at a $550 package. Still, the Surface 2 is a compelling option for those who are invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, enjoy some of Windows 8.1’s features, and want a tablet that works seamlessly with a keyboard. The Surface won’t be a box office flop again, but it’s still not the hit sequel the company was hoping for.
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