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Microsoft Surface 2 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £359
inc VAT

Vastly better hardware, but Windows RT 8.1 still feels too restrictive


10.6 in 1,920×1,080 display, 680g, 1.7GHz Nvidia Tegra 4, 2.00GB RAM, 32GB disk, Windows RT


Windows RT is still limited compared to the full version of Windows 8, but it has improved significantly in the twelve months since it first launched. You can’t install Desktop applications and are limited to ones downloaded through the Windows store, but the addition of Outlook to Microsoft’s pre-installed Office RT suite could make a major difference to anyone looking for a relatively inexpensive work machine. You still get Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, which are crucial to many businesses.

Rather than run entirely in the Modern interface, however, Office reverts back to the Desktop. Windows RT still feels like two separate operating systems bolted together, even if the 8.1 update has improved things substantially over the original release. Office is best used with a mouse and keyboard too, making it less than ideal when out on the move.

Some of our most regularly-used programs still aren’t available on Windows RT, meaning we had to use Internet Explorer rather than Chrome and hunt through the Windows store for an image editor, when we would otherwise have jumped straight for Paint.Net. Considering Microsoft is one of only two companies still using the Surface RT operating system, it’s unsurprising that many developers aren’t supporting it. Unless you’re prepared to limit yourself to web apps and the Windows store, you’ll likely miss the ability to install the programs you’re familiar with.


At least the Surface 2 is quick when running the apps that are available to it. With a quad-core, 1.7GHz Nvidia Tegra 4 System-on-Chip (SoC) and 2GB of RAM inside, it feels noticeably more responsive than its predecessor. Apps load quickly and multitasking is incredibly smooth. The tablet resumes from sleep in just a few seconds and plays Full HD YouTube videos without dropping frames, meaning you’re never left wanting for more performance. Web browsing was exceptionally fast, with the Surface 2 producing a rapid 365.8ms in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark.

It even breezed through the 3DMark graphics tests, newly updated to support Windows RT, producing a “maxed out” score in the basic test and an impressive 11,172 in the Unlimited test. That still puts it behind the Asus Transformer Pad TF701T, which uses the same Nvidia internals but runs Google’s Android OS. It’s also worth pointing out that there still aren’t many must-play games on Windows RT, with Halo: Spartan Assault being one of the few exceptions.

Even with these performance improvements, Microsoft has managed to increase battery life dramatically over the original Surface RT. The Surface 2 lasted an incredible 13 hours 44 minutes in our video rundown test, proving that if you’re conservative with your Wi-Fi and brightness levels you’ll easily be able to squeeze a full day’s work from a single charge.


With a far superior screen, more powerful internals and a more mature operating system than its predecessor, Microsoft has improved the Surface 2 in almost every area. For anyone looking for a cheap tablet or laptop solely for Office, then this is certainly a bargain, but the limitations of Windows RT mean most would be better off with a tablet running the full version of Windows 8.1, such as the Dell Venue 11, or finding a budget laptop like the Dell Inspiron 15 instead.

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Basic Specifications

ProcessorNvidia Tegra 4
Processor clock speed1.7GHz
Memory slots1
Memory slots free0
Maximum memory2GB
SoundNvidia HD Audio
Pointing devicetouchscreen


Viewable size10.6 in
Native resolution1,920×1,080
Graphics ProcessornVidia Tegra 4
Graphics/video portsproprietary video output


Total storage capacity32GB
Optical drive typenone

Ports and Expansion

USB ports1
Wired network portsnone
Wireless networking support802.11n (dual-band)
PC Card slotsnone
Supported memory cardsmicro SD
Other ports3.5mm audio output


Carrying caseNo
Operating systemWindows RT
Operating system restore optionrestore partition
Software includedOffice RT
Optional extras£109

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB