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Microsoft Surface 2 vs. Surface Pro 2


October 21, 2013

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the Microsoft Surface 2 (left) and Surface Pro 2

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the Microsoft Surface 2 (left) and Surface Pro 2

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The Microsoft Surface has been, by just about any measure, a commercial flop. When your company writes off US$900 million in unsold stock, well, that writing is on the wall. But that doesn't mean the first-generation Surface and Surface Pro haven't made some customers very happy. If you're part of that, ahem, "elite" group, or think you might be sometime soon, do you spring for the Surface 2 or the Surface Pro 2? Join Gizmag, as we compare Microsoft's second round of hybrid tablets.

Desktop apps

First things first: just to avoid confusion, the Surface 2 (left) relies exclusively on the Windows Store for its software. Desktop apps are a no-go on Windows RT-running devices like the Surface 2.

Microsoft markets both tablets as productivity-oriented devices, but only the Surface Pro 2 opens the door to the treasure trove of legacy Windows apps.


Sizes are very similar, but the Surface 2 is 34 percent thinner than the Surface Pro 2.


The Surface 2 is also 25 percent lighter than its Windows Pro-running sibling.


If you've ever handled a first-generation Surface, then you're looking at the same "VaporMg" build in both of the new models. We're fans of the Surface construction and build, so we aren't complaining about the lack of change in this category.

The biggest external change is a redesigned (dual position) kickstand, that makes it easier to use the Surface on your lap. As a device that can supposedly replace a laptop, we'd say that's a pretty important addition. Both new Surfaces have the dual kickstand.


The Surface Pro 2 retains the same pixel count as its predecessor, while the RT model makes the leap into 1080p land for the first time.


Just like last year, the new Surface Pro comes with a stylus ("Surface Pen"), which can come in handy while navigating those traditional desktop apps.


The Surface 2 runs an ARM-based mobile processor (similar to what you'd find in an iPad), while the Surface Pro 2 runs an Intel Core CPU (like you'd find in something like a MacBook).

The big news here is the Pro model's jump to a 4th-generation Intel Core Haswell processor, which should give its battery life a big boost over the first-gen Pro (more on battery life in a minute).


Appropriately, the Surface 2 has a smartphone-like 2 GB of RAM, while the Surface Pro 2 has a laptop-like 4 GB or 8 GB. As you'll see in a minute, though, you'll have to pay a pretty penny for the 8 GB models.


The Surface 2 retains the same 32 GB and 64 GB storage points that the original Surface RT had. With this year's Pro edition, though, Microsoft added some higher storage caps. At least in theory, these should help to make the new Pro more of a legit laptop replacement.


It isn't available at launch, but in the first half of 2014 Microsoft will start selling the RT version in an LTE-capable model. The Surface Pro 2 is going to be Wi-Fi only for the foreseeable future.

Battery estimates

We haven't yet gotten our mitts on the new Surfaces, but the above show Microsoft's estimates. Actually, we don't recall Redmond promising seven-ish hours for the Pro 2, but the company did boast of a 75 percent increase over the Pro 1. We found it to get around four hours with typical use, so we're going with seven. We'll update after we put an actual unit through the paces.


The new Surface RT got some updated cameras, which should put its shooters in the same league as rivals like the iPad. The Pro 2 still has the same lackluster 720p cameras from the original Surface.


In case we haven't flogged this horse to death yet, remember that you get the limited Windows RT (Windows Store only) on the Surface 2, and the full Windows experience (including desktop apps) on the Surface Pro 2. Both devices ship with the brand spankin' new Windows 8.1.

Bundled Microsoft Office

Microsoft is hoping to sell a few customers on the Surface 2 by bundling a special Windows RT version of Office with the tablet. You can run full Office on the Surface Pro, but you'll have to open your purse strings once again to get in on that action.

Starting prices

Speaking of pricing, these are the minimum admission fees for each model. Unsurprisingly, the mobile processor-toting Surface 2 is priced more like an iPad, while the laptop-processor-toting Surface Pro 2 is priced more like a MacBook.

Once you add storage and RAM, though, that Pro model climbs in price very quickly. We're looking at $1,300 for a Pro 2 with a 256 GB SSD, and $1,800 for 512 GB.

Keyboard covers

Since the Surface's keyboard covers are such a big part of the experience, we want to make it crystal clear that neither version ships with any of the covers. You'll have to pony up an extra $120 (Touch Cover 2, no physical keys) or $130 (Type Cover 2, physical keys) for that.

Both devices, however, are still compatible with the first-generation Surface covers. You'll probably be able to find those used or discounted, if you want to save a few bucks.


Microsoft hasn't given up on its convergent PC approach. Despite its poor sales, we were pretty happy with the first Surface Pro, and we can't blame the company for sticking to its vision. What is somewhat questionable is the decision to stick with an ARM-based Surface, in addition to the Intel-based Surface Pro. From a marketing perspective, it can confuse customers and distract from the more productive and versatile (via desktop apps) Surface Pro.

If you are considering the RT-based Surface 2, then we'd recommend that you take a long look at the Windows Store first. Because every single app you run on this puppy is going to come from there. Its selection has improved, but to say it's a far cry from the iPad's App Store is quite the understatement.

For a refresher on the first batch of Surfaces, you can check out our review of the original Surface Pro.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Before finding a home at Gizmag, he had stints at a number of other sites, including Android Central, Geek and the Huffington Post. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica. All articles by Will Shanklin

Looks like Pro for me when I decide to buy one. Good article would like to have known a bit about input and output capability of both. Also the keyboards.

Hopeful Hooves

So " remember that you get the limited Windows RT (Windows Store only) on the Surface 2, and the full Windows experience (including desktop apps) on the Surface Pro 2" ... you mean its exactly like an ipad? limited access on an ipad and full Mac experience on a macbook air? Really the Surface Pro 2 is the temporary unit because eventually ALL windows apps will be in "Modern" style and legacy apps will be just that ... a legacy


I have had the Surface RT since it was released. No confusion that it could not run Win apps and that the store was needed. Frankly I think it was the anti-Microsoft crowd pushing the purported confusion. Anyway, I will go with the RT2. Why? The apps in the store are great and plentiful. The bundled Office is great. I do wish Access could be part of it, but a minor limitation. In total the RT2 is an awesome bargain that far exceeds the iPad or anything Android.

Supposedly Microsoft's Surface 2 and Surface RT2 sales are supposedly going quite well. People that got the Androids found out they cannot do any work. The iPad line is great for videos, music, games, and some functional apps. However, companies want productivity and that is what Microsoft is offering. The Surface line was meant to break the OEM standards of how products are designed. Win computers were in a rut and Microsoft stepped up to set new standards. The world has taken notice and no matter how hard the haters of Microsoft scream, people have noticed the improvements and quality of the Win 8 changes. It's a journey that is not complete. But it is progressing in a positive manner. I for one love Win 8 and the changes. Is it perfect? Nope! But it has too many great features that overcome the weakness's.


@135boom. Yeah, I can't let people who are researching this market read your post and possibly end up misinformed. You must be confused or misinformed yourself.

"People that got the Androids found out they cannot do any work. The iPad line is great for videos, music, games, and some functional apps. However, companies want productivity and that is what Microsoft is offering"

I own an Asus X550LA notebook for my windows experience. The windows OS is best suited on a full spec device with all the ports, drives, and functions. In other words, Windows is only worth running on the PC platform where full fledged software/programs excel.

For mobile devices, there are much better options. Your statement about Android is off the charts incorrect, not by opinion, but by fact. So many people have no idea what Android is and what it is capable of, most people think Android is based off the same idea as iOS (the other option) For one, you are right about iOS, it is good for movies, music, games, and some functional apps. Your statement about Android is completely wrong. That's why I own a windows notebook PC, but use Android as my mobile companion, what do I do for a living? I'm a programmer, and I do graphic ui/ux design for mobile applications and web development, I wouldn't get stuck with a device that didn't offer productivity and yet I choose Android for my mobile platform. Android is a Linux distro and is capable of things not even Microsoft's Windows OS can do, but is completely compatible with Windows in fact, you can simply work on projects from both Android device and Windows machine. No productivity from Android? Not sure where you got this information, but here's a breakdown of productive things you can do right from you're Android device tablet or phone. Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, word documents, and much more from quick office and all projects can be imported and exported between windows and android, take an existing excel spreadsheet that was started in Microsoft excel and finish it on your android device while on the go. Graphic design import/export in all formats, photo editing import/export in all formats, audio engineering/music creation import/export in all formats ( can even plug in a professional condenscer mic for vocals. Programming? Yes! Complete IDEs to develop apps from start to finish, Web development? Yup! Any tool you need, its there. Full network integration, Android runs my network and the security, one serious advantage of being a Linux distro, and everyone who knows anything, knows linux is the king of networking, and servers by the way, which android can manage any server with no problems, in fact you can turn an Android device into a mini dedicated server if you so desire, or how about using an android device as a wireless gateway or repeater, yes you can do that as well. Send movies, videos, anything to your TV screen, even plug your Android device into your hdtv and turn it into a Smart TV. How about using your android device from anywhere to remote connect to your windows/linux machine and explore/edit/do whatever, does that too. there is practically nothing you can't do, you can even install other operating systems on the device. Use the device as a flash-drive, and ES File Explorer really sets things off. I could keep going but I'm sure you get the picture, your wrong to say Android can't do anything... Embarrassed for you. Really am. Now I know windows can do some things on the mobile platform as well, but Android does more on the mobile platform and does it better, and since Android is completely compatible with Windows, the optimal setup is Windows PC/Notebook, Android Mobile device. iPad is good for entertainment, graphics, audio production and is probably best in the mobile gaming department, but doesn't offer the wide range of capabilities.

(Some features I mentioned for android require root, luckily today rooting is a simple quick process that requires a few clicks from the PC)

Michael Jordan

Hey Michael, what Android tablet do you recommend for your type of setup? I'm also a developer/designer. I have your same requirements and I'm doing some research on tablets. Is a tablet with stylus capability a priority for you? Looking fwd to your feedback as I'm deciding on a tablet.

Amit Lamba
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