Product Review: Microsoft Surface 2 RT

Surface with type cover.

Surface with type cover.

Disclaimer: I picked up a Surface 2 RT on my own, with no incentive from Microsoft. There are affiliate links throughout, because #FeedABlogger

I didn’t really want to call this a review, because it doesn’t feel like a review to me. Or at least not a review the way we tend to do them. First off, this is the old model of the Surface. It’s the Surface 2 (the current model is the Surface 3). Secondly, I try to give you a real-world experience of using a thing. But the real world review of the Surface is hard for me, because I didn’t approach it like the average user. See, Microsoft has done this weird thing with the Surface where there are two versions.

Surface Pro: This is the one you see on TV compared to a MacBook Air. It’s the one they claim can replace your laptop, and it’s priced like a laptop at $799, plus another $129 if you want the type cover. It runs the full version of Windows. It can run any piece of software you can run on a regular laptop or desktop.

Surface RT: This it the one I have. It’s more like a regular tablet (or even a bit like a Chromebook). It runs a scaled down version of Windows because it doesn’t have the processing power of the pro. You can only install apps from the Microsoft Store. It can have a desktop like regular Windows, but it can’t be used like regular windows. It’s only $449 (plus the $129 for the type cover).

This is a really confusing way to have a product. I can imagine most people seeing the commercial for the Surface Pro, going to Best Buy, getting the $449 version, and then being shocked when they can’t run Chrome (or any other software they use) on it. It’s confusing. These products are named entirely too close. ZDNet details this out very well. I knew what I was getting into when I got the Surface RT. I knew I wouldn’t be running a full version of Windows. I knew I wouldn’t be installing anything that wasn’t in the Microsoft store. It means I can’t approach it like an average user, because I am doubtful the average user would know/understand the differences.

With that bit out of the way, let’s get into talking about the Microsoft Surface 2 RT.

The Good

Windows Light – As I said, it runs a light version of Windows, but it is still Windows which has some advantages if you run Windows (particularly 8.1) at home. Things like file structure are the same and accessible. This has made things like connecting to a networked drive easier. I’ve been trying to organize all my media, and I can do this from the Surface on the couch.

Windows 8.1 Is Solid on TabletsI posted my thoughts on Windows 8.1 several weeks ago. But the experience is solid on a tablet. The interface makes much more sense and it’s easier to use touch with Metro than the typical Windows interface. Plus, it syncs your settings with any other Windows 8.1 device, which is nice

Cool – Literally. I’m talking tempature here. It’s doesn’t make your lap all hot like a laptop does. It’s also a lot lighter weight than a laptop, so it doesn’t feel so cumbersome.

Battery Life – The battery life doesn’t seem quite as good as my iPad Mini, but I also do more on my Surface than surf the web.

The Bad

Dimensions – It’s really awkward to use as a tablet. With its 16:9 aspect ratio the Surface was designed to be used horizontally, while we tend to hold tablets vertically like a book. It feels really awkward. I also think it feels heavy (my husband thinks it’s pretty close to his iPad 3) and I wonder if that’s because of the odd way to hold it.


No Apps – As I said, you have to run apps from the Microsoft store. This store has less selection than Windows phone. It’s ridiculous. Google is bringing Android apps to Chrome OS and Microsoft needs to do the same if they want this platform to be viable. It’s missing big name apps like Spotify (although good 3rd party options are available) that I know are on Windows Phone. And really, if Windows is supposed to be the one OS to rule all your devices, apps need to be cross device compatible

Keyboard Cover is not Magnetic – $129 for a keyboard cover and you can’t even make it magnetically stay closed? Come on Microsoft. This just seems cheap. The cover itself feels very flimsy. It connects magnetically (see Microsoft, you know how this works) but it almost feels like a weird felt? It just seems like it would tear easily. I haven’t had any problems, but I’m just kind of waiting for it to happen.

Non Standard Charger – The Surface runs on it’s own proprietary charging cable. And I can understand it may need more power to charge than other tablets I suppose (although that seems like a stretch), but even Chromebooks are moving towards micro USB for charging. I just can’t imagine why the Surface can’t.

The Bottom Line

My use case is this: I wanted something that I could use on the couch like a laptop, and carry around easy for blogging. I preffered touch, and didn’t want to spend a fortune. And the Surface fits that use case perfectly. (It doesn’t hurt that a friend was selling one cheap.) But it’s not going to replace my laptop or my iPad anytime soon. It’s a weird additional device that works for me, but certainly isn’t what a lot of people want/need out of their tablet.

Update 5/28/15: I really cannot stand Windows 8, and the weird way the tablet works makes me just use either my laptop, desktop, or tablet. I really wish I had bought a ChromeBook instead. Would not recommend this product.

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