Welcome to our third article in the series of Should I Upgrade, where we compare devices with their predecessors to see if they are a worthy purchase. Today we look at the Surface RT and Surface 2.
The Surface RT, Microsoft’s very first tablet, provided a great Windows experience on a tablet. But its lacklustre screen, weak processor and lack of apps was a cause of concern for many. (Check out our review of the Surface RT)
A year on, Microsoft released the Surface 2 together with Windows 8.1, with the hope of addressing the shortcomings of the original Surface. With Windows RT 8.1, brand new backlit touch and type covers, an updated Tegra 4 chipset and a 1080p screen, the Surface 2 seems like a mighty good tablet, and a worthy successor to the original Surface, on paper at least.
But should you upgrade?
First let’s take a look at the brief overview of how the specs of the Surface 2 stacks up against the original Surface RT.
|Surface RT||Surface 2|
|Processor||1.3Ghz Quad core Nvidia Tegra 3||1.7Ghz Quad core Nvidia Tegra 4|
|Display||1366 x 768, 10.6” (148ppi)||1920 x 1080, 10.6” (208ppi)|
|RAM/Storage||2GB/ 32GB or 64GB||2GB/ 32GB or 64GB|
|Weight and dimensions||680g274mm x 171mm x 9.4mm||Less than 676g275 mm x 173 mm x 8.9 mm|
|Kickstand||24 degrees||24 degrees or 40 degrees|
|Cameras||1.2MP front and back||3.5MP front, 5.0MP back|
|Miscellaneous||USB 2.0MicroSD card slot||USB 3.0MicroSD card slot|
Design and Build
At first glance, the only observable difference between the Surface 2 and the Surface is the colour of the device. Surface 2 comes in a magnesium-silver colour, while Surface RT comes in black. Personally, I prefer the matte silver of the Surface 2. Both the colour scheme and the matte texture are marked improvements from the glossy black texture of the Surface RT, which is nothing short of a fingerprint-magnet.
The back of the Surface 2 feels great to the touch, and is extremely resistant to fingerprints and smudges.
Microsoft decided to replace the Windows logo found on the back of the original Surface with the word “Surface”, which looks better, and is also better for marketing purposes.
The Surface 2 is built from 2 solid pieces of magnesium instead of the original 3, which makes it (ever so slightly) lighter and thinner. The buttons are also firmer than the original Surface, and I would say overall it’s a great improvement in build quality. (Check out the durability report of the Surface RT here)
One final change is the addition of the 2-stage kickstand, which is great when placing your device on a low-lying surface (such as your lap). And I must say that usage on the lap is now much, much more comfortable, especially if you have a type cover 2 equipped as well.
One of the main highlights of the Surface 2 is its 1080p display. This is a huge improvement in screen quality compared to the Surface RT, which many have accused of having a terribly low pixel count.
It’s not that the Surface RT has a terrible display. Other than the pixel count, the Surface RT has an amazing display. Viewing angles, brightness and colour reproduction are great. However, when placing the 2 devices side-by-side, I did notice that the RT had a slight yellow tinge to its display.
But still, the screen on the Surface 2 is a much welcomed change. It’s the exact same screen as the one on the Surface Pro 2. No compromises there. Personally, I believe the screen (and processor) alone is worth the upgrade.
The Surface 2’s Tegra 4 processor is a marked improvement from the Surface RT’s Tegra 3, both in terms of raw processing power and graphic performance.
Through my time of using the Surface 2, I found that it is noticeably faster than the Surface RT in running everyday apps, such as Flipboard, Facebook, and WPCentral. Web browsing on the Surface 2 is also much faster. While not as lag-free as say, a MacBook Air, the Surface 2 loads webpages quickly and with a tolerable amount of lag.
If anything, the speed is a great improvement over the Surface RT’s. Though it’s not as fast as I hoped it would be, it’s not terribly frustrating either.
Gaming performance is a huge improvement from the Surface RT. Gaming on the RT was terrible. Loading times were agonizing, and the lag was unbearable. The most noticeable lag was when playing Samurais vs zombies, so when I got the Surface 2, I decided to test it out. Sure enough, load times were much better and the game was played with minimal lag.
Microsoft did promise a battery life increase with the Surface 2, albeit a smaller improvement than what the Surface Pro 2 has over the Surface Pro.
While using the device, I honestly couldn’t tell a difference in terms of battery life though. Battery life is great, and that’s all I can say. Like the Surface RT, the Surface 2 will last you several days on a single charge, with hours of document editing, web browsing, and video-watching. Battery life isn’t an issue for both devices.
Should I upgrade?
The Surface 2 is basically what the Surface RT should have been – a device with a 1080p screen and more respectable processor, as well as Windows 8.1, all at a lower price point at launch. Perhaps if Microsoft started the story with the Surface 2, sales wouldn’t have been such a failure.
If you own a Surface RT and you’re looking for an upgrade, the Surface 2 might be the way to go. All the compromises that the Surface RT had seem to be addressed with the Surface 2. For $618, you’re getting a really great tablet.
But you might want to wait for the price to go down a little more. The Surface 2 currently does not come bundled with the keyboard covers, which is a must for a Surface. A touch cover 2 will set you back by $168, while a type cover 2 will cost $183, effectively bringing the price up to $800.
And considering the fact that the iPad Air weighs a whole lot less and comes with a more mature app ecosystem for $688, some people would rather get the iPad.
Ultimately, it depends on how much spare cash you have. I own a Surface RT but I don’t see myself getting a Surface 2 in the near future. Sure it’s faster and sexier to look at, but I’m just not too sure that it’s worth it at this price point.