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Microsoft Surface 2 Tablet Review

The Surface 2, for 9 to 5.

November 14, 2013
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Going the Distance

It's one thing to say that a tablet is worthy of attention, but it's quite another to show why. Let me walk you through my lab notes after testing this slate—it's a rollercoaster ride in terms of highs and lows, but it's all important information to know before making a purchase.

Screen Performance

Fixing what was largely considered a glaring shortcoming of the Surface RT, the Surface 2 has a better display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, netting it a pixel density of 208 pixels per inch. The result? A much sharper screen.

With a decent black level of 0.34 cd/m2 and a peak brightness of 369.09 cd/m2, the Surface 2 has a contrast ratio of 1086:1. This is quite wide for tablets, though the most recent flagships routinely outperform this mark. The transition from black to white has more than its fair share of errors with a gamma of 1.74, however. That number should be much closer to 2.1 or 2.2.

MSS2c.png
It's not the best, but it's better than it was.

Colors are easily the biggest shortcoming here, though. Blues and reds are wildly undersaturated, and greens are quite off the mark, as well. The white point is good, but that isn't enough to cover for the poor color accuracy. All that said, few tablets are good with color—but that's quickly changing.

MSS2G.png
Color is a bit of a sore spot.
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Battery Life

To say that the battery life of the Surface 2 is anything short of stupendous is selling it short. Across multiple tests, it was able to go the distance in our labs, scoring top marks.

If you're an avid reader, take comfort in knowing that you can squeeze roughly 9 hours and 49 minutes out of that battery with all wireless disabled and the screen cranked to the max. With the same settings, you can power through about 9 hours 37 minutes (on average) of video, or well over an entire season of Parks and Recreation before your screen goes dark.

Processor

If a tablet (or computer) has one part that can make or break the entire experience, it's easily the processor. Last year, the Surface RT had issues with a lackluster CPU—but that's no longer the case. Embedded in the Surface 2 is this year's Tegra 4 quad-core processor, which boosts the Surface 2's performance to "mostly stable."

I should point out that because of its 32-bit architecture, the processor can't handle apps designed for higher-end systems. This means that the Surface 2 (much like the Surface RT) still can't handle all desktop apps, though it can handle more of them. Don't expect this to replace your computer unless it's running Windows XP 32-bit.

This does mean that those looking to play Steam games will have to look elsewhere. Though a device with an x86 processor will be able to handle the modern PC gaming platform, games are hit-or-miss for the most part.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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