This article was last updated on May 20, 2022
$465 seems like a good deal for a Surface 2 32 GB tablet with keyboard cover which includes Office for Students, 200 GB of OneDrive cloud storage. It is a good deal if you are a Windows 8.1 fan.
The Surface 2 is a very good tablet for getting work done and surfing the web but less than perfect as an entertainment tablet.
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A similar iPad Air, with keyboard cover, is $200 more but many students would opt for the iPad Air despite the extra cost. Although they are about the same weight and size, an iPad Air is more popular, has more apps that students want, and plays songs and videos slicker than the Surface 2.
I think most people would agree, the iPad Air is the best tablet you can buy today. My wife has one and loves it.
However, the Surface 2 does have advantages over the iPad Air. It is expandable with up to 64 GB of SDHC storage. An iPad Air cannot be expanded unless you buy the 128 GB model for $200 more at the time of purchase.
I own a Surface 2 and use it everyday, mostly while sitting at the kitchen table to read the news, enter my Fitness Pal activity, read Outlook mail, use Excel and Word, surf the web, check Facebook and read Twitter. For all those things the Surface 2 is very good although sometimes it seems slow. When that happens, turn all other apps off, close any open tabs in the browser and type slower.
The Surface 2 tries to multi-task, that is do more than one thing at a time. Given the small processor and memory footprint, that’s a noble if difficult job. The iPad Air, on the other hand, only does one thing at a time, other than play audio in the background, which makes it seem smoother.
The Surface 2 also shares all my photos from OneDrive and I can project them to a 2nd screen like a TV with Miracast. It can also project videos like YouTube.
Windows RT Achilles heal – music, videos and the Desktop
The Surface 2 is less than satisfactory when you try to use it as an entertainment tablet. Windows RT 8.1 is the operating system on the Surface 2 and it has a big missing piece in collecting and playing music and videos.
The Surface 2 comes with Xbox Video and Music. They are $99-a-year subscription streaming music services. Xbox is not like Windows Media Player or iTunes.
My son and I were comparing notes over the weekend and agreed Xbox Music and Google Play can’t hold a candle to iTunes for music lovers. Apple has captured the market for music with iTunes and so far no one is seriously challenging them. Since the Surface 2 runs Windows RT it cannot use iTunes and users are stuck with Xbox.
If you are a fan of streaming music services like Pandora, Spotify or Xbox, then you don’t care if the music player is lame. I am a music collector with 2,000 songs and videos purchased from iTunes and more than 10,000 that I ripped from my own CDs.
Xbox is a clumsy media player. Microsoft could at least have ported Windows 7 Media Player to Windows 8. Like most RT owners, I am looking for a non-Microsoft solution for media play. VLC is supposed to have a Windows RT player out soon but they’ve said that for more than a year. There are simple media player apps but none of those apps comes close to iTunes.
Windows 8.1 is still not finished and users are forced back into the Desktop which needs a mouse to use on small screens. Trying to navigate the small Desktop menus very hard with your finger. I keep a Bluetooth mouse beside my Surface RT. An Apple iPad Air is icon driven and you don’t need a mouse to use it.
Microsoft is rumored to be fixing many of the problems with Windows 8.1 next year with Windows 9 code-named Threshold.
If this sounds like a negative pitch, well that’s the story of the Surface 2. If you don’t want a tablet as an entertainment device, the Surface 2 is a good deal for $350. Strangely iPad users get a touch version of Office while Surface 2 users struggle with a non-touch version.
In Canada, Microsoft is offering $100 off the Surface Pro 2 and $45 off the Surface RT, along with a free sleeve.
By Stephen Pate, NJN Network