2 great new Surface tablets unveiled: Why I won't be buying either one

2 great new Surface tablets unveiled: Why I won't be buying either one

Summary: As expected, Microsoft recently unveiled the second generation Surface tablets with much improved hardware. Unfortunately, that's not enough to get me to buy one.

Surface 2
Surface 2, Surface Pro 2-- Image credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is getting the hang of throwing device launch events. The debut of the new Surface tablets was an exciting affair that showcased the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, complete with great refreshed hardware. Both new tablets will have state-of-the-art hardware components when they become available October 22. As good as both Surface tablets look, they each lack something which will keep my wallet firmly in my pocket.

Surface 2

The Surface 2 tablet is the refreshed version of the original Surface RT. Of the two Surface models, the Surface 2 can be viewed as the true tablet. It will have the latest ARM chipset from Nvidia that will make the Surface 2 a real powerhouse.

The Tegra 4 used in the Surface 2 is especially good at running intensive games, so Microsoft has the opportunity to make the tablet a good gaming platform. It will easily handle non-game tablet apps so it's got the whole package.

Microsoft says the Surface 2 is less than 1.5 pounds so it's a decent size and weight for a tablet. Unfortunately, it seems to have the same casing as the Surface RT which I found to be uncomfortable to use in portrait orientation. That's my preferred method to use a tablet so I'd have to try the Surface 2 to see if it would work for me.

The hardware of the Surface 2 looks good but it's the software that kills the deal for me. The Windows RT software to be exact. Being an ARM device, Windows RT 8.1 is what will come with the Surface 2 and that's no good. I must have the ability to install desktop apps on my Windows tablets, specifically Chrome, and that's not possible with Windows RT. That kills the Surface 2 as a possibility for me, the same as it did for the Surface RT.

Surface Pro 2

The Surface Pro 2 is the most exciting of the two new tablets from Microsoft due to the updated hardware. It packs the latest Core technology from Intel, aka Haswell, and that should make the Surface Pro 2 more powerful while yielding almost double the battery life of the original Surface Pro.

The inclusion of the Haswell technology is significant as I've experienced with my MacBook Air. The Surface Pro 2 uses a faster 1.6 GHz processor compared to the 1.3 GHz in the MacBook Air and should get better performance. I get over 9 hours of battery life which should be slightly better than what the Surface Pro 2 will get due to the slower processor in the Air.

Everything inside the Surface Pro 2 indicates it should be a vast improvement over the original Surface Pro, so it should be a fantastic PC. And make no mistake, it is a full PC running Windows 8.1 so it has no limitations like the Windows RT packing Surface 2.

If the hardware of the Surface Pro 2 is so good why won't I buy one? It's the form factor that breaks the deal for me. Having used heavy Tablet PCs for years due to a lack of choice, I am no longer willing to sacrifice form for function.

The "about 2lbs" Microsoft is listing for the Surface Pro 2, which is the same as the Surface Pro, is too heavy for tablet use as far as I'm concerned. The times I've played with the Surface Pro clearly demonstrated that the tablet is too heavy and bulky for typical tablet use.

To be fair, Microsoft is clearly pitching the Surface Pro 2 as a laptop with tablet benefits. It is certainly that, but I'm not willing to compromise tablet use with any device.

My ThinkPad Tablet 2 is a fantastic tablet at 10 inches and 1.3lbs. Its form is vastly superior to the Surface Pro 2 for tablet use, and I won't buy the Surface for that reason.

Great tablets, just not for me

To be clear, I find both new Surface tablets to be made of great hardware and they are vast improvements over the first generation models. I am sure that many will find them to be good purchases, and snap one of them up. They will probably serve buyers well and will be highly competitive in the Windows laptop and tablet space. They're just not for me.

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Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • Won't use a Surface Pro 2 because it weighs 2 lbs?

    I don't know what to say about that. Perhaps I'm simply more willing to compromise than Mr. Kendrick. I own a Razer Edge, which has fairly short battery life and is much heavier than the Surface Pro, but can run games like Battlefield 3 or Company of Heroes 2 flawlessly. I happily take the objective hit to battery life and the subjective "burden" of a heavier device for the advantage of being able to have a single device that does everything I want.
    • now imagine others have different priorities

      Some people do use tablets because of the light weight.
      • and some people prefer one unified device

        Both have their own place and there is an ever growing pool of devices offering solutions for each.
      • Exactly.

        If you view the Surface 2 Pro as a really light laptop, it actually excels for that function (assuming you can stomach Metro.) It's when you try to compare it to a pure tablet device that it shows the chinks in its armor. Some people need small, light laptops. Some people need tablets and desktops. Neither camp is going to convert the other so, live and let live. Just buy what fits your needs best. For James, that's the Thinkpad Tablet 2.
        • Short sighting thinking

          Currently the dream device may not exist for either camp, but it just got one huge step closer. Surface Pro2 will be the dream device some were looking for.

          If it manages to drop 8 ounces, suddenly James either admits it is the device he has been looking for or finds another reason to not buy it.

          I remember when people said Laptops could not replace desktops for a large number of reasons. They couldn't be upgraded, couldn't do 3d gaming, too heavy, no one would want to live with a screen less than 17 inches. Yet today Laptops are wildly popular.

          The same thing will happen with hybrid devices, despite the cries of people who actively want tablets and PCs to do less, so that they can each co-exist off the others limitations.
          • I agree

            However, there are still people who still feel the same way about laptops. I am one of them. It can't replace my desktop, because of all the reasons you have mentioned. The less than 17 inches is not one of the reasons though, because that is the size of my laptop. However, my desktop has a 32 inch monitor.

            So for me, a tablet can't replace my laptop anymore than a laptop could replace my desktop. Which is why I will never buy a tablet. My Galaxy Note 2 works fine doing the type of things a tablet can do. My Note fits in my pocket, tablets won't.
          • The tablets place

            I also once felt the same way you did, but that has changed reciently.

            I wount buy these tablets for one reason, they run Windows, I am a nix fanboy. But once upon a time, before I knew better, I was a windows fanboy. Windows was the greatest thing ever back then, It was more like a status symbol. I also refused the smartphone market for a long time, a phone was supposed to be a phone, I had my computer for other things. However A laptop cannot be taken with as easily as a tablet, especially when carrying college books. A tablet can easily fit in a side pocket of a bag, laptops not so much.

            Now being a nix fanboy, I use an android tablet, it has lecturenotes ( a very good hand writing notebook app), lecture recordings (allows you to record the lecture while taking notes), lecture videos (record a video of the lecture while taking notes)pdf viewer (allows lecture notes to save your notebooks in pdf to be printed) MDscan (scan a document to read later and saves in pdf, excellent ability to detect document) Andropen office (ported open office to android, full office suite fully compatible with ms office), to name a few uses for a buisness person or a student. Yes a laptop can do all of this but not anywhere near the flexability and portability of a tablet. And phone just doesnt have the screen realestate. So my question is, if lower end android tablets can do these functions (android being considered by many to be inferior to windows), why cant the surface RT? Microsoft seems just so far behind.

            btw my tablet is a little dated, it is a asus transformer infinity, paired with a dock that I had gotten from my asus transformer prime. If I wanted to, it has already long been able to install a full linux OS on many android devices ( including my tablet) and have all the functionality of a laptop. I could install the newest ubuntu if I wanted, and have full access to all the software.

            The real question is why are people still buying microsofts operating system when nixes have already bridged the gap and a whole slew of apps and programs are already available and functioning? The answer is simple, Microsoft has a brand that has alot of money invested in psychological marketing, and they used to be good. Because they used to be good, they have a following that will hold on to the brand.
            Shawn Eastman
          • Another note

            If you have the know how (these days not much is required) android is opensourced, that means I can update to newer operating systems if my device has the specs. My infinity tablet was released with android 3, it now runs cyanogenmod 10.2 (android 4.3 jellybean) rather well.
            Shawn Eastman
          • Also, the comments about the hardware being good, or even better

            my tablet, about 1 year to 1 1/2 year old has 1900 by 1200 resolution...... these tablets still have 1080p and are priced in the same range........
            Shawn Eastman
        • I'm not sure I understand this unified thing.

          If I want to do repetitive complex work, I grab my $300 Acer (premium) 11.6" netbook or my $239 debranded HP with AMD 7550 dual core CPU. The both have Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon (Gnome) and the Acer netbook has a full size keyboard. If I want to do CAD, I plug in my small Bamboo digitizer pad into the netbook for less "fatiguing" operation.

          I also have a 256-bit encrypted flash drive with Live Knoppix 7.2.0 I use on any computer. It gives me everything, including security without having any access to the hard drive on the host computer.

          Trying to do lengthy or complex work on a tablet seems fatiguing. Similar to working on a larger smartphone.

          I see people using smartphones and tablets for very casual things, not spreadsheets or 500 page documents or .pdf's. The majority of users seem happy with what they have now.

          Microsoft is trying to cram everything in to a tablet. I don't think this is a hard thing for OEM's to do with Linux Mint, that is if they wanted to. This capability is already there, but not really marketable.
          • not really

            I was with you, for the most part... right up until you said you plug in a bamboo digitizer.

            Working on an external plug in digitizer and writing and drawing directly on the screen are vastly different experiences.
      • The heavy weight is why I often find the 9" iPad to be unsuitable

        I find I have two main use cases for tablets - a highly portable reader (better on 7") and a main productivity device (better on a hybrid). I find that iOS is good for the portable reader. I would prefer an eInk device, but they are all horrible for PDF annotation and synching with 3rd party solutions. Since my larger iPad is always docked in a keyboard case, it would be better replaced with a more flexible solution, like the Surface Pro. The one downside of the Surface Pro is that it requires a lot of surface are due to the length of the keyboard, and it will always be unstable on laps since the keyboard can detach a lot easier than my Logitech iPad keyboard.

        Ultimately, the form factor is important to me, but access to certain windows apps trumps the form factor. I am also tired of paying for functionality on the iPad that is freely available on download.com or that I can develop myself at home.
    • Damn..

      the baseline Edge runs Battlefield 3 flawlessly!? Why the hell did I spend the extra $400 for the Pro... #%$#&@
    • I have to agree with you

      There are certain sacrifices you make for a tablet hybrid that can run x86 and Windows store apps. Surface Pro 2 is the Rolls Royce of tablets you can do just about anything you want with a single device.
    • Only an excuse for Kendrick to complain.

      Honestly I dislike Windows 8.x , the Metro UI my desktop or server, not pleased about MS's desire to force me to use their cloud and have no desire to own a Windows slate but the reasons given by Kendrick are silly. You cannot run MacBook apps on an iPad and although I prefer Android I can't run desktop apps on my Android slate either. No manufacturer is going to be able to meet his requirements. Mr Kendrick needs a laptop, not a slate.
      • The point you miss

        Is that the Surface Pro was/is marketed as a replacement for a laptop and is supposed to be able to run the legacy apps - the RT was/is marketed to be MS's answer to the iPads and Android slates. His point was that the fact that a Windows RT tablet cannot run legacy desktop apps killed that for him since the Pro can.

        Does that clear things up?
      • The iOS has a lot of software

        The iPad doesn't have to rely on OS X applications since there are so many productivity apps released for iOS. The Surface RT does not have the software. The Surface Pro is still useful, despite limited development for touch on Windows, because it can run Windows software. The RT doesn't have the software from any source.

        You also don't seem to understand Kendrick's requirements. He requires running Windows applications on Windows tablets, not on other tablets. I suspect that his reason is because if he can't run Windows applications, then he might as well buy an Android or Windows tablet that has a more robust app ecosystem. His requirement seems to be that he can get things done on the device, not that the devices can run desktop apps per se.
        • a few more things

          You can also use Flash, Java, and other web plugins that aren't on iOS or Android (not easily these days, anyway)... that's 20% of the web...
          • yes they are :)

            I do all those in android easy peasy. The new android comes with chrome browser, it has the pepper API for flash. I have no issues with java. It came that way and my device is a little dated.
            Shawn Eastman
    • Read the headline, that's enough for me

      The headline of this article was enough to warn me that this article might be fairly biased to begin with...

      I went with the Surface Pro because if I was looking to game, I'd upgrade my desktop honestly, and the Surface Pro gives me a good middle ground between smaller tablet without really feeling any larger or heavier while having the power of a laptop PC. I hardly can tell the difference in weight between say a Kindle Fire and the Surface Pro anyway. The edge would be even more on the laptop side. I sacrifice a little battery life, but it's really a big deal for me, I just have to make sure I charge it if I take it some place I don't have a plug.
      Dean Swiatek