The iconic kickstand a better, full HD screen, lighter form factor and superior sound make Simon May, Microsoft Evangelist, rather obviously fall in love with the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 devices. But are they good for the IT guy.

Surface Pro 2_Type Cover_purple

Last week I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to go “hands on” with the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 devices from Microsoft. As always this series is about writing about what they’re like for IT Pros which I’ll get onto in a few lines but before I do let me tell you how I use my current Surface devices. Currently I only own a Surface RT, actually I own three of them and two are for demo purposes. My main Surface device spends most of its time sat by the sofa and it’s used for casual non-work stuff but it’s also used heavily for commuting. For the times I go into London to for work I only take my surface, I don’t need anything else for emails, for meetings, for blogging or my general day to day non-technical work. Surface RT is the perfect device for this because it’s light and I don’t need to charge it. I also have an Android tab sat there, invariably I prefer Surface RT.

Surface 2

Surface RT2_Rear view

Let’s start off looking at the new Surface 2 then which runs Windows RT. The very first thing I noticed when I grabbed the device was how much lighter it feels than the Surface RT, I am sure there’s not much of a weight difference but it’s enough to be noticeable. The very next thing I did was to try the iconic kick stand, it feels as solid as the Surface RT with that pleasing spring when it gets to the end of its movement but the kickstand can be pulled to make it move a smidge further and provide a flatter working angle. I moved the kickstand to the second position and I was quite surprised about how that affected by ability to type. With the first position and on the Surface RT it’s pretty cumbersome to type on screen, with Surface 2 the kick stand position makes it easy to type with both hands –almost touch type.

My very next move was to power the device up and log in to set it up. Immediately I noticed how sharp the 1080p screen is compared with the 720p screen is on the Surface RT which just made the Surface logo that little bit smoother. It’s also noticeable on the labels on live tiles which are just that little bit more readable. Personally I prefer to have more tiles so I quickly set my Surface 2 to display 4 and the 1080p screen handles that really nicely too. Within about 10 minutes my apps had started to sync down too so I jumped onto twitter which did exactly what you’d expect on a 1080p screen. Wanting to test the screen more I popped into the Windows Store and installed the 500px app to view some beautiful photography. I have to say the clarity of the screen, the contrast of the colours everything about the screen makes it wonderful to look at.

Office Work

Taking a look at the desktop to use the Microsoft Office apps also didn’t disappoint me. The higher resolution makes office just that little bit nicer to work with which I think is possibly because it’s slightly more congruous with the display on my Asus Zenbook Prime, things just seem to be the right dimensions.

Everything starts to feel snappier around the interface than my Surface RT with apps loading just that little bit more quickly. Overall I found the Surface 2 to be a pretty great improvement over the Surface RT for me, I’ll probably be buying my own. Sometimes people say to me that it’s not a great device for IT Pros because it doesn’t run desktop apps, I however find that it does almost everything I need for short periods and does much better than anything else I’ve ever used for such. I have easy access to PowerShell and to Remote Desktop and in fact though remote desktop I deliver a couple of apps I need occasionally (like the RSAT) using Remote App and they basically feel like native tools.

Another thing I like, which is actually a Windows 8 feature is the ability to wipe my device. The device I used for this review wasn’t mine, was not going to be mine and other people needed to use it, so I used the reset ability of Windows 8 to just reset the device and take away all my customizations before I handed it off. Very handy for recycling your old Surface RT device I thought.

Surface Pro 2 for the Professional

Surface Pro 2 RHS

Next I was onto taking a look at the Sur face Pro 2, a colleague had signed into this device first and it was setup with their Microsoft Account. The very first thing I did was play a movie trailer from Xbox video, not so that I could see the screen – it’s 1080p just like the Surface Pro, but so I could the sound. The Surface Pro 2 and actually the Surface 2 have Dolby audio built in and wow do they sound good! The sound is excellent and probably the best of any tablet device since they have two speakers (lots of tablets only have one – aka Mono) but Surface has multiple drivers and sounds superb. I could happily use the Surface Pro 2 as music device or to watch whole movies on.

I wanted to give the USB 3 on the device a try so I moved a huge amount of data over from a USB3 memory stick and transfer speeds averaged about 34mbs. Copying from the Surface 2 to the stick managed a similar average transfer speed, so we can tick the “it just works” box. I also ran some benchmarks on the device and it out performed by new laptop (Asus Zenbook Prime) in almost every way from drive speed, 3D graphics performance and various CPU tests. I have to say it was impressive in every respect and obviously a total laptop replacement for an IT Pro – with this you’d only need one device for everything in your life – even a little bit of virtualisation!