1 Day Until Surface 2 – Scratching the Surface

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Intro

With Windows 8.1 installed on it, it is an even a more capable device that it was before. At $349, it’ll be hard to match in build quality and usability in a tablet form factor. On Tuesday, I will finally get my hands on the Surface 2. I expect Microsoft to take something good, and make it great. While you read this post, hopefully the official reviews are hitting the web. I plan to review it as well, once I get enough hands on time. But for now, I’d like to highlight what I’ll be looking to get out of the Surface 2.

Expected Improvements

  • Screen: To be honest, I never expected to enjoy the Surface screen as much as I do. Even though it is considered “low res” by today’s standards, the overall quality is very good. 1080p is always nice to have, as are the forthcoming color accuracy improvements. The screen is good, but I know it will get even better.
  • Speed: Somehow, I have grown to get past the overall performance of the Surface RT. But I cannot wait to get my hands on the Surface 2 and its Tegra 4 processor. I want to never see lag. That might not happen, but multitasking and first launch of my key apps should be much improved. Gaming should be much improved, and should allow for some stellar looking time wasting.
  • Kickstand: For me, the current stand angle is near useless. It works great when I want to prop the Surface on a table to show it off. But when I try to use it… forget it. I have high hopes for the additional kickstand angle coming with Surface 2. It probably won’t be perfect, but at least I won’t have to hunch over my desk to use it. “Lapability” is nonexistent for me today, and I hope I can start using it on my lap more with the improved kickstand.
  • Look/Feel: The current Surface looks nice, but black is so last year. I think the new color will help make the device stand out even more. It’ll look great with the various Type Cover 2 colors. Although considered only negligibly lighter, I hope it feels better in hand. The current black coating can be very slippery. Perhaps the untouched VaporMg will feel even better.
  • SkyDrive: With 200GB of extra storage space, SkyDrive should become my de facto online storage/backup solution. Today I am half in between SkyDrive and Google Drive. I expect that to change starting Tuesday.

Hopeful Improvements             

  • Apps: Surface 2 won’t support any applications that other models already don’t. If the Surface family, and Windows 8.1 tablets in general start selling better, we will hopefully see more apps. And not just more apps, but regularly updated apps as well. Apps can impact the user experience more than anything else. We need dedicated developers capable of making a profit off their user base.
  • Battery: I had a Samsung ATIV Tab (Windows RT) tablet. The battery was insanely great. The specs were similar to the Surface RT, but it ran a Qualcomm SoC versus NVIDIA. I could easily get 2-3 days usage off the charge. On my Surface RT, I usually need to charge it nightly. Hopefully, the 10-hour rating of the Surface 2 is a conservative number.
  • Connected Standby: Long story short… my AT&T Beam wasn’t supported by the Surface RT’s “connected standby” mode, then it was for a few days, and then it wasn’t again. After talking to Netgear, AT&T and Microsoft, no one knows what is going on. But I do know, drivers and firmware play a role. Hopefully Surface 2 is more compatible with USB devices, and the “connected standby” state. Even if it isn’t, I hope device sales are high enough to encourage manufactures (and Microsoft themselves) to update device-specific firmware and drivers.*
  • Accessories: We all expect a ton from the new accessories. I hope they all pan out, and really make the Surface family the best devices for both work and play. The original Touch Cover received mixed reviews, and the new version 2 is apparently much better. Type Covers have always been decent, but the new thinner, lighter and backlit version should be even more useful. Everything else announced will be key to a select group of use cases, and I hope they all come through.

surface2

What’s Next?

  • I was fortunate to pick up a Type Cover 2 (in purple) from a local store on Sunday.
  • I should get my Surface 2 on Tuesday, October 22nd.
  • Look for a Surface Geeks podcast on or before Wednesday night.
  • More posts, with attention focused on the Surface 2, the accessories and Modern UI “Metro” applications.
  • Don’t worry, I’ll get back to phones soon enough. (Bandit, maybe?)

* The AT&T Beam works very well. However, whenever it is attached to my Surface RT, my display won’t turn off. The wake/sleep button doesn’t function, and “Sleep” is not available from the Power charm. The oddity is that everything worked fine for a few days. Surface RT firmware or drivers must have changed. All the companies involved were helpful, but no one seems to have enough experience using devices like this under Windows RT. Although it is officially supported, most testing seems to be under Windows 8/8.1 (x86). “Connected standby” won’t engage because the device, when attached, is listed as not supporting the power state.

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