I was toying with the idea of creating a Microsoft Surface bingo sheet for when the first reviews came out on the second generation devices, but this morning the NDA for reviews ended and the usual suspects came out with their reviews.
Having read a few of the reviews the takeaway I get is largely what I expected with one surprise.
For the most part I was looking at coverage of the Surface 2 the second gen Windows RT tablet or as the Next Web put it, “the one that needed to prove its right to exist”. The Surface Pro 2 was the other new device but honestly that one is guaranteed to sell a few devices. The Surface 2 on the other hand is in a much dicer,more interesting position.
Let’s get to main issue that plagues the Surface. Its Windows RT or more specifically the lack of apps that run in the new environment many call Metro. The lack of insert popular app is heavy mark against the almost year old platform. Another black mark is the lack of OEM support for Windows on ARM with Dell suspending Windows RT devices and others like Asus backing away to make cheaper Android devices.
It also probably smarts Redmond to hear the constant chorus of reviewers and bloggers wondering why Microsoft just doesn’t abandon Windows RT and focus on Intel’s BayTrail System on a Chip (SOC).
The Surface 2 was described as a “Lonely experience” by Verge writer David Pierce who otherwise provided an otherwise positive review of the device. As was the review by Mathew Honan of Wired. This brings up one of the differences between the reviews from the Surface RT and now; Windows RT was no longer the problem. The first Surface was plagued by an underperforming Tegra 3 processor and a screen not up to par in a world of Retina displays (mind you it was a good screen just not battery sapping iPad Retina good). Hardware and software wise the new Surface 2 received solid marks.
The most surprising hands on came from WinSupersite’s Paul Thurrott. To say Thurrott had issues with Windows RT would be an understatement. Not saying it was hate but I would hate to see him show it love of any kind. So his reaction to the new ARM device has been interesting to observe.
On the Surface Pro 2 the big news was better battery life, however I think many reviewers wanted to see a thinner device. CNet in its video review brought up the SONY Vaio Tab 11. the Vaio Tab 11 is an 11 inch tablet running Core series Intel chips in a slimmer form factor with included keyboard. One thing should be noted about the device, the Vaio tablet was based off Intel’s own reference design (large landscape tablet with a stick-like kickstand).
My take is for better or worse (and at least until the next CEO says otherwise) Microsoft is getting deeper into hardware. I still sort of wished the Surface team went further and redesigned the Surface 2 for better handling in portrait (the Surface looks like a clipboard in portrait). Starting at midnight tonight the Surface 2 and Pro 2 go on sale along with the opening of 10 new Microsoft stores in the US. It won’t mean much by tomorrow because Apple is planning a big unveil and that will be the story.
I really think in many ways the Surface 2 is an intriguing device and one with a future if it can hold on long enough. My hope is unlike last time they keep the numbers low in terms of product (no one thinks the new Surface 2 will do iPad numbers) and focus on building up the channel. More important though will be in building up the app catalogue with serious titles that make a case for Windows on tablets.
And with that here are the reviews for your bemusement: