Ahead of the Surface Pro 2's release this week, reviews for Microsoft's new tablet are pouring in, and the consensus is that although it is not a must-buy, it is much improved over its predecessor.
The Surface Pro 2 is set to come out Tuesday with prices starting at $899 for a 64-gigabyte model and going up to $1,799 for a 512-GB version. On the outside, the Surface Pro 2 looks nearly the same as its predecessor, but changes on the inside have made it a better product.
Most notably, Microsoft has outfitted the Surface Pro 2 with an Intel Haswell processor, which has led to an improved battery life. Last year, the chief complaint with Microsoft's Pro tablet was its short battery life of about four hours. Many reviewers said they were able saw much more battery time with the new model.
"I'm happy to report that Microsoft's promise of a 75% improvement for the Pro 2 is genuine," wrote Tom Warren of the Verge. He said he got more than 7.5 of battery life, which was nearly double what he had experienced with the original Surface Pro.
However, in his review trial of the Surface Pro 2, Gizmodo's Eric Limer said the new tablet/laptop hybrid's battery life was still lacking. He said he was only able to get about 3.5 hours of battery life from the new device.
The trial involved "juggling 10 to 15 open Chrome tabs and pushing video out to an additional monitor," Limer wrote. "This is almost the same as we got out of the original Surface Pro, which is a little odd considering Intel's Haswell is such a battery saving monster."
But Limer's experience was a anomaly among the reviewers, with the others finding that the battery life was vastly improved.
Another noteworthy change comes in the Surface Pro 2's kickstand. Microsoft has updated the feature so that users can now prop up the device at two different angles. The reason for that is so the device can better rest on users' laps.
"There are a few things going on here. For one, as promised, it feels a little less precarious when the kickstand has a wider stance," wrote Engadget's Dana Wollman. "In addition, the viewing angle is a little more pleasant, as it's no longer sitting quite so upright."
Anand Lal Shimpi of AnandTech also called the new kickstand "awesome." However, Gizmodo's Limer disagreed on the effectiveness of the new kickstand.
"There's still a certain precariousness to balancing the Surface Pro 2 -- even with the improved angle, it's still a balancing act -- on your knees," Limer wrote. And sure, you might be better off just switching to tablet mode at that point, but it's a still a little irritating that using a laptop replacement on your lap is still so uncomfortable."
In general, though, most critics agreed with Wollman's take.
A number of reviewers were disappointed that Microsoft did not slim down the size of the new tablet.
The Surface Pro 2 is essentially the same size as its predecessor, and many reviewers said the device, at 2 pounds and nearly 11 inches wide, is just too big to be comfortably used as a tablet.
"In attempting to straddle both device categories, the Pro 2 makes compromises on weight and additional hardware (notably, ports -- one USB 3.0 is a little lacking if considering it as a laptop replacement) support, though," TheNextWeb's Ben Woods wrote. "While I can overlook the latter, or at least work around it, the Surface Pro 2 does less well at convincing me it should be my go-to tablet. It’s just too damn chunky for that."
For now, many reviewers said, consumers may want to wait for Microsoft's third stab at building a tablet/laptop hybrid, likely a year from now.