Hands-on with Microsoft Surface Pro 2
The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 improves on the original Surface Pro by adding new internal hardware for better performance and battery life. The price remains the same as the original Surface Pro, starting at $899 for a configuration with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of SSD storage.
And while $899 for a slick Windows 8 device with a fourth-gen Intel Core i5 CPU sounds very reasonable, you might end up paying more if you decide to get a Surface Pro 2. For a full Windows 8.1 PC, a 64GB hard drive sounds small (despite the SkyDrive subscription included for cloud storage), so you'll probably want at least a 128GB SSD (256GB and 512GB versions are also available).
More importantly, the much-loved Type Cover and Touch Cover accessories, really the most impressive part of the Surface ecosystem, are not included in the purchase price. You'll have to buy those separately, at $119 for the Touch Cover and $129 for the Type Cover, although the updated versions are thinner than the originals, come in multiple colors, and are now backlit.
That means a realistic total cost for switching to a Surface Pro 2 is more than you might expect. The 4GB RAM/128GB SSD Surface is $999, plus $129 for a Type Cover, and you end up with $1,129.
That's still reasonable for what you get, but in that price range, there are also a lot of other options for tabletlike hybrids and slim ultrabooks. Presented here are some recent and upcoming alternatives. Some of these products have yet to be released, so exact price and spec info is subject to change, but the prices cited are as near as we can figure for a configuration with a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro, $1,099
Probably the hands-down best example of a Windows 8 hybrid tablet to date, the original Lenovo Yoga series has splintered into two paths. The upcoming ThinkPad Yoga has a keyboard that hides inside the chassis when the system is folded into tablet mode, but the IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro has an ultra-high-res 13.3-inch display, with a native resolution of 3,200x1,800 pixels. That you can pair that with a Haswell Core i5 for less than a Surface Pro 2 plus Type Cover is impressive. Read more about the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro.
Dell XPS 12, $1,199
This rotating-screen hybrid shares something very important in common with the Surface Pro 2: its new version fixes many of the problems of the original thanks to new internal hardware. In both cases, that includes Intel's new Haswell processors. Unlike the Surface Pro 2, the XPS 12 doesn't have a standalone screen with a detachable keyboard, but the display is a full 1080p one, and the RAM, SSD, and CPU family also match up (both have Haswell Core i5 processors, the exact model number may vary). The final price also also very close, with Dell's larger-screened model going for $70 more than a Surface Pro 2 and Type Cover. Read more about the Dell XPS 12.
HP Spectre 13 X2, $1,099
This just-announced hybrid is the closest of these to the Surface Pro 2. It's a Core i5 tablet, and the screen detaches from the laptop keyboard base, so you can carry it around as a slim, full-power slate. Like the Yoga 2 and Surface Pro 2, it hasn't been released yet, but we've had a chance to preview it and thought it felt like a "well-designed, surprisingly light high-quality device with a fairly thin slate and a large comfortable keyboard with tactile metal keys." Read more about the HP Spectre 13 X2.
Apple MacBook Air, $999
Apple's MacBook Air is the odd man out at this party. We're including the 11-inch version, as that's closer to the Surface Pro 2's 10-inch screen (the 13-inch Air starts at $1,099). This is not a hybrid device, nor does it have a touch screen, or even a 1080p display. But, it does have the same combination of a Haswell Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. Anyone looking for a high-end system with similar specs is going to at least consider a MacBook Air, although seeing the specs side by side is a good reminder of the premium people are often willing to pay for Apple's design and OS X operating system. Read more about the Apple MacBook Air.
Sony Vaio Flip, price TBD
I'm curious to see how Sony's recently announced Vaio Flip (available in 13-, 14-, and 15-inch sizes) compares with the Surface Pro. It's another folding-screen hybrid, but very thin, with a high-end feel. There's no official price or release date yet, but a Core i5/128GB configuration of the 13-inch is likely to be in the same ballpark as our other examples. Read more about the Sony Vaio Flip.
Is the Surface Pro 2 still a good investment after you add in the upgraded storage and keyboard cover? Or would you choose one of these other options, or something entirely different? Let us know in the comments section below.