Microsoft Surface 2 vs Surface Pro 2 – Which One is Right for You?

Surface Pro 2 comes with a stylus and comes running Windows 8.1

The follow-up to the original Microsoft Surface is out, and that means it’s time for that discussion again – what’s the difference between the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2? I’m sure you’ve been made very well aware by now that the Surface 2 runs Windows RT, while the Surface Pro runs Windows 8 (now 8.1). But, that’s not the only difference between the two, and it’s not the only thing that will affect your decision about which one is right for you.

That the Surface 2 runs Windows RT and the Surface Pro 2 runs Windows 8.1 is more indicative of the kind of experience you should be expecting – a pure tablet versus a laptop with tablet capabilities. The Surface 2, with RT, can only run apps that you can get off the Windows Store, while the Surface Pro 2 can run in old familiar desktop mode, making all of those familiar programs and third party programs available for you to use. That means you can do more with the Surface Pro 2, right? Well, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Surface Pro 2 is right for you.

Mobile tech is making huge inroads into daily life – some people simply don’t need that desktop functionality anymore, especially now that Microsoft Office comes in the form of mobile apps which, incidentally, come free with the Surface 2. The Surface 2 is tailor-made for those with a mobile lifestyle, featuring a mobile processor – a quad-core 1.7 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 4 – and a longer battery life. And, if you’re patient, don’t forget about that LTE version of the Surface 2 coming next year, a feature you won’t be finding on the Surface Pro 2. It’s also lighter and thinner than the Surface Pro 2, so you can haul it around easier. You’re also more likely to snap a picture with a tablet than a laptop, which is why you’ll find a 5 MP rear camera and a 3.5 MP front camera, which puts it ahead of the Surface Pro 2 and with other tablet rivals in that respect. Most importantly, it’s priced like a tablet – the Surface 2 can be had for $450, putting it in league with other marquee tablets on the market.

Surface 2 comes running Windows 8.1 RT

We said the Surface Pro 2 is more like a laptop, but how? First and foremost, it runs Windows 8.1, with the traditional desktop mode that you’ve come to know well from Microsoft. It also has a proper notebook processor – a dual-core 1.6 GHz Intel Haswell Core i5 processor, bringing the latest in Intel’s technology. Haswell helps keep the battery life long, although not as long as the Surface 2. You’ll also need more system memory and storage for all of those desktop programs you’ll be running – you’ll be able to get up to 8 GB of RAM here, compared to 2 GB for the Surface 2. Internal storage can be as high as 512 GB – much more than the 64 GB of the Surface 2, where you’ll want to lean more on cloud storage like SkyDrive. And, as a little bonus, you’ll find a stylus thrown in with your Surface Pro 2, for good measure. For the full laptop experience, though, you’ll need to pay more – $900.

Some things are the same for both, including nice new 1080p displays with 208 ppi and a magnesium alloy chassis. Both will have access to the full range of apps on the Windows Store, too.

So, which one is best for you? If you don’t really need the full range of laptop functionality – and a lot of people don’t these days – feel free to opt for the Surface 2, where you can surf the web and use productivity apps like Microsoft Office mobile apps. You’ll still be getting ample processing power for mobile gaming, while paying a much lower price for a device that does all you need it to.

But, if you are in need of those familiar desktop programs, the Surface Pro 2 is the way to go. It’s an affordable laptop at $900, plus the extra you’ll need to pay for a keyboard cover. That’s attractive, considering that it’s boasting a top-of-the-line processor and a huge chunk of SSD storage.

Both the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 look pretty attractive for holiday shopping season (who knows, you might see Black Friday deals for one or the other), but they aren’t interchangeable. Be sure to key in on the one that’s best for you or the lucky recipient before you go deal hunting this year.