Microsoft's successor to the brilliant Surface 2 Pro tablet-PC mashup is well and truly on the way. We're only a couple of months away from the hottest new hybrid hitting shelves in the form of the Surface Pro 3. But let's talk brass tacks for a second: what if you don't want the latest and greatest as soon as it hits shelves? Can you take advantage of Surface 2 Pro discounts as it reaches the end of its life? Should you still buy the Surface 2 Pro? We look at the market now and offer some helpful consumer advice.
It has been a while since we've touched on Microsoft's PC-in-a-tablet, so let's just have ourselves a quick refresher course.
The Surface 2 Pro is the follow-up to the original Surface Pro, packing better hardware and a better experience with Windows 8.1.
On the outside, it's pretty much the same as the first Surface Pro: same heat-sink fan panel on the rear, same jet black design, same thick bezel, same port configuration. Hell, it even weighs exactly the same. The only real difference comes from the extra angle added to the kickstand to make it more lap-able (read: easier to use on your lap). The real changes are concealed under the hood, and they were designed to push the Surface 2 Pro even deeper into laptop-tablet hybrid territory.
The Surface 2 Pro is runs the original Intel Fourth-Generation Core "Haswell" chips. It's an Intel Core i5-4200U under the hood to be exact, clocked at 1.6GHz with the capability to boost up to 2.3GHz if needs be, whilst also packing 4GB of RAM. The Haswell chip means Microsoft is able to claim a 75 per cent battery improvement over the last model, dragging the overall usage time up to around 7 hours.
Having lived with the Surface 2 Pro for a year now, I can tell you that you'll never get 7 hours out of this thing. Small chassis plus 1080p screen and relatively thirsty processor means that the tiny battery in the Surface 2 Pro has a lot of work to do. Realistically, you'll get about 5 hours out of the thing, and that's only if you've kept all the firmware up to date. Microsoft issued a new firmware update a few months after launch for the Surface 2 Pro to fix up a few components that were drawing way more power than they should have been. Keep that in mind.
Hardware-wise, the Surface 2 Pro is still relatively current. It's less than a year old and packing a processor that still outshines most of the hybrids we saw at Computex 2014 (save perhaps for the new Asus tablets which all run on cheap, power-efficient Intel Atom chips).
Realistically, it's tough to find a competitor to the Surface 2 Pro when it comes to design. Its magnetic keyboard, Intel Core architecture and kickstand make it a bit of a lone wolf in the hybrid PC space to this day. Given that, let's compare it to the ultrabooks and other impressive alternative hybrids.
First off, there's the Dell XPS 11: a cute little 11-inch 2-in-1 which, right off the bat, has the Surface beat for screen size and resolution with the 11.6-inch 2560x1440 panel. But other than that, the specs are around about the same: 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM. That one will cost you $1999: considerably more than the similarly specced Surface 2 Pro.
Then there's the Vaio Tap 11: another Surface competitor. The Vaio has a similar dual-core processor and 4GB of RAM, putting it on equal footing with our Microsoft tablet. On the plus side, the Vaio has an HDMI-out, which the Surface 2 Pro is sorely missing.
You have to consider how tough it will be to get a hold of the Vaio Tap 11, considering Sony flogged the Vaio brand to a Japanese firm a few months back. That rules it out in our books.
Finally, you've got the Lumia 2520: a device we all thought would be a Surface competitor but fell short. It packs a 10.1-inch 1080p panel (218 ppi) on the surface, with a quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor under the hood, as well as 2GB of RAM.
You get 32GB of internal storage, as well as a microSD card slot capable of expanding up to 64GB of memory. You've got a micro-SIM with 4G connectivity, and a massive 8120mAh battery to keep you going all day. The device will set you back $840 outright, or you can get it on a plan with Telstra (exclusively) for $25 extra per month on a $35 Telstra Tablet Plan. Said plan will give you 4GB of data per month on a 24 month contract.
The problems emerge when you look at buying the 2520 along with its Power Keyboard accessory. For the two together, you're looking at $1080, which is easily Surface 2 Pro money for a device running an ARM-based processor and dreaded Windows RT.
Almost 12 months on, and the Surface 2 Pro still has its opponents beat on hardware. But what about price? Can it compare dollar-to-dollar with other devices?
Update: The Surface 2 Pro is now $100 less as we edge closer to the Surface Pro 3 release.
The Surface 2 Pro now starts at $919 for the 64GB version, while the 128GB Surface 2 Pro (the one we tested) is priced at $1029, the 256GB model is priced at $1369, and the 512GB version is priced at $1939.
As we've seen from the competition, the Surface 2 Pro can still hold its own on price, with decent bang-for-buck next to the rivals we stacked it up against. And in even better news, Microsoft cut the price in other markets by $200 two months out from the launch of the Surface Pro 3 to sell the remainder stock.
So will there be further price cuts here in Australia? That depends.
Because the Surface 2 Pro is still two months away from being properly killed, Microsoft hasn't deemed it necessary to initiate price cuts in the Australian markets yet. In fact, given the popularity of the Surface 2 Pro, and considering it was sold out for months on end last year, it would be pretty surprising if the $100 price cuts seen in the US would be replicated on Australian stickers.
Based on the price trend of the original Surface Pro, it's easy to assume that -- if retailers have stock left -- the Surface 2 Pro will be decently discounted to a sub-$1000 price tag once the Surface Pro 3 is on the shelf. Again, that will depend on stock.
So what's the bottom line? Right now, the Surface 2 Pro is a great device at a decent price. If you're in the market for a fancy convertible then we definitely still recommend it a year on. Keep in mind, however, that the Surface Pro 3 will start at $979 for a bigger screen and better specs. If you're going to buy it, perhaps wait for the new model to come out and hunt for remainder stock you can haggle down to around $900. That's what we'd be comfortable paying for it anyway.
Would you buy the Surface 2 Pro now? Tell us in the comments.