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Review: New Surface tablets great for productivity

By Bree Fowler

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 21 2013 10:56 a.m. MDT

On the upside, the new Surface models let you play Xbox games. In addition, the Pro 2 was designed with not just business people, but also gamers, in mind. The Pro 2 features speed and battery improvements over the previous versions. That extended battery life should come in hand for movies, too. Microsoft won't say how long the Surface Pro 2's battery lasts, but says it's a 75 percent improvement over the previous version. The Surface 2's battery offers 10 hours of video playback, which is more than enough power to let you binge-watch the entire seven-episode first season of "Breaking Bad."

When it comes to watching TV, both Surfaces have high-definition displays, measuring 10.6 inches diagonally. That's larger than the iPad's 9.7 inches, but smaller than the typical laptop. The Surface screens also aren't as sharp as that on the iPad. Both Surfaces offer 208 pixels per inch compared with the iPad's 264.

SO SHOULD I BUY IT?

Do you long for an almost laptop-like typing experience and access to Microsoft Office? Or would you rather use a simple platform that opens the door to hundreds of thousands of apps all viewed on a crystal-clear screen?

While the Surface 2 is probably most fairly compared to an iPad or high-end Android tablet, the Surface Pro 2's processing power makes it more like a laptop.

The optional Type Cover 2 — which comes in four colors — is essential if you want to get the most out of either new Surface. Anyone who has tried to type on a tablet's touch screen can attest that you need a proper keyboard if you're writing more than a few sentences. Spend the $130 for the Type Cover 2, as the $120 Touch Cover 2 doesn't have keys that move, making typing awkward. That brings the tablets' prices to $579 for the Surface 2 and $1,029 for the Pro 2.

By contrast, an 11-inch MacBook Air starts at $999 and weighs just 2.4 pounds. If you need Windows, there are plenty of ultrabooks available for a few hundred dollars more. Those are slim and light, just like the Surface.

I'm curious to see if the Surface 2 will be able to do the same work that my old, much heavier, laptop computer did when it comes to reporting from the field. Its paired-down nature probably won't let me run a lot of the same programs that I did on my laptop. I'm not sure if I'd be willing to pay more than $1,000 for the Surface 2 Pro with the keyboard cover, even if it does let me run those programs. I think I'd have to shop around and take a good look at some MacBooks and ultrabooks, too.

Meanwhile, when it comes to watching Netflix and wasting time on silly games, I'm not ready to give up my iPad just yet.

Follow Bree Fowler on Twitter at http://twitter.com/APBreeFowler

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