The first thing to notice about the actual Surface tablets is how similar they are both to each other and to last year's models. Aside from the Surface 2's eye-catching coat of white, the tablets both feel almost physically identical to their predecessors. That's a good thing; the well-angled bezels and overall high-quality feeling of the hardware was one of our favorite parts about both of the two Surfaces.
None of that has gone away. Covers still snap into and out of the tablets in a way that's satisfyingly definitive. The kickstand clicks between closed, 22 degrees, and its new 44 degree option with the same delightful certainty.
Both the Surface 2 and the Pro 2 are still nice to look at and even nicer to hold. Both the Surfaces have a sort of "I'm serious about this computing thing" heft to them, without being ridiculously heavy. The Surface 2 feels a little like a hefty iPad, the Pro 2 more like a stack of two of them. The magnesium case feels like it means business, and offers a nice grip. And the bezels are still expertly designed in a way that kind of makes the whole thing melt into your hand.
We didn't have an opportunity to really put either the Surface 2 or the Pro 2 through their guts paces, but your typical swiping around the user interface and switching between apps was smooth and responsive on both units. No lag in sight. The Pro 2, in particular though, has some serious horsepower under the hood, and we saw it pushing 4K video out to a big screen like it was nothing.
The real arena where Microsoft is pushing innovation is its covers. Unfortunately we didn't have the opportunity to do any serious lap testing, but both the Touch Cover and the Type Cover are markedly more rigid than the initial efforts. It's like holding a folder full of thick card stock. There's give, but no flop. It feels like you could snap either over your knee, but that's thanks to a welcome sort of rigidity. This feels like it could maybe work on your lap, though we really weren't able to try.
The Type Cover 2 feels a little more like an actual keyboard than its predecessor did, with slightly deeper more satisfying depth. It's still not immediately natural to type on, coming from an actual laptop keyboard, but it's easy to see how it could be, and how it could require less acclimation that the first Type Cover.
The Power Cover, essentially a Type Cover 2 with a 30 watt-hour battery behind it, was the heftiest of those we saw, thick like a newspaper. But if you're on the road, the battery life gains should be more than worth it, and all that extra thickness makes that Power Cover feel super stable.
Like the new Type Cover, the Touch Cover 2 is thinner and more rigid than what we've seen before, but typing on it is still...an adventure. The keys are certainly responsive, no doubt thanks to some more specific sensors, but there's only so much that can do to combat the inherent unnaturalness of typing on a mostly flat (pardon the pun) surface, with no physical feedback. We'll see how much those sensors have really improved once we get a little more time to get back in the swing of the very specific feel of Touch Cover typing.
All in all, these new additions to the Surface family seem to be driving towards that holy grail of laptop-tablet hybrid we've all been hoping for, and a much-needed and serious effort to improve the various covers has certainly helped. We can't wait to put them through their paces in the wild and find out what kind of devices we're really dealing with here.