Late in the afternoon on Oct. 21, a brown UPS truck pulled into the parking area and delivered the latest from Microsoft—a brand new, shiny Microsoft Surface Pro 2.
A significant difference between this tablet and most devices that show up at the office is that this wasn’t some review unit that I’d have for a few days before sending it back. This was a Surface Pro 2 that was about to become my wife’s birthday present—as soon as I could get it set up.
Unfortunately, getting the Surface Pro 2 up and running proved to be more complex than I’d originally expected, but not because of problems with the hardware. It turns out that there are still a few glitches with the Windows 8.1 operating system that’s delivered with the Pro 2. The Surface Pro 2 hardware seemed quite solid.
Unfortunately, I uncovered two issues that can bite users who are upgrading to a new machine with Windows 8.1, and they currently affect all versions that I’ve tested, not just the version on the Surface Pro. The first is a problem with the Microsoft Office 365 Website that you need to use to install a new copy of Office on your new computer. The second is an obscure bug that will only affect you if you already have Windows 8.1 and need to move to a new computer.
The Office problem shows up when you try to de-authorize your old computer and then authorize your new Surface Pro. Windows 8.1 wouldn’t handle the authorization change. If you haven’t used all five of your allowed installs on Office 365, this won’t be a problem. But if you have, then a new install will be problematic. Microsoft’s tech support acknowledged that they’ve seen this problem in other Windows 8.1 installs, but to date didn’t have a fix.
I got around it by changing the name of the new Surface Pro 2 so that it was the same as the name on an original Surface Pro I have, then going to the alternative installation page and installing Office 365 Home Premium from there. Until Microsoft comes up with a real fix, there’s not any other obvious easy workaround.
The other problem comes with you try to use the Windows Easy Transfer app. WET no longer supports network transfers, forcing you to revert to sneakernet to move files from one computer to another. Settings are no longer transferred. But what’s worse than having to use a USB flash drive to handle the transfer is that WET with Windows 8.1 wasn’t able to recognize that I was transferring data from an older computer.
If you’ve used this utility in the past, you may recall that it asks you early in the process whether the computer you’re setting WET up on is the old or new computer.
Surface Pro 2 Works Fine After Some Vexing Windows Setup Glitches
The Windows 8.1 version of WET will only believe it’s the new computer, so you’re stuck. You can both search for and manually transfer the files or you can try to find another method.
I found a better method. I got a version of LapLink’s PCMover Pro and installed that on both Surface tablets. Once that was done, everything was transferred over WiFi, including all of the files on the old Surface, the settings and the installed applications. It took far less time than what I spent on hold with Microsoft tech support for either problem. In order to keep from violating my Office license, I uninstalled Office from the old Surface.
Once I got the new Surface set up, I attached the cyan Type Cover and finished trying it out. The new Surface 2 is a lot like the previous model, but it has better battery life. Plus the Surface kickstand now has two positions, one for using the device on a desk and the other allows the Surface to recline at a greater angle for use on your lap. The new Type Covers, which will also work with the original Surface, have backlighting, which is nice, and they come in lots of colors, which is nice if you care about such things.
While I didn’t get the heavy-duty versions of the Surface Pro, which have up to 512GB of data storage and 8GB of RAM (I chose to get one with 128GB of storage), all of these tablets have a fourth-generation i5 Intel processor.
The full HD screen and improved cameras on the front and rear make the Surface Pro 2 a nearly perfect laptop replacement. The touch screen works better than many I’ve tested, and the Surface Pro 2 comes with a digitizer pen that works much like a Wacom stylus.
When you use the Surface with the Type Cover, it’s a lot like using an Ultrabook, but even more portable. It weighs less than 2 pounds, which is equivalent to the lightest Ultrabooks, and the HD screen is clear and easy to read. The Surface includes a built-in microphone that can handle speech recognition, and the Surface Pen works with the handwriting recognition built into the Surface.
Overall, I found the Surface Pro 2 to be far better for doing real work than my iPad, and because it will run nearly any Windows application, there’s a huge selection to choose from.
However, there aren’t nearly as many apps in the Microsoft Surface store as you’ll find in the Apple’s iTunes store. One thing I finally realized, however, is that there’s room in my briefcase for both a Surface and an iPad. They do different things, and they both fit. Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 2 is going into my wife’s briefcase.