As I discussed last month, when it comes to tablets, Microsoft is in the unusual position of competing head-to-head against itself this Christmas.
On the one hand, Microsoft has released its low-end Surface 2, which runs a special version of Windows called Windows RT 8.1 that can’t run legacy desktop apps, as well as its Surface Pro 2 tablets, which runs a regular version of Windows 8.1.
On the other, it has also recently agreed to buy the devices and services arm of telecommunications giant Nokia.
Nokia, in turn, has created a Windows RT 8.1 tablet of its own, called the Lumia 2520, which is set to go head to head against the Microsoft Surface.
Of course, if you’re looking for a Windows RT 8.1 tablet this Christmas, this can create a dilemma.
So which one should you choose?
Hardware and features
The Lumia 2520 is a 10.1-inch tablet running Windows RT 8.1, and is built around a 2.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor.
It boasts full 4G/ LTE connectivity, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi. It’s important to note that the Microsoft Surface is Wi-Fi only.
In terms of dimensions, it measures 168 x 267 mm, is 8.9 mm thick and weighs 615 grams.
The display has a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a pixel density of 218 pixels-per-inch.
It also features a 6.7-megapixel main camera with 4x digital zoom.
What’s the consensus?
When it comes to industrial design, Engadgetpoints out the Surface and the Lumia 2520 could not be more aesthetically different:
I’m truly excited to see what kind of hardware Microsoft and Nokia come up with once their designers are working under the same roof. Because right now, their design sensibilities couldn’t be more different (even if they are equally awesome). Whereas the Surface 2 is made of magnesium alloy, the 2520 is fashioned out of colourful polycarbonate plastic, just like most Lumia phones. And whereas the Surface 2 is all chamfered edges and blunt lines, the 2520 is fully contoured, with the exception of some surprisingly pointy corners.
However, while the glossy red version of the 2520 is certainly eye catching and fund design, there is a downside:
Now, this might be a good time to clarify that depending on which colour you choose, the 2520 can have one of two finishes: either glossy (red or white) or matte (those are the white and cyan models). As it happens, I tested out the red version, which seems even slippier than the matte Lumia 1520 my colleague Brad Molen reviewed earlier this week. It’s also more of a fingerprint magnet.
One of the downsides of the Microsoft Surface is that it’s Wi-Fi only. According to eWeek, for many users, a big advantage of the Lumia 2520 compared to its cousin, is the fact that it also works on 4G/LTE mobile networks:
The inclusion of cellular radios on the 2520 is a significant improvement. By nature, a tablet computer is intended to be mobile, and constraining to WiFi limits its usefulness. With the ability to work with LTE regardless of the availability of WiFi, the tablet becomes much more useful.
One of the big selling points of the Microsoft Surface is its accessories – namely the keyboard cover.The Vergewas a little disappointed that it doesn’t come with many Nokia accessories – and there are a number of Nokia accessories it doesn’t work with either:
Nokia provides very few accessories in the box with the 2520 — the only thing accompanying the tablet is its charger, which uses Nokia’s proprietary connector. I was a little bummed that the 2520 doesn’t use the same Micro USB chargers as Nokia’s smartphones, and the Surface’s magnetic charging connector is far more elegant than the 2520’s barrel connector… Without those extras and no kickstand, the 2520 feels very much like any other 10-inch tablet.
For those keen to edit a Word document on-the-go, Nokia does offer a Power Keyboard as a separate accessory. However, it’s not as comfortable as its Surface counterpart:
As an option, Nokia is offering a $149.99 Power Keyboard cover for the 2520… It can prop the 2520 up and accommodates working on your lap a bit better than the Surface 2, but the angle is fixed and much like the original Surface, it’s a bit too upright. The Power Keyboard also adds a significant amount of weight (the whole package weighs a hefty 2.6lbs) and thickness to the 2520… Microsoft did an excellent job keeping the keyboard cover for the Surface slim, and I wish Nokia had done something similar with the 2520.
Finally, PC Worldnoted there’s a big reason to choose the 2520 over the Surface: Speed.
The 2520 also introduces a Qualcomm processor to Microsoft’s tablet mix. Whereas the Surface 2 runs a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 clocked at 1.7GHz, the Lumia sports a quad-core Snapdragon chip clocked at 2.2GHz.
Real-world experience trumps all, and I found the Lumia 2520 to be every bit as fluid and zippy as the Surface 2, if not also various iOS and Android tablets… Without a doubt, a Windows RT 8.1 tablet may leave you wanting a lot more—a vibrant mobile-apps ecosystem is the first thing that comes to mind. But there’s no disputing that the Lumia 2520 is one speedy machine.
Who’s it for?
If you’re after a Microsoft tablet, whether you go with a Surface or a Lumia 2520 should ultimately come down to what you’re planning on using it for.
If you’re likely to regularly edit Office documents in places where you have access to Wi-Fi – such as around your home, in your office or in a cafe – and want a tablet with a sleek, professional design, go with the Surface.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a fast and responsive tablet to read emails or browse websites on the go and don’t plan on doing too much typing, the Lumia 2520 will probably be a better fit for you.
Likewise, if you already use a Lumia smartphone, the design of the 2520 will make a great matching tablet.
That being said, if full Windows compatibility (Surface Pro), the largest tablet ecosystem (iPad) or cost (Android) are your biggest deciding factor with a tablet, you should probably look elsewhere.