Published on February 6, 2014 3:33 PM

Microsoft Surface 2: Full HD Display Tested

Good contrast, decent brightness

The Microsoft Surface 2 has landed in our test lab and is already being put through its paces. Ahead of our full review (coming soon) we thought we'd give you a sneak peek at how its Full HD screen fared in our standard set of lab tests.

Microsoft Surface 2
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Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet runs on the Windows RT 8.1 operating system and uses a 1.7 GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 T40 mobile processor with 2 GB of RAM. It's available with 32 GB or 64 GB of onboard storage, which can be expanded by up to 64 GB via the tablet's microSD memory card slot.

The Surface 2 has a 10.6" capacitive touchscreen with an IPS panel. The aspect ratio is 16:9 and resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels. But while Microsoft has moved things along from the Surface RT, the firm hasn't matched the same quality seen with its Windows 8.1 model, the Surface Pro 2, notably on colour fidelity and maximum brightness.

First up, we measured the average screen contrast at 1156:1. However, the average gamma (2.5) was quite imbalanced, so some details aren't rendered totally accurately in lighter images. Still, that's only very slightly visible in certain movies, and it's nothing to get too upset about. The maximum brightness reaches 365 cd/m², which is fine. It's on the better side of average in the current tablet market, but we've seen much better results elsewhere. Some Asus tablets, for example, can manage over 500 cd/m² and the Surface Pro 2 reaches 450 cd/m². With this level of brightness, the screen is nicely readable, clear and very pleasant to use indoors. However, it's very glossy and less easily usable outdoors, especially in very bright conditions or with direct light sources in view.   

OK Colours, Decent Resolution

Colour fidelity is decent enough, although it's no match for market heavyweights like the Apple iPad Air or the smaller-sized Google Nexus 7 built by Asus. With an average Delta E of 5.9, the Surface 2 is a bit middle of the road compared with the latest crop of mid-range/high-end tablets. Grey shades and blacks are all excellent, but pinky flesh tones aren't rendered accurately. When watching a movie, for example, the actors will be rendered more accurately on the iPad Air than with the Surface 2. For pro photographers and others looking for 100% perfect image reproduction, the Delta E will be too high here. For those kinds of users, Apple's tablet is still the model offering the most balanced, natural and accurate image quality on the market for this size of device. At 7233 Kelvins, the colour temperature isn't ideal, but it is evenly balanced over the spectrum with no one shade proving particularly problematic. 

The ghosting time of 16 ms puts the Surface 2 on par with the latest iPad tablets. The touch-sensitivity (the time it takes the touchscreen to respond to a press or movement on its surface) is no match for Apple's devices, though. At 91 ms, Microsoft's model beats the majority of Android tablets, but it's a fair way behind the iPad Air and its 58 ms. The screen is a little sharper and easier to read than the original Surface RT, which had 1366 x 768 pixels. Plus, the Full HD display suits Windows RT 8.1 down to the ground, enhancing both the Modern UI touchscreen interface and the classic Windows desktop. The boosted resolution also makes Office considerably more pleasant to use. 

All in all, the Microsoft Surface 2 doesn't come with the best display we've ever seen—not by a long way—but this IPS screen is good enough to suit the vast majority of users and it's perfectly suitable for most of the activities this device is designed for.

Stay tuned for our full review of the Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, coming soon.