Microsoft Surface 2 review

Windows RT remains a half-baked OS, but the Surface 2 is a decent tablet

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This is the place where Surface 2 differs from a normal Windows 8.1 PC; you can't install all your familiar desktop software, just the apps and games in the Windows Store. While you get the improved and new apps that come with Windows 8.1 - from Alarms and Calculator to News, Food and Drink and Movie Moments - you can also find another 100,000 in the Store.

It is a much larger selection of apps than it was last year, and this remains one of the issues for Surface. Many developers create apps for iPad first and come to Windows only later, if at all. And while Microsoft has rules and standards for the Windows Store, there are far too many wrapper apps that are little more than links to websites, searches for specific videos on YouTube and other low-value content.

Switch between running apps

Switch between running apps

Big-name apps launching for Windows 8.1 include Facebook and Flipboard. Adobe has Adobe Reader and Photoshop Express for Windows 8 but not the other apps it has for Android and iOS. The Kindle and Nook apps are excellent and Rhapsody is there, but not Spotify. If you add in third-party apps, there's a reasonable choice of apps and the selection is growing steadily.

The new look Windows Store

The new-look Windows Store

For example, Kayak has an excellent app for booking hotels that makes good use of photos to help you find somewhere that looks nice; Tripit doesn't have an official app but there is a Windows 8 version of the excellent third-party My Trips app.

Given how uncooperative Google has been over allowing Microsoft to create an official YouTube app for Windows Phone it's no surprise that there's no official YouTube app, although there are plenty of competent third-party apps. And remember, with the full IE browser, you can get the full functionality of websites so you may not need an app. We'd just like to see Microsoft concentrate more on quality than quantity, and throw some of the worst apps out of the Store.

Two apps side by side

Two apps side by side

You can play Bejeweled and Where's My Water and umpteen different versions of Angry Birds, but not Candy Crush. However, there is an excellent selection of casual and, well, more intense games from Microsoft Studios, from Mah Jong to Halo: Spartan Attack. It's not like high-end PC gaming, but the more demanding games play well.

Not Halo but Halo Spartan Assault

Not Halo but Halo Spartan Assault



Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site Lifehacker UK. Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.