Lumia 2520 vs. Surface 2: Understanding the Trade-offs

Lumia 2520 vs. Surface 2: Understanding the Trade-offs

How to choose, how to choose

When it comes to choosing between Nokia's first-ever tablet, the Lumia 2520, and the Microsoft Surface 2, a number of issues arise. Each device offers a set of advantages over the other, and neither is the clear victor. How does one decide?

This is an issue I've been mulling over since Nokia announced the 2520. But now that I have one in-house and compare it head-to-head with Microsoft's excellent Surface 2, it's time to really figure this one out.

Since everyone has different needs and wants, it's probably not possible to issue a blanket recommendation for one device over the other. But I can at least step through each device's advantages, and explain which one I think is right for me.

It's also worth mentioning that since both of these devices utilize Windows RT 8.1, the potential market size is probably a bit limited at the moment. That is, most people will choose a Windows 8.1-based PC instead of an RT device. So this comparison is only within that limited selection of current-generation RT devices.

Here goes.

Design. I covered this one yesterday in Lumia 2520: The Anti-Surface, and in this highly subjective category, everyone is going to have a different opinion. I'm of the opinion that the Lumia is the better looking device.

Portability. Though the Lumia 2520 has a slightly smaller 10.1-inch screen compared to the 10.6-inch version in Surface 2, the devices are basically comparable from a form factor perspective, and they weigh and roughly the same. This one is a wash.

Kickstand. The Surface 2 includes a very useful two-position kickstand that works with or without a typing cover. The Lumia offers no such stand. Advantage Surface 2.

Keyboard. While I don't yet have Nokia's delayed typing cover, from what I can see, it's floppy design and weight—though it does add battery life—may be a downer. I think the Type Cover 2 is the superior keyboard design, but it's a bit early to state firmly. My gut says to give this one to Microsoft, but I'll abstain from voting for now.

Performance. While my performance tests aren't yet done, it's pretty clear that these devices are comparable in real-world use. This one is a wash, though the 2520 does come out ahead in raw graphics processing benchmarks.

Storage. The $500 Lumia 2520 comes with 32 GB of storage which can be expanded with a 32 GB micro-SD card. The entry-level $500 Surface 2 comes with 32 GB of storage which can be expanded with a 64 GB micro-SD card and can use normal USB peripherals (see below). No contest: Surface 2 wins here.

Battery life. Neither of these devices is any slouch, and both will soon have additional battery life offerings via special keyboard adapters. We need to give the Lumia 2520 a slight edge on battery, but I don't think this will matter much in the real world. Still: Lumia 2520 for the win.

USB expandability. One of the biggest advantages of the Surface 2 is that it includes a real USB 3.0 port, not the weird Micro-B USB 3.0 port found on the Lumia. This will have a huge impact on how you can use the device, and it's no contest: Surface 2 in a landslide.

Video-out. Both devices offer standard micro-HDMI for video-out. It's a tie.

LTE. Only the Lumia 2520 offers cellular connectivity, though it's not universal so in the US you need to choose between AT&T Wireless and Verizon. The Surface offers no such functionality. Advantage Lumia.

NFC. While it's little used currently, only the Lumia 2520 offers NFC, which lets you wirelessly move content between compatible devices. I don't see a huge need for this currently, but only the Lumia offers it.

Apps. It's perhaps a bit premature to hand the Lumia a victory here, but for now only the 2520 offers several key Nokia apps: Nokia HERE Maps, Nokia Storyteller, Nokia Camera, My Nokia, and Nokia Video Director, plus a third party game called Dreamworks Dragon Adventure. Nokia MixRadio is also available. Is this a Lumia win? Yes, today it is.

Hardware ecosystem. While Nokia has done a tremendous job outfitting its Lumia handsets with the richest accessories selection imaginable, that's not yet true for the tablet. So Surface 2 wins big here, with a wide range of available accessories, including a choice of several different typing covers.

Ignoring the ties, the score looks like this to me:

Lumia 5, Surface 4

But that's just a rote reading of the results. Some of those items may or may not be meaningful to you, and the only way to really score this contest is to consider which of the listed items is truly important. Some of course may go with their heart instead of their head. But I'm painfully pragmatic: For me, the built-in kickstand, typing covers and full USB port put the Surface 2 over the top for now, and I can of course share my phone connection if I need LTE.

Your needs may vary, and of course I may have forgotten some important points, which I'm happy to add. Let me know where you fall.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.