If you're new to the whole Surface thing, and just thinking of getting your first Windows tablet, you'll probably be able to appreciate how thin and light the Surface 2 is. But you'll probably appreciate it even more if you own one of the first-gen models: the tablet is lighter than we remember it being, and there's just generally less of it to hold onto. We didn't need to do a side-by-side comparison with the original to notice how much lighter the tablet has gotten; it's easier to hold and feels less bulky too.
Still, you might want to do a side-by-side comparison to appreciate the jump in resolution. While the original shipped with a 1,366 x 768 panel, this one moves up to a 1080p screen -- the same one used on the new Surface Pro 2, as a matter of fact. Truthfully, it's tough to appreciate the difference in sharpness without the side-by-side, but even so, the screen here is still more than sharp enough for a 10.6-inch display. As ever, too, the ClearType technology Microsoft uses makes for some great viewing angles, even under the harsh lighting at this event venue. Also, particularly with the brightness pumped all the way up, you should be able to guarantee easy readability, even under very bright lighting.
You know what else helps with the viewing angles? That new two-stage kickstand, which you'll also find in the Surface Pro 2. Kind of like a chaise lounge at a pool, the kickstand can click back into two positions: the fairly upright one you're used to, and a wider setting that allows the screen to lie further back. In particular, Microsoft claims that this second kickstand setting allows the tablet to balance better when it's resting on your lap. That's absolutely true, but it's only part of the story: we can think of two other benefits for a more reclined kickstand setting like this. For one, the leaned-back angle means you've got an even better defense against glare caused by the screen's glossy finish. Two, the kickstand digs into your legs less at that angle. And this editor should know: I tested it out while wearing tights!
Lastly, we got a look at the new Touch Cover 2 keyboard, which will be sold alongside the new Surface tablets. As before, it's a polyurethane affair: water-resistant with nearly flat keys. Though the pressure sensitivity has been improved, it was tough to notice the difference after just a few minutes of hands-on time. What you will notice is the backlighting -- a feature that was missing from all of last year's keyboard covers. It's subtle, though, so if you're working in a reasonably lit environment, you might forget the light is even there. Cover it up with your hand (or set foot on an overnight flight) and it'll promptly make itself known.
That just about wraps up our hands-on impressions for now, but we've got hands-on video, along with that gallery of photos. Hope you enjoy, and stay tuned for a full review in the coming weeks.
Zach Honig contributed to this report.