Tech Tips - 101 Things You Can Do with a Surface Pro 2

Microsoft sure made a big splash with their Surface Pro 3 announcement last month. But that doesn't mean those who invested in or may still be looking into a Surface Pro 2 are now up the creek. There's little doubt that despite my strong criticism towards slates, my recent experience with Microsoft's now-superseded slate offering has left me extremely impressed. The Surface Pro 2 is a performance and productivity beast. Many who have thought of it as just an overpriced/expensive slate I'm guessing either have not used one or just don't really know exactly how good of a product this slate is!

Granted, I was only able to spend a short time with the device, yet that was plenty for me to come away with a solid understanding of the Surface Pro 2's capabilities. Following my already extensive listing of things users can do with a netbook and original Surface RT, it was only natural that I follow up with a similar in-depth article detailing the many tasks that the Surface Pro 2 can also successfully tackle.


While the Surface Pro 2 may be expensive compared to other slates on the market today, it offers a feature set and functionality that simply cannot be matched, especially for those focused on harnessing it's multitasking and productivity potential. It was designed from the ground up to run full Windows, handles x86/x64 software and offers native, 4-way, keyboard/mouse/pen/touch input support - factors alone make it stand out from every other slate by a long mile.

And then you have accessories. While in the case of the iPad these were created in an attempt to overcome it's handicapped design, the Surface Pro 2's accessories actually complement the device, rather than look like an afterthought. Pair it with the right accessories, and the Surface Pro 2 can not only replace your notebook, but in some cases even give your desktop a run for it's performance.

Of course, the new Surface Pro 3 improves on the Surface Pro 2 in many ways, notably it's bigger display, higher resolution, improved pen and Type Cover keyboard, not to mention a beefier Core i7 option. But the product has yet to hit store shelves, with the higher-spec models only becoming available in August. For those who are on the fence, that gives you time to evaluate your purchase options, as I'm sure the Surface Pro 2 will remain perfectly useful, stay on sale, and perhaps even see a price cut. It's unfortunate that with my wait to get my hands on a Surface Pro 2, along with a packed schedule, this article could not go live sooner.

Much of what you see here will come from my netbook and Surface RT articles, but given the hybrid nature of the Surface Pro 2 that is to be expected. I'm examining the Surface Pro 2 paired with it's backlit Type Cover 2 keyboard and docking station accessory.

Again, and in no particular order, let's take a look at what the most advanced slate on the market today is capable of:
  1. Run F@H 24/7 stable
  2. Connect with a LG 34UM95 or other UWQHD/4K monitor
  3. Attach a Seagate 4TB portable HDD for use on the go
  4. Connect with external 12V batteries via an auto adapter
  5. Enjoy the full MS Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access, Outlook)
  6. Use OneNote in tablet mode with a stylus
  7. Run and install other MS software (Works, Visio, Project, MapPoint)
  8. Enjoy the speed and capacity of a 512GB SSD
  9. Use any web browser with full plug-in functionality (Flash, Java)
  10. Attach a wireless trackball for ultimate ergonomic comfort
  11. Plug in a slim optical drive for disc burning or copying
  12. Expand storage with a microSD card
  13. Plug in any USB printer/scanner for printing and scanning
  14. Plug in your USB thumb drive to browse/move files
  15. Stream content from Hulu/Netflix
  16. Enjoy live sports streaming from
  17. Watch 1080p HD movies on-the-go with a 1920x1080 display
  18. Get over 7 hours of real-world run time on a single charge
  19. Access files on your NAS without requiring a special app
  20. Plug in a full-size SD card via USB adapter for transferring images from your camera
  21. Install and run Cool Edit Pro
  22. Use MS Streets and Trips with GPS for navigation without an active data connection
  23. Control and access your Windows PC at work/home using Remote Desktop Connection
  24. Transcode and encode short videos using any number of software tools
  25. Touch up photos easily using Paint or Office Picture Manager
  26. Install and run Steam games at 1080p
  27. Web chat with a choice of webcam applications (Skype, Windows Messenger)
  28. Attach an external RAID enclosure for massive 20+TB storage
  29. Use Windows Home Server to back up and connect with all the other computers in your home
  30. Install and run proprietary x86 business software applications you use at work
  31. Attach a wireless backlit keyboard for typing at night
  32. Plug in a USB sound card for HD line-in audio recording
  33. Rip your DVD movies to SSD and watch on-the-go
  34. Connect with your HTPC and watch live/prerecorded local/cable TV anywhere
  35. Use your slate as a BIOS display for your motherboard when overclocking under Windows (Asus ROG Connect)
  36. Plug in a flexible USB fan to keep you cool while you work
  37. Clone any system hard drive using cloning software and a USB drive adapter/dock
  38. Play Farmville
  39. Transfer files to/from smartphones wirelessly using Bluetooth
  40. Print photos and documents on-the-go with a mobile Bluetooth printer
  41. Enjoy the full twitter and facebook experience without compromise
  42. Access and create blog posts with photos and video
  43. Play back virtually any audio/video file format
  44. Connect with a secured wired network over Ethernet
  45. Edit, author and upload videos to YouTube
  46. Connect with external audio equipment for DJ applications
  47. Edit, author and burn camcorder video to DVD
  48. Open any email attachment including embedded links
  49. Mount and run software ISO image files
  50. Avoid cloud storage and data connection costs by saving your files locally
  51. Download drivers and troubleshoot when your main rig won't boot
  52. Access and configure your router's security/wireless settings
  53. Use QuickSync to accelerate your video encoding and playback performance
  54. Tie in to your home automation system for hvac/lighting/sprinklers
  55. Connect with wifi cameras
  56. Stream audio over Bluetooth in your car
  57. Charge devices on-the-go that need juice from a USB port
  58. Push firmware updates over USB to various portable devices
  59. View two web pages side-by-side
  60. Stream audio/video while working on documents
  61. Multitask with multiple windows/tabs open
  62. Customize the start screen and desktop exactly as you like
  63. Easily remove manufacturer-installed bloatware
  64. Tether a satellite phone
  65. Attach a screen protector or privacy filter to your display
  66. Install CompuTrace LoJack
  67. Enjoy the added performance of half-height 5.25-inch external USB burners
  68. Record from a USB turntable
  69. Connect powerful 2.1 speakers
  70. Plug in a USB tape drive to retrieve archived data
  71. Rip and play music CD's
  72. Watch and rip Blu-ray content
  73. Plug in a USB 4G LTE modem
  74. Manage and customize WMC plug-ins for a media server
  75. Interface in the field with equipment requiring PC-USB/RJ-45 connectivity (using USB Ethernet adapter)
  76. Run encryption software
  77. Plug in USB drives with encrypted/hidden data
  78. Connect directly to a DSL/cable modem
  79. Activate a new iPad or iPhone using iTunes
  80. Backup your smartphone PIM data
  81. File your taxes online for free
  82. Install and run Google Earth
  83. Install and test SDK software
  84. Compile and run HTML code
  85. Run your accounting software
  86. Install and run Adobe Photoshop and Premier
  87. Create CD and DVD ISO images
  88. Create a website
  89. Perform remote server/database administration
  90. Create a bootable USB flash drive for OS recovery
  91. Run portfolio management software for buying/selling stock
  92. View financial statements and pay balances
  93. Book your flight/accommodatioin and print your boarding pass
  94. Register and submit complex online forms
  95. Shoot video with both a front and rear-facing camera
  96. Install and run Adobe Acrobat
  97. Access any kind of premium subscription web content
  98. Cook and flash custom smartphone ROM images
  99. Create Flash content
  100. Intercept wireless IP traffic with packet-sniffing software
  101. Detach the keyboard or flip it around when not needed
It is evident looking at this list that the Surface Pro 2 is not only an exceptionally capable device, but will in many cases be able to replace both a smartphone-OS based slate AND a larger notebook. And unlike the just-announced Surface Pro 3, the Surface Pro 2 does have the benefit of being a more compact device, something that I particularly am fond of given my many years of experience using a 10" netbook.

Of course, what you use your Surface Pro 2 for is totally open, and I am confident there will be examples out there that I have not covered here. It's also quite valid to take this extensive list and use it as a yardstick for the Surface Pro 3, as it is essentially the same device in both form and function. Although I digress, the Surface Pro 3 would have a 102nd trick that it could do - provide a variable kickstand!

Let's not even get into the possibility of a fully accessorized Surface Pro 2 or 3 solution taking on desktop duties, especially when you combine a monitor such as the excellent LG 34UM95 I reviewed recently and the Surface docking station. Add a pair of speakers and a full-size keyboard - now you have a slate that will not only make that ugly black box on your desk totally redundant, but most importantly, allow you the luxury to take your work with you when you step out of that office.


I love a great view
This is not the iPad. This is not pretending to be the iPad. And yet it does more than both an iPad AND an 11 inch MacBook Air combined. The Surface Pro 2 is, plain and simple, an iPad killer. This exhaustive list makes that fact more than apparent, and is especially true once you begin to push the device's capabilities using it's well-thought-out accessories.

If there is a comparable list out there of 101 things Apple's iPad is good for, then I've yet to see it. It takes more than sales numbers to hook an enthusiast. The tech press elite can generate all the hype they want - I welcome the challenge!

Microsoft's efforts have created a slate that has the ability to take on and replace practically everything that I've been using my netbook and notebook for, including casual 3D gaming. And while as compelling as that may sound, I don't think I will replace my netbook with a Surface Pro 2 or larger 12 inch Surface Pro 3 quite just yet - I've got other plans.

For those, however, looking to get THE BEST compact 10 inch device that can do everything short of making breakfast for you, the Surface Pro 2 definitely is a unique, and dare I say, unbeatable product.

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