The tablet wars are getting even more interesting, as Nokia unveiled a new device today and Microsoft's latest tablet hit store shelves. The Nokia Lumia 2520 and Microsoft Surface 2 (as well as the significantly more pricey Surface Pro 2) aim to carve out their own chunk of the tablet market, running the Windows RT operating system and taking direct aim at Apple's iPad (for which, coincidentally, Apple also announced upgrades today).
Here's how they stack up.
Nokia Lumia 2520
The Lumia 2520 offers a somewhat more cheerful-looking tablet, with black, white, red, and blue color options available, in two different finishes. It features a bright 10.1 inch screen protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2, and Nokia demonstrated its impressive viewing capabilities in a video showing how easily one can read text on the screen even outdoors in sunny Abu Dhabi.
A 2MP front-facing camera and an impressive 6.7MP f/1.9 camera on the back of the Lumia 2520 offer very good photographic capabilities, particularly from the back camera. The front-facing camera is perfectly adequate for video chat applications, but you'll want to use the rear camera for any serious picture-taking.
The Nokia Power Keyboard attachment offers two extra USB ports, comfortable-to-use raised keys, a trackpad, additional battery power, and foldable segments which let it double as a stand. In a nice touch, it also wraps completely around the tablet, eliminating the need for a separate protective case.
One of the biggest advantages of the Lumia 2520 over the Surface 2 is that the Lumia offers LTE connectivity, whereas the Surface 2 only allows you to connect over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Microsoft says it plans to offer LTE versions sometime in 2014, but for now, the limitation is a serious one.
Microsoft Surface 2
The Surface 2 is a complete redesign of the Surface tablet that proved to be quite a flop for Microsoft. The new Surface 2 features a sharper 10.81-inch screen, faster processor, lighter and thinner body, an improved webcam, and a sleek silver finish. (The Surface Pro 2 is still available in the original black finish, if you have an aversion to silver.)
The Surface 2 features a two-stage kickstand that gives more viewing angle options, making it more comfortable to use in various situations. A 3.5-megapixel camera on the front and a 5MP camera on the back both have improved low-light optics, and function very well.
Microsoft offers two different keyboard options for the Surface tablets: the Touch Cover 2 and the Type Cover 2. The Touch Cover 2 has flat backlit keys and retails for $120, and has some pretty cool features including the ability to perform some touch gestures on certain keys. If you make a typo, for example, you can swipe the spacebar to choose from spelling suggestions. The Type Cover 2 is a more traditional keyboard, complete with the satisfying clicky key sound, and retails for $130. The new version has a more rigid base and quieter keys than the original Type Cover, and both the Type Cover and the Touch cover feature a small trackpad that's helpful for navigation.
All in all, the Lumia 2520 and the Surface 2 are pretty similar. The Lumia's backside camera is a bit better, but the Surface 2's front camera is a bit better. Both offer impressive screen resolution and visibility, making them easy to view from almost any angle.
Both tablets also boast a battery life that provides 10 or more hours of video playback, though the Lumia 2520's Nokia Power Keyboard contains an extra battery that gives you an extra 5 hours of use.
The biggest difference is the availability of LTE connectivity (which exists on the Lumia but not the Surface), and the option of a 64GB version of the Surface (where the Lumia is only available in 32GB).
It's uncertain what will happen to these tablets when Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's device business occurs sometime in early 2014. The company has so far been mum on the question of how or whether the product lines will be combined.
For now, though, the Nokia Lumia 2520 will be available sometime in the fourth quarter of 2013 for $499, plus $149 for the Nokia Power Keyboard accessory. The Surface 2 is available now; the 32GB Surface 2 costs $449, and the 64GB version sells for $549.