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Nokia Lumia 2520 vs Microsoft Surface 2

Andrew Williams


Surface 2 vs Lumia 2520
Surface 2 vs Lumia 2520

While Apple will take most of the headlines with the release of the iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 today, the Nokia Lumia 2520 and the Microsoft Surface 2 are the most important second-generation Windows RT tablets, coming from the two strongest supporters of Microsoft’s mobile OS.

But what is the difference between them, and should you care about either? Let’s compare their hardware, software, screens and more to find out what they’re really about.


Nokia Lumia 2520 vs Microsoft Surface 2 – Design

Lumia 2520 – Red/Blue/White/Black finishes, curvy rear, 615g, no kickstand

Surface 2 – Black/silver finish, flat rear, boxy, 658g, kickstand

Many tablets are anonymous black slabs you’d have trouble separating from each other, but the Microsoft Surface 2 and Nokia Lumia 2520 both have some stand-out design features.

Like the rest of the Lumia range, the Lumia 2520 is bright and colourful – something extremely rare in tablets. Its body comes in striking red and blue (cyan) shades, although more conservative white and black versions are also planned. It’s made of the same sort of polycarbonate used in Lumia phones like the Lumia 1020.

The Surface 2’s looks are a lot more conservative. Its design selling point is all about practicality. There’s a kickstand on its back that lets it sit back in a couple of different laptop-like positions. This is an alternative to the keyboard base of something like the Asus Transformer Pad – but with the kickstand it won’t fall back because of the weight of the screen.

A kickstand isn’t pretty, but it is quite practical.

These design priorities continue with the contours of the tablets. The Lumia 2520 is curvy and smooth, the Surface 2 is boxy and more angular.

Neither tablet is light enough to comfortably use one-handed – both weigh around 600g – and they are really too large to use in that manner anyway.

Surface 2


Nokia Lumia 2520 vs Microsoft Surface 2 – Screen

Lumia 2520 – 10.1-inch IPS, 1080p resolution, Gorilla Glass 2

Surface 2 – 10.6-inch LCD, 1080p

The screens of the Lumia 2520 and Surface 2 are evenly matched. They have 1080p resolution screens and both use LCD-based displays with panels designed to offer strong viewing angles.

They use toughened glass screens fronts too, in order to avoid scratches in day-to-day use. The Lumia 2520 uses Gorilla Glass 2. We expect the Surface 2 has the same screen covering, although Microsoft is yet to officially confirm this.

The one key difference is that the Surface 2’s screen is a little bit larger than the Lumia 2520’s. It’s 10.6 inches across where the Nokia tablet’s is the more common 10.1 inches. Nokia boasts about the outdoors visibility of the Lumia 2520 too, saying it has a super-bright 640nit display with super-low reflectivity. We'll test this in our full review.

Both are high-quality screens, although they don’t match the latest Android tablets for screen sharpness. For comparison – the Nexus 7 2 costs around half the price and squeezes the same number of pixels into a 7-inch screen.


Nokia Lumia 2520 vs Microsoft Surface 2 – CPU and RAM

Lumia 2520 – Snapdragon 800 2.2GHz, 2GB RAM

Surface 2 - 1.7GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4, 2GB RAM

The Surface 2 and Lumia 2520 have processors from different companies, but their performance is fairly level.

The Nokia Lumia 2520 uses the Snapdragon 800 processer seen in the Sony Xperia Z1 phone. It’s made by Qualcomm and is used is several high-end phones and tablets already.

Microsoft’s Surface 2 has a slightly less common Tegra 4 processor, made by Nvidia. It has an impressive-sounding 72-core GPU, but in recent benchmarks we found that it’s the Snapdragon 800 that comes out on top in graphical performance.

However, the difference isn’t great enough for it to become a reason to pick a Lumia 2520 over the Surface 2. Both tablets have 2GB of RAM too.

These tablets are evenly matched, spec-wise. But we’ll confirm this with some more intensive benchmarking soon.

Nokia Lumia 2520


Nokia Lumia 2520 vs Microsoft Surface 2 - Storage

Lumia 2520 – 32/64GB, microSD slot

Surface 2 – 32/64GB, microSD slot

Windows tablets don’t tend to come in ultra-low storage options like Android devices, because Windows 8.1 eats a fair amount of internal memory by itself.

The Nokia Lumia 2520 and Surface 2 come in 32GB and 64GB versions, and both have microSD card slots that support the SDXC format. This is what enables super-high capacity 64GB microSD cards. They don’t come cheap, though, selling for around £80.


Nokia Lumia 2520 vs Microsoft Surface 2 - Connectivity

Lumia 2520 – 4G LTE, plus all the usual suspects and NFC

Surface 2 – No 4G (although planned for 2013), no NFC

One area where the Nokia Lumia 2520 clearly wins in this comparison is wireless connectivity. It has 4G (LTE) connectivity where the Surface 2 is a Wi-Fi-only tablet for now – although there is some talk of a 4G version making its way to us in 2014.

The Lumia 2520 also has NFC, which is missing from the Surface 2. Nokia’s motivations for this are pretty clear – most of the Lumia-series phones have NFC, and keeping it in the Windows tablet will let the two communicate. It’s not a must-have, though, and we’re yet to see exactly what you’ll be able to do with it, Lumia-wise.

In terms of wired connectivity, the Lumia 2520 does not have a similar advantage. The Surface 2 has a micro HDMI video output and a USB 3.0 port. That’ll let you plug in mice, keyboards and USB sticks – all very useful in a Windows tablet.

The Lumia 2520 has a micro USB 3.0 port, meaning you’ll need a converter cable to plug in mice and so on. There’s no video output socket on the tablet either, and to get full-size USB ports you need to buy the clever keyboard case. Once more Microsoft is all about practicality for the hardcore user.


Nokia Lumia 2520 vs Microsoft Surface 2 – Keyboards

Keyboard modules are important in any Windows tablet, because they frequently have to double-up as laptops. Why buy a Windows tablet if that’s not what you’re after?

The Nokia Lumia 2520 offers one main keyboard module, and it’s pretty solid. It’s called the Nokia Power Keyboard and adds two full-size USB ports (USB 2.0), an extra five hours of battery power and slim-line keys.

With a Microsoft Surface 2 you get much more choice. There are ‘touch’ and ‘type’ covers, each offering a slightly different typing experience. The ‘type’ one has moving keys, while the ‘touch’ cover has non-moving keys that use sensors on/under the surface, feeling more like a ‘touchscreen’ surface in-use. The best bit, though – both have a backlight, for typing in the dark.

All of these keyboard modules are pretty expensive, though. You're looking at a hundred pounds or more for each - we recommend looking for a tablet bundle that already includes one to save some money.


Nokia Lumia 2520 vs Microsoft Surface 2 – Software

Lumia 2520 – Windows 8.1 RT

Surface 2 - Windows 8.1 RT

Both tablets use Windows 8.1 RT. This still suffers from the same issue as the RT version of Windows 8 – you can’t run any app you like, just apps made for the RT version of Windows.

Why? Because Windows 8.1 RT is designed for devices of a spec that doesn’t quite match a ‘proper’ computer. If you asked a Snapdragon 800 processor to do too much in Adobe Photoshop, while having a half-dozen browser windows open, it would probably start crying.

The limitations of Windows RT are probably the gravest issues of the Lumia 2520 and Surface 2. And you need to give them serious consideration before buying either.


Nokia Lumia 2520 vs Microsoft Surface 2 - Camera

Lumia 2520 – 6.7-megapixel main camera, 1/3.4” sensor, Carl Zeiss-branded lens (f/1.9), 2MP front camera

Surface 2 – 5-megapixel main camera, 3.5MP front camera

The tablets have slightly different approaches to their cameras. Microsoft clearly believes the front camera is more important than the back one. The rear camera is still higher-resolution, but relative to their respective standards, the front one is much higher-end.

The Surface 2’s front camera has a 3.5-megapixel sensor, much higher-res than seen in most tablets and phones. This should let it capture good-quality 1080p resolution video. Microsoft says the sensor is much, much larger than it was first time around too, although it hasn’t yet revealed full tech specs of its cameras (sensor size, aperture and so on).

On the back of the Surface 2 is a basic 5-megapixel camera without a flash.

The Nokia Lumia 2520 has opposite priorities. It’s the back camera that sounds reasonable here, not the front one. Its 6.7-megapixel resolution and 1/3.4” sensor aren’t particularly notable, but it offsets them with a fast f/1.9 lens. That’s among the fastest lenses you’ll see in phones and tablets.

On the front is a more commonplace – but still fairly decent – f/2.4, 2-megapixel camera.


Early verdict

The Nokia Lumia 2520 and Microsoft Surface 2 match each other very closely in terms of specs, but these are really very different devices in other respects. Nokia’s tablet is cheerier, much less obsessed with replacing a laptop and more concerned with feeling right as a standalone tablet. We imagine business folk may get on better with the Surface 2, but then we’d advise them to either upgrade to the Surface Pro 2 if possible – or a ‘proper’ laptop.

With the issues of Windows 8.1 RT looming, we’re not convinced either of these tablets is destined to be remembered as a roaring success, though.


October 22, 2013, 2:31 pm

It's clear the UK reviewer normal reviewers, the US reviewers are mostly assholes.


October 22, 2013, 2:35 pm

It's not clear what you are trying to say

Mark Longley

October 22, 2013, 2:53 pm

Firstly, the Surface 2 is not black
Secondly, "With the issues of RT looming... "!!?? You guys just don't get RT do you; it's going to be here for the long-haul. RT "is" the new Windows. It will just be a matter of time before the legacy stuff will no longer be needed as they get gradually replaced by "Modern" apps - look at the new Video App on the Lumia 2520 as an example, not a desktop in sight. Fixed enterprise PC's will obviously take longer, but we are just feeling the breeze at the beginning of the wind of change. Wake up and small the coffee guys.
My wife wants a new tablet; she has used W8 for 2 years (preview). On analysing her needs there is only one app (accounts) that won't run on RT. She won't be running accounts away from her desk as yet anyway. But what she will be getting is a device that's familiar, fast & fluid - one of the above.
I have an iPad4, but from a productivity perspective, it's like trying to use a prosthetic arm compared to my Lenovo TPT2 - and apart from one app I could get along quite fine without the desktop! I believe RT is here to stay :)


October 22, 2013, 4:54 pm

You are one of the few people that got the point.
Win 8 rt is here to stay, legacy 8 will be abandoned. That MS plan.


October 22, 2013, 5:21 pm

A good review. But I always get the feeling that the reviewer has in the back of his mind a laptop when maybe he should be thinking of the iPad or the nexus. compared to these I would go for a Nokia or Windows tablet.


October 22, 2013, 5:23 pm

Upgrade to a "proper laptop"?

Why is it that no one reviews the iPads and says, "or maybe you should just upgrade to a proper laptop.". Somehow tech reviewers accept Apple's iOS just fine as a light weight specialized OS for tablet computing, yet fail to grasp that RT is EXACTLY THE SAME THING.

Clearly there is a place for tablets. And there is a place for full OSes. And the Pro does demonstrate an interesting blend of the two. However, every argument for the success of the iPad exists on Windows RT as well. The iPad didn't start with every app, they took a while to get there. Android didn't start with every app, it took a while. And clearly RT is going to take a while too.

Microsoft's biggest mistake is not calling their tablet OS "Windows Tablet" or maybe even "iWindows" so that tech bloggers could grasp the idea of it all.

But then, maybe we all should just abandon the the tablets all together and "upgrade to a proper laptop". Because, you know, we use them for the same thing anyway right?

Mark Longley

October 22, 2013, 6:51 pm

Nice Comment!
You know, I have been an avid reader of TR for many years. Always respected what they had to say as professional and unbiased. I remember TR reviews of tablets in past years and they were ALWAYS compared to the iPad: "will this be an iPad Killer?.... No!" "Will that be an iPad Killer?... No!" and generally they were right. Now we have something - actually two things above that can be categorically classed as 'iPad killers' in terms of screen, connectivity, multi-tasking, cross-device-syncing etc. and all of a sudden it's "Looming RT Issues" & "get a proper laptop"; oh, I almost forgot "there's not enough apps.."
Where have you gone TR, you really have lost the plot, and it's kind of sad, and not that it matters, but you have lost my vote


October 22, 2013, 11:17 pm

You mention the fundamental difference between iOS and RT and that is simply the App Store. Microsoft should focus on enriching and providing more apps. That is the main difference. It's fine to say it will get there but when? RT has been out for almost a year now but apps are still few and far between...


October 22, 2013, 11:31 pm

It's an interesting point but if it's the case Microsoft needs to be investing in software not hardware. It should provide incentives to developers to create RT apps, this should be a loss-leader for them to get critical mass. Currently the allure of the hundreds of millions of iPad users is just too strong for most developers to focus on the Windows Store and make RT optimised apps.

I speak to many developers and start-ups and they're almost all focussed on iOS and then Android. RT is not even mentioned.

With Microsoft financial clout it would make sense to kick-start the development with some financial aid to developers whose apps it thinks are worthwhile.


October 23, 2013, 12:50 pm

Well said!

I had been waiting to upgrade my Surface RT to a Surface 2 because I wanted a blue type cover 2 (not yet available in UK). I knew the Lumia tablet was coming but immediately discounted it - how could the build quality of the Surface be matched? Would their type cover even come close? Etc..

But then I saw the announcement, saw the specs and I'm really struggling to decide between the two! I had hoped this review would objectively compare the two tablets against each other but instead it runs off about iPads and laptops?! Perhaps the article should have been titled "Surface 2 v's 2520 v's iPad v's Laptops"?

For what it's worth, my family and I all use the Surface a lot, each with our own account, and it performs perfectly! What people aren't getting about RT is a mystery to me - think why we buy tablets (email, internet, Facebook etc.) and then see how RT doesn't just do all that, it does them simultaneously and more besides!

I do agree that there are some app shortages (most of which are just glorified versions of the website so it's not really an issue), and it would be nice, but not necessarily essential, to see MS put a similar impetus on to developers as they have with the equally brilliant Windows Phone OS.

Finally, and unrelated to Surface 2 v's 2520, here's some food for thought:

iPad Air 32GB/4G = £579
2520 32GB/4G = £379


October 23, 2013, 12:51 pm

I really hope you aren't serious. RT is awful and the apps are limited, and even MS Office is limited (Excel can't run macros(, legacy apps don't work (iTunes, Photoshop etc), no Outlook.
MS are just confusing the market with Win Pr, RT and WP8 and they haven't done a good job differentiating them, nor stocking their app store with decent apps.

Mark Longley

October 23, 2013, 3:19 pm

We're not taking about RT, but RT8.1 along with Surface 2 & Nokia 2520. Different beasts with Outlook included. They just fly and will never get bogged down like the x86 equivalents :)

Ian McVitty

November 26, 2013, 8:39 pm

Wonderful comment.....so many reviewers just don't get it. Another thing I am tired of is reviewers complaining about lack of apps and incompatibility with legacy apps. Windows RT (Yes Windows Tablet is a better choice) is perfect because it is not burdened by legacy apps and still runs full MicroSoft Office.

Well said indeed.

Scott Carey

December 27, 2013, 7:31 pm

Apple has also had what like 6 years to build on the app store, windows 8 been out for a year. You cant really say that right now

Anne Peltier

September 17, 2014, 11:46 pm

I own them both.
I've decided I like the Surface 2 better, now that I have one with LTE. Having the screen angle flexibility plus a more stable screen for touch is an advantage to the surface as well as being lighter and thinner with the keyboard. The Nokia doesn't seem to gain anything over the surface with its power keyboard like I thought it might. On both, I put my OneDrive on the micro SD storage and Outlook and everything else on the SSD, but with the Nokia stuck at 32GB, that one is almost full, while the Surface 64GB has plenty of room. Both are heads and tails above the Ipad I used to have for productivity and now everything syncs easily with all my other devices.

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