While both of these products have similar screen sizes, cameras, carry weights and price - they are actually targeted at very different consumer groups.
The Nokia is a tablet pure play closer to the iPad design specification, while the Surface is for those who mostly want a laptop with tablet like advantages and features. Let me explain.
Nokia 2520: Nice To Hold
You’ll notice this when you pick the Nokia 2520 up. While it weighs around 1.4 lbs (as does the Surface 2) in line with the old iPad, it has a very comfortable feel in your hand and is really intended to be used while standing. It has a keyboard with a supplemental battery option, boosting battery life from an estimated 5 hours to 15. However, the keyboard doesn’t nest or attach to the device suggesting it will likely be left in the office, hotel, room or at home.
Unique features you’ll notice are the 650 nit display with special filter for outdoor viewing (arguably the best tablets short of a Panasonic Toughpad for this), along with a fast charge battery designed to 80% in just one hour. I’ve had this capability before and it can be a real godsend. Finally, the 2520 is packaged with LTE support which suggests you’ll be offered a data plan with it. Because connected notebooks are often not connected I’m not yet sure if there will be any significant subsidy to offset the $50 higher price over the Surface 2; however, if you want your tablet connected this is a default feature of Nokia's device.
Nokia also loads, on top of the standard Windows RT Office (with Outlook for this latest version) their mapping and photo editing packages - both of which are very nice. Still, in the end, this product is for people who mostly want to carry a tablet and occasionally want to behave like a laptop.
It does come in multiple colors but AT&T is only going to carry black and Verizon gets both black and red (which sucks because I wanted the blue one that will likely be in Europe).
Microsoft Surface 2 Better On the Desk
Surface 2 is for folks who mostly want a tablet as an ultra-light laptop with really long battery life - and they probably don’t intend to use it as a tablet as much. Same carry weight, a slightly bigger screen, slightly worse rear facing camera, better video conferencing camera (most of which are so slight you’d likely not notice the difference), same screen resolution (1920x1080), same SD slot, same USB 3.0 port (which is powered in standby in case you want to charge your phone), but only one color brushed aluminum.
Surface 2 also has a built in kickstand with two settings so it can sit on your table or desk and you can either sit at eye level or stand above it. The magnetically attached keyboard is back lit, providing a very laptop like experience. There are a number of optional keyboards for Surface 2, ranging from the simple back-lit keyboard to one that has an extended battery in it, and Microsoft will even have one with DJ features hitting the market in the near future. The battery option will add weight, but should jump battery life over 15 hours. Finally Surface 2 comes with a year of Skype calling.
Wrapping Up: How Tablet Are You?
Both of these products are powerful for ARM-based devices: the Nokia has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor running 2.2 GHz, while the Surface is equipped with an NVIDIA Tegra 4 running 1.7 GHz (both are quad core processors). However, in the end it really comes down to how you are going to use the devices. If you really use a tablet as a tablet and/ or want to edit pictures, you’ll likely prefer the Nokia.
Nevertheless, if you primarily use a keyboard and don’t operate in tablet mode as much, the Surface 2 is probably the better configuration for you. Both will do the other (for some reason the song “I’m a little bit country, I’m a little bit rock and roll” is going through my head), although the difference in emphasis between the two products suggests the 2520 is a little more tablet and Surface is a little more laptop oriented. So how tablet are you?