For a device that goes head-to-head with Microsoft's Surface 2, the Nokia Lumia 2520 is a surprisingly different device, with a glossy, curvaceous form factor. I happen to prefer the 2520's looks to those of the Surface 2, but this is of course subjective. And if you're in the market for such a device, how you feel about the machines' respective designs will probably play a bigger role than any other factor in your buying decision.

I'm reminded of the first Surface commercial from 2012, which featured a strange, metallic stamping soundtrack that would be right at home in an "Alien" movie. In this spot, a Surface is seemingly manufactured—or birthed, really—out of some alien chemical process. The thudding beat of the soundtrack drives home the almost militaristic nature of the productivity market the Surface targets.

The product that inspired this strange video is hard-edged and all business. And while Microsoft tried to brighten things up with a series of color Touch Covers last year, and some new color Type Cover 2s this year, neither masks the fact that Surface is a work device. Indeed, Microsoft is often lauded for letting users experience the "natural color" of the device with Surface 2. That color? Dull gray.

There's nothing wrong with function over form, of course. After all, ThinkPad is the single best line of portable PCs anywhere for a reason. And to be fair, the Surface 2, in particular, is a neat little device, and armed with a Type Cover 2, it's even a mobile productivity workhorse. But let's face it: There's not much to look at there.

And that's where the Lumia 2520 comes in.

This device is the anti-Surface, a breath of fresh air, with a bold, glossy red form factor (in the Verizon version I'm testing, a black version is available too for your more buttoned-down types). The color bleeds over into the front of the device more—and more obviously—than does the Surface 2's gray, framing the screen and its bezel nicely.

In fact, this device looks best when you customize your Start screen with a red color scheme. And if you happen to own a red Lumia smart phone, well ... That's the pièce de résistance.

That the Lumia also feels better in the hand that the Surface matters. Carrying this device around—sans keyboard case for now—I very much prefer the 2520's curved, non-edgy edges. Surface 2, by comparison, is all hard angles. (Though adding a typing cover improves matters.)

The Lumia's design required a few trade-offs, of course, the big one being the strange USB 3.0 port that it uses, with the lack of an available adapter. But I suspect the weird wrap-around keyboard cover that I don't have yet—it's more floppy than stable—was necessitated in part by the device's curved edges. After all, it's not hard to clip on a keyboard cover when every corner on the device is a right angle. Also missing in action is a Surface-like kickstand. It's sorely missed.

Looking ahead, it's not hard to imagine Microsoft merging its Surface and Lumia tablet lines instead of continuing to offer such different devices. And hopefully some future Surface/Lumia will include the best of both products: I'd love to use this device with a Type Cover 2, for example. (That may actually be possible now with the Surface Wireless Adapter for Typing Covers, though it wouldn't be very elegant.) For now, however, you need to make a choice. It's not an easy one.