Microsoft takes another stab at hardware with new Surface 2 tablets

By on September 23, 2013, 12:09 PM
microsoft, tablet, haswell, microsoft surface, tegra 4, surface 2, surface pro 2

Microsoft announced the follow up to last year’s Surface tablets at an event in New York City this morning. As expected, the company is sticking to the same form factors and architectures with a lower-price ARM model running Windows RT 8.1, and a higher-price x86 machine running full Windows Pro 8.1. It’s an evolutionary update, one that Microsoft hopes will get people excited about its second go at a productivity focused tablet.

Surface Pro 2

The Surface Pro 2 doesn’t differ much from its predecessor in terms of looks. In fact, size and dimensions are unchanged. Internally, however, Microsoft bumped specs with an Intel Haswell processor that’s said to bring 50% better graphics performance and a whopping 75% increase in battery life.

Microsoft says the Pro 2 is “literally faster than 95% of laptops today.” Other improvements include an updated ClearType HD display with 46% better color accuracy, superior speaker quality and a refined kickstand that now adjusts to two different angles allowing for both desk and lap use. It’ll be available in 64GB and 128GB versions with 4GB of RAM, as well as 256GB and 512GB editions with 8GB of RAM.

Surface 2

Microsoft dropped the RT moniker for its ARM-based tablet and is simply calling it Surface 2 this time around. The updated device replaces the first generation's Nvidia Tegra 3 processor with a Tegra 4, and upgrades the 1366x768 screen to a Pro 2 matching 1920x1080 panel with better color accuracy.

The company cited significant performance improvements without getting into numbers, while touting a 25% improvement in battery life and a slimmer and lighter design. The refined, two-step kickstand is also present, and of course, you are still confined to Modern-style apps with Windows RT 8.1. That said, Microsoft claims there are now 100,000 apps in the Windows Store right now, with Flipboard and Facebook coming soon.

Despite advances on this front, app availability is still a sticking point when it comes to Windows RT. Microsoft is once again making up for it by pre-loading Office 2013 RT with the tablets, and throwing in free Skype Wi-Fi hotspots with free international calling for one year and 200GB of SkyDrive storage for two years.

Pricing and availability

Both the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 will be available starting October 22. The former starts at $449 for the 32GB model and $549 for the 64GB variant, while the latter begins at $899 and goes up to $1,799 depending on the model. Both ship without a keyboard cover. Meanwhile, the original Surface RT is sticking around (while supplies last, we assume) for $349. Pre-orders for the second-generation devices open tomorrow.

New and updated accesories

The signature snap-on keyboard covers are receiving updates alongside an all-new battery equipped unit. The latter is called the Power Cover, packing a 30 watt-hour battery that gives the Pro 2 two and a half times the battery life of the original Surface Pro, and will set you back $200. Meanwhile the $120 Touch Cover 2 shaves off a few millimeters from its predecessor adding backlighting in the process, and the $130 Type Cover 2 gets improved sensitivity in roughly the same package. Both can function wirelessly with a new USB adapter.

Rounding out the announcements, Microsoft also unveiled the Arc Touch Mouse Surface Edition, and a long rumored docking station that can accommodate the Surface Pro 2 with the Power Cover attached. The $200 device is meant to help you turn your tablet into a full on desktop replacement with three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, audio in and audio out, a Mini DisplayPort, an ethernet jack, and the ability to output to a secondary monitor at up to 3840 x 2160 resolutions. Microsoft expects to release it in early 2014.

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