A little over a year, and here we are it once again – Microsoft has finally deemed it’s time to release the next generation of Surface tablets onto the more demanding than ever consumer. It’s been a while since, so some of you may have gotten a little foggy on the context within which the original Surface duo of tablets was unleashed. Namely, the harsh, already battle-torn world of post iPad reality, where none could as much as question the superiority of the Apple slate.
But, that’s in the past. Taking a step back in order to better take in the full picture, several things become immediately obvious. First, while Apple is no longer as dominant, that's probably because the market for tablets has become even more ruthless. Tabs are truly on a ride to the bottom, and it appears that smaller, more affordable tablets are increasingly becoming the norm. This isn't to say that the extremely lucrative high-end tablet market has disappeared – in fact, at least in Apple’s case, it has become an increasingly important source of revenue, as Apple is monetizing the crap out of it in the form of app purchases and the like. This, we guess, is what Microsoft is shooting for, especially with its workstation-grade Surface Pro. And what about the budget-friendlier Surface 2? Well, while the deal Redmond is looking to cut for you has become more appetizing, it really is the Windows RT platform that is holding it back.
Microsoft Surface Pro 2
Microsoft Surface Pro 2
1. Same 10.6'' display, but better
Microsoft is showing us some self-proclaimed Apple values by not going into what some may consider a needless chase of pixel density by staying true to the display of its predecessor as far as size and resolution go – those are kept at 10.6-inches and 1920x1080 resolution. Of course, seeing as the tablet has twice the size of a regular smartphone nowadays, the case for pixel density actually still holds truth, so we definitely would've liked to see a higher resolution on the Surface Pro 2, especially considering its very premium price tag.
On the positive side, Microsoft claims that the new screen has a 46% better color accuracy and record low reflectivity, partially making up for the above slight.
2. Intel inside
Last generation Intel Haswell processors have been around for just a few months, and they’ve already proved that Intel hasn’t completely lost the race to go mobile. An Intel Core i5 unit is found inside the Surface Pro 2, and apart from improved performance, it also makes leaps in battery life in comparison with its predecessor. Just how much of a difference remains to be tested by third-parties, since companies have a pretty shaky track record when it comes to battery life. Regardless, Microsoft claims that it has went up the staggering 75%, or 7 to 10 hours per charge, depending on usage. Pretty decent, considering the powerful internals!
3. Power Cover
A new keyboard accessory, named Power Cover, has been added to the now expanded line-up of Surface extras. Said extra, apart from providing a physical keyboard that provides tactile feedback when writing, also carries an extra battery, helping prolong the life to well over twice that of its predecessor.
4. A workstation on the go
Microsoft really wants to turn the Surface Pro 2 into a mobile workstation, so they’ll be offering a new workstation dock that features 3x USB 2.0 ports and an extra USB 3.0 port. Also present are an Ethernet port, a Mini DisplayPort along with Audio in/out.
5. Type/Touch Cover 2
One of the things that put the original Microsoft Surface RT and Pro apart were the dedicated Type/Touch Cover which offered productivity to those people on the go. Type/Touch Cover 2, as you can guess from the name, are an improvement over the originals in three regards: they’re thinner, now features backlit keys, and are even more responsive.
6. Kickstand, improved
The other thing that put Microsoft’s Surface RT and Pro in the premium league was its sturdy kickstand. The same has now been improved and offers better “lapability” thanks to its wider range of adjustability.
7. Windows logo out, Surface logo in
Microsoft has also decided that its time the Surface becomes a brand of its own: "We've added the Surface logo. You're using a Surface, you want people to know you're using a Surface. Let them know”, says Surface team VP Panos Panay.
8. 200GB of free SkyDrive storage
Doesn’t really scream premium without a hefty 200GB of free SkyDrive storage, should you opt for the Microsoft Surface Pro 2
9. One year worth of free Skype international calling
200 gigs of free storage doesn’t quite spice things up? Then perhaps a year worth of free Skype international calling will make it easier to part with your hard-earned cash.
10. Runs on Windows 8.1 Pro
Unlike its smaller sibling, the Surface 2, the Surface Pro 2 will run a full-fledged Windows 8.1 Pro OS. This means that your computer and tablet have finally converged.
11. Pricing and options
You made it through, and it’s decided – you’re getting the Surface Pro 2. But how much will it cost? Well, Microsoft has made a number of options available. The cheapest option is the 64GB version with 4GB of RAM – that one comes with an $899 price tag, without any accessories. There are three other options – 128GB of storage with 4GB of RAM, 256GB of storage with 8GB of RAM and the biggest of them all – 512GB of storage with 8GB of RAM. Unfortunately, at this point in time we only know the price of the last, most expensive version -- $1799.
12. Microsoft Surface Pro 2 release date and availability
The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 will be made available for preorder starting tomorrow, September 24, at 8AM Eastern. About a month after that – on October 22 – the Surface Pro 2 should start shipping in 21 markets worldwide as of this writing.
Microsoft Surface 2
Microsoft Surface 2
1. New, better dispaly
Microsoft has gone ahead and upgraded a much needed piece of hardware that plagued the original Surface RT – the display. The dimensions are the same, at 10.6-inches, but the screen’s resolution has gone up to 1920x1080 from 1366x768.
2. Tegra 4 inside
Under the hood you have NVIDIA’s Tegra 4 SoC powering the show – an upgrade more than change, seeing as the original Surface RT featured NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 chipset.
3. A slew of accessories
Much like the Surface Pro 2, the Surface 2 is also getting access to a plethora of accessories. Those include an updated Touch and Type Covers, and the brand-new Power Cover which has a built-in battery that will keep your tablet operational when the main supply goes out.
4. Kickstand, improved
Same as the Surface Pro 2, the kickstand on the Surface 2 has also been upgraded – it now has a wider range of angles to choose from.
Again like the Surface Pro 2, Microsoft is giving out 200GB of free SkyDrive storage to adopters of its budget-friendlier Surface. Moreover, a year worth of free Skype international calls is also included.
6. Runs on Windows RT 8.1
Microsoft appears unwilling to let go of Windows RT and will be offering the Surface 2 with an updated Windows RT 8.1 OS. The new OS looks functions pretty much identically to the Windows 8.1 Preview when we first reviewed it.
7. Pricing and options
The Microsoft Surface 2 will retail for $449 for the 32GB model, meaning it’ll be a direct competitor to the iPad, though with a comparatively barren app ecosystem. If you’re looking for more space, then you’ll probably have to dole out $549 for the 64GB (pricing hasn’t been confirmed just yet).
8. Microsoft Surface 2 release date and availability
Release date for the Surface 2 has been set in stone for October 22, though preorders are starting tomorrow – September 24. At launch, the Surface 2 will be available in 21 markets worldwide.