Today Microsoft announced the specifications and price points for its new Surface tablet hybrids. This post contains all pertinent statistical information regarding the Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2, as well as an initial few hands-on notes regarding the devices.
The quick and dirty is that the Surface Pro 2 has spent the past year molting into a device similar to its predecessor, the Surface Pro, but with greatly extended battery life. The Surface 2 is a more holistic refresh of the Surface RT tablet, including new cameras, an updated screen, better audio, a faster processor and longer battery life.
The Surface 2 is now gray, built using a new magnesium-based material that resists fingerprints. I touched it. It’s far, far, better. In comparison, my Surface RT looks like something straight from the Smudge Factory. The Surface 2, in my short experience, dodges hand-grease effectively. Now, to the raw specs.
The Surface 2 is Microsoft’s device built for students, parents and anyone else who moves around and want a computer that they can take with them and still accomplish lightweight work. That’s a decent chunk of the computing market, roughly tacking close to the users you might deem fit for Ultrabooks.
The Surface 2 looks and feels quite nice, even better than its mostly well-built Surface RT predecessor. If you want something more powerful, that can run more than apps from the Windows Store and Office, this device is not for you. However, Microsoft is betting that for the average PC purchaser – a large percentage of the PC OEM market – the Surface 2 is the correct blend of mobility, touch-capability, and Office.
Sales figures will bear out its wager. Here are the tablets figures, including notes from myself based on brief hands-on time with a number of Surface 2 devices last week.
- Thickness: 0.35 inches
- Weight: Under 1.5 pounds. It is only slightly lighter than the Surface RT, but the Surface 2 still feels substantial and not too heavy. If you are a hyper-light sort of person, it might be more than you like. Its weight suited me, however.
- Screen: 10.6 Inch 1080p display. Pixel count: 1920×1080. This is a much better screen than what was found in the first generation Surface RT. Not a Retina display, but a full, HD display is a nice addition.
- Processor: Tegra 4 1.7 gigahertz quad-core ARM chip. I noticed zero lag while testing the Surface 2. The processor felt more than sufficient. Microsoft told me that users can expect a roughly 60% faster CPU, and greatly improved graphical performance.
- RAM: 2 Gigabytes. I suppose that if you are running multiple Office applications and a few Metro apps, you could max this out. But that sort of power use isn’t what the Surface 2 is built for. Still, this number on paper feels short.
- Battery: Up to 10 hours “active use” battery life. Microsoft claims around a 25% improvement in the Surface 2.
- USB Support: USB 3.0 port (Also, Bluetooth 4 support is now included)
- Cameras: 3.5 megapixel front-facing camera, and a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera. The front-facing camera was built to accept more light than the rear-facing camera, allowing for improved video chatting in low-light settings. I got to play with this directly, and it seems to work as advertised.
- Kickstand changes: The built-in stand now has two lock positions of roughly 20 and 40 degrees. The added 40 degree setting allows for improved on-lap usage of the Surface. The lower position is almost infinitely better when on your lap. Also, the ‘feel’ of the stand hasn’t been deprecated by its extension, which is nice.
- Audio: The original Surface devices has terrible audio-output, which the Surface 2 attempts to rectify by adding built-in Dolby Digital sound. I did not get a chance to test this directly.
- Price: $449 and up, depending on the SKU you pick.
The Surface 2 is a greatly improved Surface RT that clings to its predecessor’s initial claim: That the Windows Store will eventually contain enough applications to make Windows 8 (and 8.1) self-sufficient. The Windows Store has grown in its first year of life, but remains nascent. The bet, however, makes far more sense this year than last.
Surface Pro 2
The Surface Pro 2 looks all but exactly like its predecessor, but sports the new Intel Haswell chips, more RAM and SSD options, and the improved kickstand.
- Thickness: 0.53 inches. That is precisely as thick as the first generation Surface Pro.
- Weight: 2 pounds. Microsoft isn’t more specific than that. Also, Microsoft describes the weight of the original Surface Pro as 2 pounds, so simply expect parity. Again, the external packaging of the Surface Pro 2 isn’t what Microsoft focused on; presumably, Microsoft didn’t hear much from prospective customers regarding the look of the Surface Pro, as it left it essentially unchanged.
- Screen: 10.6 Inch 1080p display. Pixel count: 1920×1080.
- Processor: Intel Core i5 Haswell generation running at 1.6 gigahertz.
- RAM: 4 or 8 gigabytes. This is two to four times as much as the Surface 2 – Microsoft wants the Surface Pro 2 to handle whatever you care to throw at it. I don’t have pricing yet for the RAM upgrade, but dual-channel LPDDR3 RAM will be supported to preserve battery life.
- Internal storage: From 64 gigabytes to 512 gigabytes. Expect to shell out for the higher-capacity SSDs, however.
- Battery: Up to 60% better battery life in what Microsoft calls “multiple [usage] scenarios.” I don’t, and this is my fault, have a set battery life hour figure, but I suspect that it is highly variable based on what you are doing. I was told that in “some scenarios” battery life can be up twice as good as with the Surface Pro. That device had weak battery life, making this upgrade more than a quality of life fix. Microsoft told me that about half the battery life improvement comes from the Haswell processor, and the rest from various hardware, firmware, and driver improvements across the new device.
- USB Support: USB 3.0.
- Cameras: Front and read 720p cameras, as with the Surface Pro. The Surface Pro 2 does not have the low light upgrades that are part of the Surface 2, as a warning.
- Kickstand changes: See above notes, as the two share the same kickstand positions.
- Price: $899 and up, depending on how much RAM and SSD space you need.
Microsoft wanted two things in the Surface Pro 2: Longer battery life and an improved kickstand. It’s a far shorter list than what went into the Surface 2, but it’s also a targeted list. Provided that Microsoft hit the marks that business customers demanded, Surface Pro 2 could sell better than its predecessor.
That’s the raw information and feedback as I can provide it. I’ll have a much thicker review once I get more time with the two devices.