About this time last year, Microsoft released its Surface line which skirts the line between tablet and computer. This year, they’re back and looking for round two. At an early morning event today in New York, (10:30 local, 7:30 on the West Coast), Microsoft launched its new Surface 2 Windows RT tablet, an updated version of the Surface Pro, and an updated array of keyboard covers. Let’s take a quick look at them, shall we?
The Surface 2 is an almost complete upgrade from last year. The case is a bit thinner and lighter with a new silver finish. The kickstand has been redesigned for multiple positions. It now sports a 1.7 GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 CPU and a bit better battery life of up to 10 hours. The USB 3.0 has been upped too, to 3.0. Lastly, you get a better full HD 1080 screen. That’s an update to be sure, but at just under 207 ppi, it’s considerably behind screens you’d see on modern competing Android and iOS tablets. The front camera, though at 3.5MP looks much better than any competing part. Surface 2 isn’t a re-imagining of the Surface, it’s a refinement of that same idea for better or worse. You get Windows RT 8.1, the full array of Microsoft apps with Outlook added, and free Skype WiFi. You also get 200GB of free SkyDrive storage for 2 years. While the tablet itself might not be the most compelling thing I’ve seen, given a tablet’s roughly 2-year lifecycle, that 200GB of free storage could open up some doors that would otherwise be closed. It will be available October 22nd at $449 for 32GB and 64GB for $549
Surface Pro 2
If you’re looking for a refreshed case for the Surface Pro 2, you won’t get it. However, Microsoft’s tablet/Ultrabook hybrid has been refurbished on the inside. The machine sports a dual-core intel Core i5 CPU at 1.6 GHz. This one of the new Haswell chips that has brought remarkable battery life improvement to the Macbook Air and compatible Windows Ultrabooks. Microsoft has also done a little additional battery tweaking for what they claim is up to 60% additional battery life. It also has the free Skype, WiFi, and 200GB of storage that its ARM-powered brother has. It starts at a pricey (for a tablet) $899 and goes up from there. You get 4GB of RAM in the $899 64GB model and $999 128GB model. That goes up to 8GB of memory in the 256GB ($1299) and 512GB ($1799) models. All models come with the Surface pen and ship October 22nd. For those who want to use it as a PC, there’s also a new docking station.
New Keyboards Galore
The star of the show might have been the keyboards. The Type and Touch Covers have gotten slimmer, the Touch Cover a bit more rigid, and both are now fully backlit. That’s a very nice touch that makes these far more than a novelty. The Touch Cover has been upgraded from the traditional 1 sensor per key arrangement to a grid of tiny sensors. This could ironically be the most advanced part of the surface line while costing less than $120. There is also a battery cover that adds additional power while still being surprisingly slim. For DJs, there’s the Surface Remix project making it the first non-type accessory for the surface. Microsoft would be wise to open this up… not only to accessory makers, but to other Windows 8 tablet makers
If you wanted something different from Microsoft, you didn’t get it. if you want an Android- or iPad-like tablet with Win8/RT you won’t be getting it from the Surface line. If you liked the Surface line, or were on the fence, the 2013 models look like a decent enough upgrade. If the hybrid computer/tablet thing isn’t what you’re looking for, these probably won’t be changing your mind.