Microsoft just announced the long awaited successors to its Surface RT and Surface Pro devices at a press event in NYC. We were fans of the original Surface devices, however neither was quite perfect. It'll be a short while before we can actually review these things (they ship on October 22nd), but on paper we can already get a good indication of what Microsoft has done to both lines.

Surface 2

 

Surface RT is succeeded (not replaced) by Surface 2. The previous generation Surface RT model will remain on sale for $349, putting it at a very compelling price point in the 10-inch tablet market - especially considering that it comes with a full version of Office. The new Surface 2 takes its place at $449 and features a long list of upgrades. The display is now full 1080p with improved color accuracy compared to the outgoing model. Microsoft spent a lot of time last year talking about how it's 1366 x 768 panel was better than most thanks to its optically bonded display, but it's good to see a shift towards a higher resolution panel. The focus on improving color accuracy is important as well. In our original review of Surface RT I found its display to be ok, but hardly accurate. Given that both Apple and Google are now shipping relatively well calibrated tablet displays, it's key that Microsoft does the same. The only downside is it looks like the new display isn't full sRGB but rather a smaller gamut.

Internally Tegra 3 is out and replaced by Tegra 4. Just like last time, Tegra 4's 5th shadow core isn't exposed or used under Windows RT 8.1. Update: NVIDIA tells us the shadow core is enabled (contrary to what we originally heard from MS at the event), although it won't tell us how it's used. I know I was personally expecting a Snapdragon 800 based device, but those initial rumors also pointed to the Qualcomm based Surface tablet being smaller than 10.6-inches as well so it's entirely possible that we'll see Qualcomm show up at a later point. The move to Tegra 4 comes with four ARM Cortex A15 cores and a much better GPU. The combination of the two should deliver a much better experience on Surface 2 than with Surface RT. The latter was simply too slow, but I'm expecting big things from the Tegra 4 upgrade. Although I completely understand why Microsoft is interested in going with an ARM partner for Surface 2, I do wonder if it might've been a better idea from a power efficiency standpoint to use Intel's Bay Trail instead. Note that with Surface 2 Microsoft drops the RT from the device's name. We'll see what happens with Cherry Trail next year.

Microsoft Surface 2/RT Comparison
  Surface 2 Surface RT Apple iPad 4
Dimensions 10.81 x 6.79 x 0.35" 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37" 9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37"
Display 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080 w/ Improved Color Accuracy 10.6-inch 1366 x 768 PLS 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 IPS
Weight Less than 1.49 lbs 1.5 lbs 1.44 lbs
Processor NVIDIA Tegra 4 1.7GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3

Apple A6X

Connectivity 802.11n WiFi 802.11n WiFi WiFi , Optional 4G LTE
Memory 2GB 2GB 1GB
Storage 32GB or 64GB eMMC 32GB or 64GB 16GB—128GB
Battery ? 31.5 Wh 42.5Wh
Starting Price $449 $349 $499

Surface 2 retains the full sized USB port and microSD card slots on the device itself, although the former gets upgraded to USB 3.0. Internal storage options remain at 32GB or 64GB eMMC. Both front and rear facing cameras are improved over the original design as well.

The design of Surface 2 improves over its predecessor. Surface 2 is slightly thinner than its predecessor and is a little lighter as well. The device now features a silver colored VaporMg finish and a 2-stage kickstand. Although I loved the idea of the kickstand with the original Surface devices, I felt that it was often not at the right angle for me to use on anything other than a table. Surface 2's 2-stage kickstand should allow for some flexibility, although I'm curious to see how this works in practice and if there are any sacrifices to the overall stability of the stand.

Surface 2 will ship with Office 2013 RT including Outlook RT and come with 200GB of free Sky Drive storage for 2 years. The entire package starts at $449, but once again does not include a touch or type cover. The 64GB Surface 2 will sell for $100 more at $549.

Surface Pro 2

 

Surface Pro 2 sees a similar set of upgrades. It gets an updated display (the original Surface Pro was already 1080p) with better color accuracy. USB 3.0 support existed on the previous model as well. The big upgrade here is to a Haswell based Core i5-4200U. That's a 15W Haswell part (similar to what you'd find in an Ultrabook) but with Intel's HD 4400 graphics and not HD 5000. The move to 15W Haswell means there's no real reduction in device thickness with Surface Pro 2. This continues to be an interesting design decision on Microsoft's part. While I'd personally advocate for a lower wattage Y-series SKU, it could be that Microsoft feels the added performance of a full Ultrabook Haswell ULT SKU is necessary for Surface Pro's target market. Either way the move to Haswell should come with significant improvements in battery life (Microsoft claims a 75% improvement for Surface Pro 2, and 25% for Surface 2). 

Microsoft Surface Pro Comparison
  Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro Apple iPad 4
Dimensions 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53" 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53" 9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37"
Display 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080 w/ Improved Color Accuracy 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080 PLS 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 IPS
Weight 2.0 lbs 2.0 lbs 1.44 lbs
Processor Core i5-4200U with HD4400 Graphics (15W Haswell ULT)

Core i5-3317U with HD4000 Graphics (17W Ivy Bridge)

Apple A6X

Connectivity WiFi WiFi WiFi , Optional 4G LTE
Memory 4GB or 8GB LPDDR3 4GB 1GB
Storage 64 or 128GB (4GB RAM)
256GB or 512GB (8GB RAM)
64GB or 128GB 16GB—128GB
Battery 42.0 Wh 42.0 Wh 42.5Wh
Starting Price $899 $899 $499

Surface Pro 2 starts at $899 and now comes in four different configurations You can get Surface Pro 2 with a 64GB ($899) or 128GB SSD ($999) and 4GB of RAM, or if you want 8GB of RAM there are 256GB ($1299) and 512GB ($1799) versions as well. Surface Pro 2 retains the old front and rear cameras.

Interestingly enough, the internal shots of the Surface Pro 2 feature a SKhynix mSATA SSD. I wonder if it's using a Link_A_Media controller:

As you can see in the gallery below, the PCB for Surface Pro 2 is absolutely huge. I'm really curious to see why Microsoft went this route vs. trying to fill the device's volume with a battery like most of the other tablet makers. I know in the past Microsoft was very big on weight distribution vs. lower overall weight, but I do wonder if a lighter Surface Pro 2 might've made sense here.

A big part of the Surface story is of course the detachable keyboard covers. This generation both type and touch covers see upgrades. They are both thinner and lighter, and both are now backlit as well. The new touch cover features 1092 sensors (up from only 80 in touch cover 1), which should improve response and accuracy. If you remember back to our original Surface reviews, touch cover accuracy was one of my biggest complaints. It was better than typing on a screen, but not as good as a real keyboard. I'm wondering if the new design helps here at all.

The type cover sees a 1mm reduction in key travel, which helps reduce thickness of the cover itself (although potentially at the expense of typing feel). You can also now get the type cover in four different colors as well (purple, pink, blue and black), instead of just black like the original design.

Other accessories include a new power cover with integrated battery, a docking station, and a music kit that replaces the traditional keyboard with something optimized for music playback/remixing. 

Both Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 will be available for pre-order starting tomorrow, with devices available on October 22nd. 

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  • SeleniumGlow - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    I'm also interested in knowing more about the 1092 sensors on the cover keypad... just what implications and use cases does it have? Reply
  • skiboysteve - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    in the live blog it appeared you could do gestures on the entire surface of the keyboard instead of just the trackpad Reply
  • runner50783 - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    I'm in love with this device, for those that value a docking station like me, it is a rocker! Reply
  • skiboysteve - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    agreed. docking station for this is a killer accessory Reply
  • drainplugofideas - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    Any idea if it's possible to change or replace the internal SSD or memory? I'm guessing no, but that would incredible if it was possible. Reply
  • airmantharp - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    That's going to be the killer for me. I'll gladly get the version with the smallest SSD and then upgrade it to something large and fast- I want to pair this thing with my Canon 6D for on the go tethered recording and wireless shooting. Reply
  • jhoff80 - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    How exactly does the docking station work? Do you have to slide in the side 'arms' manually to connect and disconnect? If so, doesn't seem much more efficient than a USB hub and DisplayPort cable.

    No word on the Wifi on the Pro 2, but I'd assume it's not 802.11ac? At the very least, I hope they've moved away from the horrible Marvell radio on the original Pro and to something more reliable.

    I'd have liked to see Wacom incorporated into the Surface 2 as well, because I feel like a pen can be a major differentiator when it's integrated system-wide in Windows like it is. Still, I know that's a niche use.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    An Intel wifi solution that enables WiDi would be nice. Reply
  • jhoff80 - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    8.1 has Miracast support anyway, assuming that the drivers support it, so I don't think that'll be an issue, no matter which wifi solution they go with.

    Like I said, I'm more concerned with the reliability front. My Surfaces (both RT and Pro) were horrible with Wifi for a long time, constantly giving me Limited Connectivity. I'd love to say they solved it, but it's now worse than ever in 8.1.
    Reply
  • hrrmph - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    Let me make sure I understand this, it's a high-end portable product with poor wireless:

    - No WiFi-AC?

    - No 4G or 3G voice or data telephony? Not even 3G Data?!

    <sigh>
    Reply

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