On Monday, Microsoft introduced revamped versions of its Windows tablets, the Surface with Windows RT and Surface Pro, appending a 2 to their names and dropping RT from the Surface—though the Surface 2 still uses the stripped-down Windows RT operating system. The tablets' improvements are evolutionary, but we saw some real innovation in the newly announced accessories.
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Although the generation-two tablets look similar to the original versions, Microsoft has upped the specs in a number of areas on both versions:
- Speed: The Surface Pro 2 uses an Intel fourth-generation i5 Haswell chipset, which Microsoft claims will make it perform as well as a regular laptop; the Surface 2 uses a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 (like other premium Android and Windows RT tablets).
- Battery life: Both models claim longer battery life than their predecessors.
- Display: The Surface 2 now has a full HD display, like the Pro version.
- Memory and storage: The Surface Pro 2 comes with up to 8GB of memory and 512GB of internal storage.
- Connectivity: The Surface 2 has a faster USB 3.0 port than its predecessor.
- Cameras: The Surface 2 has a 3.5-megapixel webcam and a 5-megapixel rear camera.
- Software: The Surface 2 will ship with Windows 8.1 RT, and the Surface 2 Pro with Windows 8.1 Pro. The Surface 2 will add Outlook RT to its included suite of Office 2013 RT programs.
- Versatility: Both models have a built-in two-position easel "kickstand," making use on one's lap more comfortable.
As for those innovative accessories, the Surface 2 family is compatible with newly designed snap-on keyboard covers with backlighting that senses hand proximity. The membrane keys on the Touch Cover 2 ($120) use a matrix of pressure sensors to support gesture control and future non-keyboard applications.
The Type Cover 2 ($130) has separate tactile keys and is more rigid and quieter than the previous version. The Power Cover ($200) is like the Type Cover, but has a built-in battery for additional tablet usage time on battery power. The Bluetooth Wireless Adapter ($60) lets you use the keyboard remotely.
The Surface Pro 2 can use a Docking Station ($200) that provides a DisplayPort connection to an external monitor, plus Ethernet, speakers, power, and additional USB devices.
Microsoft is also providing a year of free Skype international calling and access to Skype’s network of public Wi-Fi hotspots. (Surface tablets are Wi-Fi-only.) Both the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro also get 200GB of online cloud storage on Microsoft’s SkyDrive service, free for 2 years.
The company also announced a kit that DJs and other music fans will appreciate. Compatible with the Surface 2, Surface Pro, and Surface Pro 2, the kit includes a custom touchpad cover and works with a new music remix app. More details are due next month.
The Surface costs $450 with 32GB storage and $550 with 64GB. The Surface Pro will cost $900 with 64GB storage, $1,000 with 128GB, $1,300 with 256GB, and $1,800 with 512GB. They’re available to preorder now and will show up in stores and ship on October 22.
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