After eighteen months in development, Microsoft has announced the next generation of Surface tablets, with Redmond revealing the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 at a press conference in New York City.
As rumoured, the Surface 2 (dropping the RT moniker) features an NVIDIA Tegra 4 SoC, a hefty upgrade from the ageing Tegra 3 in the current Surface RT, and will be running Windows RT 8.1. Most of the connectivity and ports featured on the Surface RT are present on the Surface 2, including a dedicated USB port (upgraded to 3.0 speeds), microSDXC expansion, Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n WiFI, but the screen has received an upgrade to a ClearType Full HD panel.
The flip-out kickstand that is the trademark of the Surface tablets has received an upgrade, with the ability to adjust to two different angles; the 22 degree angle as before, and a shallower angle more conducive to using the Surface while on the user’s lap. The Surface 2 will be available in both the current black version and a new white version, although the white Surface 2 still features a black bezel.
The Surface Pro 2 is more or less the Haswell-powered Surface Pro that quite a few people have been holding out for. It features a 4th generation Core i5 processor (most likely the i5-4200U currently seen in the Sony Vaio Pro) which should bring up to 7 hours of battery life, 4 or 8GB RAM, and between 64GB and 512GB of storage. The ClearType Full HD display, microSDXC expansion, USB 3.0 port, mini DisplayPort and stylus input are mostly unchanged from the Surface Pro version 1, but the Surface Pro 2 picks up the redesigned kickstand present in the Surface 2. The Surface Pro 2 will be running Windows 8.1 at launch.
To accompany the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, Microsoft is also announcing a range of new accessories.
First off is the Power Cover, which takes a Type Cover and integrates a battery to provide an extra 4 hours of battery life for the Surface Pro 2 (and likely more for the Surface 2), while still remaining relatively thin and light. The Power Cover will charge while the Surface is also plugged in to charge, and will drain first before the tablet’s battery is drained. The Power Cover will be on sale a little after the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2.
Secondly, Microsoft is announcing revised versions of the Touch Cover and Type Cover, fittingly named the Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2. The Type Cover 2 will come in both white and black, and also features backlit keys, activated when the user’s hands are close to the keyboard. The Touch Cover 2 is also an interesting upgrade, with upgraded key sensors providing a more accurate typing experience, particularly at the edges of keys.
The other accessory Microsoft has announced today is the Surface Docking Station, designed to transform the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 (sorry, RT users) into a viable desktop replacement solution. The docking station allows the user to slide in their Surface to dock, and provides four USB ports (one at 3.0 speeds, the remainder at 2.0 speeds), a Gigabit Ethernet connection, dedicated headphone and microphone jacks, and video out through mini DisplayPort.
All new accessories are compatible with Surface 2, Surface Pro 2 and the original Surface Pro; and some of the new accessories will be compatible with the current-gen Surface RT. The Power Cover will be incompatible as the Surface RT lacks the requisite power pins on the keyboard connector; we’ll update this article as we receive more details about accessory compatibility.
The Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 will come out on October 22 in 21 territories – including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. It will then launch in China in early November.
While the original Surface RT will remain at $349, the Surface 2 will start at USD$449 for the 32GB model and USD$549 for the 64GB model. The Surface Pro 2 will start at USD$899 for the 64GB model, USD$999 for the 128GB model, USD$1299 for the 256GB model, and $1799 for the 512GB model.
No word on Australian pricing, but we expect to hear from Microsoft Australia on that soon. Australian pricing has been revealed.
Are either of Microsoft’s latest offerings the tablet you’ve been waiting for? Let us know in the comments!
Terence Huynh contributed to the report.