Microsoft has unveiled the Surface Pro 2 tablet, a new version of its flagship 10.6-inch Windows tablet, with the power of a full-size PC in a tablet. Pre-orders begin tomorrow, Tuesday, September 24, 2013. Prices starting at $899.00
Though little has been changed externally on the updated device — it has the same size, weight, and black color scheme as its predecessor — Microsoft says that what's inside has changed quite a bit. Panos Panay, Microsoft's VP of Surface says.
"We improved the performance on this product by 20 percent. If you thought it was fast before, it is lightning fast now."
Panay says that the tablet is now faster than 95 percent of laptops and that its graphics performance has increased by 50 percent. The updated tablet includes one of Intel's Core i5 Haswell processors, and Microsoft says that it'll see a 60 percent improvement in battery life over its predecessor.
The Surface Pro 2 is also trying to address one of the biggest complaints many had with the original tablet: that its built-in kickstand was difficult to use when propped on your lap. The new tablet's kickstand has a second position that can prop the device up at a 55 degree angle — in addition to the 22 degree angle present on its predecessor — adding a much more sloped position for it to stand in. Panay also says that the Surface Pro 2 will run quieter and cooler than the original Surface Pro, and that its 1080p display has 46 percent greater color accuracy.
"This is power. This thing's a beast."
Panay also believes that Surface Pro 2 will deliver the "full power of a PC" but in the form factor of a tablet. The tablet will be shipping with Windows 8.1 on October 22nd — just a few days after the general release of Windows 8.1 itself.
The Surface Pro 2's pricing begins at $899 and stretches up to $1,799, with configurations for 4GB of RAM with either 64 or 128GB of storage, and 8GB of RAM with either 256 or 512GB of storage. It'll be available for pre-order online beginning tomorrow at 8AM ET.
Everyone who purchases a Surface Pro 2 will be given access to several Microsoft services too, including one year of free Skype calling to landlines, as well as unlimited use of Skype-branded Wi-Fi hotspots. And for two years, users will get 200GB of SkyDrive storage as well.
Microsoft is also unveiling several new accessories for its Surface tablets. The Surface Pro line is getting a docking station that will transform the tablets into something closer to a traditional PC by providing USB ports for connecting a mouse and keyboard to, as well as a Mini DisplayPort for adding an external monitor. There’s also a new attachable keyboard called the Power Cover, which includes a built-in battery for extending the tablet’s daily longevity, in addition to a backlit keyboard called the Type Cover 2, among others.
COMMENTARY: Microsoft just announced a docking station for the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2, the first docking accessory for the Surface line of tablets. The dock has been expected for a long time, and it looks like a solid workstation intended to appeal to business users who use the Surface for serious computing.
The Surface Docking Station, unveiled at a press event in New York City today, is large and sturdy-looking, framed by two wings that fit on either side of the docked tablet. The dock includes three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, audio in, audio out, and will of course charge the device while connected. It can also power two monitors.
Unfortunately for Surface RT and Surface 2 users, the new docking station will will only support Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2. Like many other docking stations, you can use the Surface version to connect a display via a mini DisplayPort dongle, or use a wired connection through the ethernet port.
Seven months ago, Surface vice president Panos Panay there were no plans to build a docking station, so it's interesting that the company changed its mind. Perhaps the software giant listened to customers who remarked that the ability to have monitors, keyboard, and mouse connected to a docking station "would really seal this system up for a lot of business users." The Docking Station for Surface Pro will retail at an estimated $199.99. Microsoft expects to release it in early 2014.
There's also the new Type Cover 2 that's 1mm thinner (2.5mm total, to be exact) than the previous model and packs a whopping 1,092 sensors for a better typing experience and touch gestures. This one is backlit (the first for a Surface tablet) and dims intelligently with the help of a proximity sensor. At $130, it offers 1.5mm of travel for what should be improved ergonomics for longer typing sessions on both the Surface Pro 2 and the Surface 2. The Touch Cover 2 is also thinner and lighter than its predecessor while getting the backlit upgrade and a $120 price tag. Rounding out the lot is a $60 Bluetooth wireless adapter for the covers, a USB car charger and a Surface Edition of the Arc Touch Mouse priced at $70.
The biggest issue that I find with the new Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablet is that it is a laptop disguised as a tablet. The optional power keyboard, bigger memory and docking station really transform the Surface Pro 2 from just a tablet into a laptop -- a very expensive laptop. Who is going to pay $899 for a tablet, and with add-ons upwards of $1,799 (or over $2,000 with sales tax and extended warranty). Very few people are going to buy it at those price points.
If Microsoft were smart, it should've produced a 7-inch Surface Pro 2 tablet to compete with Apple's iPad Mini and Google's Nexus 7 2nd generation tablets. I think that this is where the consumer market is going. 9.7 and 10.1 inch tablets are bulky and heavy. The children's market is where the growth will come from. Children can easily hold a 7-inch tablet, and they are a whole lot lighter. As an owner of the new Nexus 7 2nd Gen tablet, I can attest to this. The Nexus 7 2nd Gen tablet is the best damn 7-inch tablet money can buy.
If you are a PC power user, stay with your laptop. But, if you want to own a tablet strictly for for the enjoyment of surfing the internet, playing games, music, videos and movies, a 7-inch tablet makes a lot of sense, if you truly want to be mobile and not incumbered by something bulky and heavy.