From New York, Microsoft launches the Surface 2, another brave attempt at shifting some of the tablet magic away from Apple and Samsung. Surface 1 sold poorly, so what makes Microsoft think that the Surface 2 will be any better? First the price was slashed, then Microsoft said that you’ll get a minimum of R2000 (US$200) off the purchase of a Surface by bringing in your old iPad. Was this enough to bring fresh meat into the fold, just in time for a revitalized Surface offering?
So here we go again. Is the Surface 2 worth your time? Let’s have a look and see.
Surface Pro 2 — US$899
After working on Surface 2 for roughly a year and a half, Microsoft delivered “the most productive tablet ever built with Surface 2”. Firstly, there’s the new Surface Pro 2 with an insane display of 3840×2160. It’s a full PC, in tablet form factor.
With a ClearType HD display, there’s 46% more colour accuracy for the “professional” user. Speakers are much better this time, Dolby Pro in fact. Microsoft said in its presentation that Surface Pro 2 is “literally” faster than 95% of all laptops out there. Brave words. Is it the Haswell CPU? Or the new battery that’s got a 20% improvement in battery life that will elevate Surface Pro 2 above its ilk. Microsoft stressed that it’s battery life that needed the most work.
Graphics performance has been boosted by 50%, and with an improved kickstand, it should be easier to scope out the slicker visuals. There’s a new Surface Power Cover and it’s actually a 30wh battery, this kicks battery life up by two and a half times. In terms of connections, there’s three USB 3.0, a USB 1 port, Ethernet, a Mini DisplayPort as well as audio in and out. “You can use it all day.” And indeed we will try to, at least.
As for storage:
Surface 2 – US$449
“It’s the revamp people need.” Microsoft wants this to be a productive tablet, something we can use in the workforce. It’s thinner and lighter, is full HD and the one we saw was in silver. Looked very nifty. Screen is a very nifty 1080p with ClearType display and it “doesn’t slow down.” Windows 8.1 is the new OS and there’s now over 100 000 apps, Flipboard and Facebook are two of them. In comparison, there were only 10 000 apps when Surface 1 launched.
The Office app was highlighted by Microsoft as the one product that almost everyone uses, and it’ll be especially handy with Surface 2. But what really got our attention was a demo of Halo running off the Surface 2, care of an Xbox controller.
The rear and front cameras have both been described (by Microsoft) as phenomenal and video calling was demonstrated with the grand-daddy of VoIP apps, Skype. On stage, the kickstand of Surface 2 was adjusted to deliver a better video-calling experience, clearly the Surface 2 was built for extended chatting in mind. And despite the lack of light, the front-facing camera seemed to pick up the demo scene beautifully. For one year you’ll get “best of Skype” which is free international calling and Skype WiFi.
It’s also designed for toughness and is “a hard device to break.” Wait until they get a load of us. SkyDrive is now so ingrained into Surface 2, that you won’t even know that it’s there. “It’s like a magic trick and it works and you don’t need to know magic. This is the power of SkyDrive.” We’d like to know the magic trick? At least you’re getting 200GB SkyDrive storage for two years, for free. Free is best.
Type Cover 2
There’s new colours for this “beautiful product” that “pushes the barrier”. Come on Microsoft, it’s just a keyboard. It’s 1mm thinner than the last Type Cover, and it’s now as thin as Touch Cover 1. This should help to increase typing speeds. Backlighting is now part of the package, a very Apple ideal that we highly approve of. It’s also only coming next year, so no speedy typing for you, Surface Pro 2 users.
Touch Cover 2
Again, it’s also backlit and again, it’s 1mm thinner then it used to be. It’s also “like a piece of paper”. So thin then? Predictive Typing, sorry, improved predictive typing now means that you’ll “never miss a word.”
The new Surface models launch 22 October and from 24 October, Microsoft will be taking pre-orders for both tablets. Surface Pro 2 is US$899, Surface 2 is US$449 and RT is still US$349. Go, now, spend.