Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft’s New Surfaces
Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft’s New Surfaces
- 12:00 PM
NEW YORK CITY — Less than a year after its first serious foray into building its own hardware, Microsoft showed off the Surface 2, the Surface Pro 2, and several new accompanying peripherals at a New York City event.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new products.
Surface Pro 2
None of the Surface Pro 2 updates are all that surprising. Indeed, the changes are fairly subtle, as Surface Product Manager Panos Panay repeatedly emphasized during the event. The most noticeable external difference is a new kickstand, integrated on both the Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 that provides two positions instead of one. The new position supposedly makes it easier to use the Surface in your lap.
Beyond the new kickstand, most internal updates are incremental ones. The most important update to the Surface Pro 2 is its new Intel Haswell Core i5 chip. It extends battery life by 75 percent, according to Microsoft, putting it at around 7 to 8 hours, whereas the Surface Pro only got around four to five.
“Surface Pro 2 now lets you use it all day,” Panos Panay said. “When I say it’s the most productive and powerful professional tablet today, I mean it.”
Other minor changes include a speaker boost with built-in Dolby. The screen now has 50 percent more color accuracy, according to Panay, who also emphasized that Surface Pro 2 is faster than 95 percent of laptops available today. Users will also be able to choose between a couple of RAM configurations — 4GB and 8GB — along with the four available storage sizes: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB. Everything else about the Surface Pro 2 is the same as the Surface Pro.
The Surface Pro 2 will start at $899. It will be available on October 22, but you can start pre-ordering September 24.
The Surface 2 — Microsoft removed the ‘RT’ from the name — received more drastic changes. In addition to a new white casing, it comes equipped with the latest ARM-based Tegra 4 processor, making it a good deal faster than its predecessor. It also gets 25-percent more battery life — more than 12 hours a day, according to Panay — and comes with the fancier ClearType Full HD screen, which had previously only been available on the Surface Pro.
But as much as the specs have changed, the software is still at the core of the experience. “I can tell you all day: specs, specs, specs,” Panay said. “But how’s it better? What’s changed? What’s the difference?”
Since Surface RT, and now Surface 2, runs on Windows RT, it depends on Windows Store apps only. The app store has been struggling since its inception, but is finally getting some traction among developers. Microsoft announced that there are 100,000 apps in the Windows Store right now. Surface 2 will also come with the full Office suite, including Outlook, which was missing in the Surface RT Office suite.
The Surface 2 camera also got an update. A new sensor allows it to shoot better video even under very dark lighting scenarios. It’s optimized for Skype video calls too (Surface 2 users get free international calling with Skype).
Panay added that when you buy one, you’ll receive 200GBs of SkyDrive for two years.
The Surface 2 starts at $449. It will be available on October 22, and pre-orders begin September 24. The Surface RT will remain on sale for $349.
More exciting than the refreshed computer-tablet hybrids are a handful of new Microsoft-built Surface peripherals. The company clearly wants to build a hardware ecosystem around its devices. And after teasing it last year, Microsoft announced a new Power Cover, a thick keyboard cover with a built-in battery pack to give the Surface Pro 2 an extra two-hour boost.
The company also showed off a new Surface docking station, compatible with both of the new devices, that allows you to add an external monitor via the Mini DisplayPort. The dock comes with Ethernet, audio in and out, one USB 3.0 port, and three 2.0 ports.
The Type and Touch Covers also got an update. They now come in a variety of new colors, are one millimeter thinner than the last versions, and have silent keys and a faster keyswitches for quick, responsive typing. Most importantly, the Type Cover 2 is now backlit. It dims on its own when you’re not using it, to save battery life. It won’t, however, be available until next year.
The Touch Cover 2 comes with the same backlighting and increased typing sensitivity and accuracy tweaks, according to Microsoft. “You will type on this thing and you will not miss words,” Panay said. You can also do gestures on the cover.
There are also many new attachment possibilities. Microsoft showed off the Blade from the new Surface Remix Project. It’s a special add-on that features 12 large buttons, letting you DJ and remix songs. The sensor system can recognize pressure, so the harder you tap on a key, the louder the sound associated with it. It’s a totally new kind of keyboard attachment, and you can begin to imagine the niche products that can come from the technology. Think accessories specifically for painting or video game playing.
More than anything else, today’s event shows that Microsoft is committed to the hardware side of its business — its hybrid tablet-laptop Surface, in particular — despite little commercial success. Though reviewers had generally good things to say about the Surface RT and Surface Pro last year, it didn’t translate to significant sales for Microsoft. Sales through the end of June totaled only $853 million, according to a Form 10-K SEC filing from the company. That amounts to around 1.5 million Surface RTs, and only 400,000 Surface Pros, according to an earlier Bloomberg report.
Microsoft has faced several hurdles in marketing and selling its Surfaces. The main one is related to price. The Surface Pro cost upwards of $900, and nothing has really changed with the Surface Pro 2 (indeed, things have actually gotten a bit more expensive).
The Surface RT, on the other hand, was priced to compete against Apple’s iPad at $500 for the 32GB model without a Touch Cover. Even that didn’t work out. Microsoft ended up slashing the price this summer to $349, and will keep that device available for sale. The Surface 2 maintained a fairly low price, at only $100 more.
Keeping the price low on the Surface 2 may help make it slightly more appealing to the masses, but the RT-version of the device has a bit of an identity crisis. Though Microsoft distinguishes Windows RT as a lighter, more consumer-facing version of Windows, many people don’t understand the appeal of the OS. With Surface 2 comes several new compelling usages that Microsoft hopes will help win over more tablet users. Despite some initial confusion, the company is sticking to it’s hardware — and is already working on Surface three generations ahead.