Microsoft Surface 2/Surface Pro 2 Product Notes
On September 23, 2013, Microsoft announced their second generation Surface designs. Similar to the first generation, the second generation consists of two model lines: one is essentially an Intel-based notebook without a permanently attached keyboard (i.e., the Surface Pro 2) while the other is is an ARM-based "pure" tablet (i.e., the Surface 2). Both were available for pre-order on September 24, 2013.
Surface Pro 2
The biggest upgrade for the Surface Pro 2 is Intel's Haswell chipset. The original Surface Pro was perhaps the single device on the market most affected by the battery life deficiencies of the Ivy Bridge chipset. Information Systems & Computing (ISC) expects about 50% better battery life in the Surface 2 Pro, probably bringing it to the 5 to 7 hour range for most users.
With the Haswell Core i5, the Surface Pro 2 weighs 2 pounds and is about 0.5 inches inch thick - almost exactly the same size and weight as the original Surface Pro. It is available with either 64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB of storage. The 64 GB and 128 GB models come with 4 GB of RAM, while the 256 GB and 512 GB models have 8 GB of RAM. Like the Surface Pro, the Surface Pro 2 comes with a Full HD display that renders at 208 ppi. Connectivity includes microSDXC, USB 3.0, and Mini DisplayPort video. The included operating system is Windows 8.1 Pro, and thus the Surface Pro 2 supports full Windows manageability and domain control.
The Surface 2 is considerably more changed from its predecessor than the Surface 2 Pro. First, the screen resolution has increased from HD to Full HD, removing a major sore point present in the original Surface RT. The processor also has been upgraded from an Nvidia Tegra 3 to a Tegra 4 ARM processor, while the cameras also have been upgraded.
The Surface 2 model line weighs about 1.5 pounds, is about 0.37 inches thick, and comes in 32 GB and 64 GB versions. Connectivity includes microSD, USB 3.0, and Micro HDMI video. It comes with Windows RT 8.1, a version of Windows that only runs the new touch-centric "Modern" applications (not traditional Windows applications) and has limited manageability.
Both the Surface 2 and the Surface 2 Pro have a modified kickstand with two lock positions.
Both Surfaces have new accessories. The first generation Type Cover (the better of the two original keyboards) has been replaced by the Type Cover 2. The new version is backlit and has gesture support and Microsoft claims that it has higher sensitivity.
A new accessory is the Power Cover, which is a cover containing a 30 watt-hour battery. There is also a Surface Pro 2-specific docking station that adds three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, a mini-DisplayPort output, and a gigabit Ethernet port, but it will not be available until some time in 2014.
The new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 are notable, not simply perfunctory, upgrades. Together, they show that Microsoft is committed to producing its own Windows-based hardware, somewhat contrary to the prevailing wisdom after relatively slow sales and tepid reviews of the original Surfaces. It will be interesting to see if this commitment lasts through Microsoft's imminent leadership transition, but for now, Microsoft is standing firm in its belief that these products fill a need in the market.
Both models are solid options for Windows-centric users, particularly with the Surface Pro 2 which, with its newfound battery longevity, is a viable notebook alternative for some University constituents. They aren't for everyone, and the restrictiveness of Windows RT is particularly vexing to users who want the full Windows experience, but Microsoft tried something audacious with the original Surfaces and, rather than canceling the product line at the first sign of weak sales, they are actually working to improve the devices. ISC believes that the Surface Pro 2 will find traction in the same areas that the Surface Pro found at Penn, though the approximately $1,300 price tag (without keyboard) of the highest end system may give pause.
Microsoft Surface graphic courtesy of Microsoft
--Michael McLaughlin and John Mulhern III, ISC Technology Support Services (September 23, 2013)