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Microsoft bids to topple the iPad & PC in business with second-gen Surface tablets

by Doug Drinkwater

September 23 2013

Microsoft has unveiled its latest Surface tablets (Image: The Verge)
Microsoft has unveiled its latest Surface tablets (Image: The Verge)

Microsoft sure means business with the latest additions to its Surface family. The company today unveiled two new tablets as well as a whole host of innovative and business-friendly accessories.

The Redmond firm took the wraps off the products in a press conference in New York today, an event which was presided over by Surface team veep Panos Panay and which focused heavily on how the new tablets are geared up for business folk.

Indeed, Panay was championing the Surface 2 Pro -- the successor to the Surface Pro -- as a laptop replacement just minutes in to the showcase.

“The most productive tablet ever built,” he said, early on in his presentation. “It is the most productive, professional tablet in the world.”

Surface Pro 2: Better display, processor and longer battery life

The Surface 2 Pro has an improved 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution screen with better color accuracy, and also now houses Dolby audio and Intel’s fourth-generation Haswell processor.

Panay certainly kicked around a lot of numbers on the device when comparing it to its predecessor; he said that the graphics performance has been improved by 50%, suggested that speed is up by 20% and boldly claimed that the tablet is “literally faster than 95% of laptops today”.

"I cannot believe how many [PCs] I'm seeing that are not as fast as Surface Pro 2,” said Panay, who admitted "trade-offs" when launching the original Surface Pro in February.

There are some other design tweaks that are bound to please business folk. Panay said that the kickstand now operates at more angles, revealed that the new (and widely-reported) Power Cover boosts battery life by 75% and said that the Docking Station, which was also announced here, can hook up to hi-res LCD monitors.

[As previously reported, the Surface 2 Pro slides inside the dock, which in turn offers connections for USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort and Ethernet).

Panay unveiled the backlit Type Cover 2 to work with the Surface Pro 2 – something he said promoted “lapability” and which is “almost as thin” as the original Touch Cover – and banged the drum for the slate’s processing power by saying that it can handle camera data at up to 6K.

Surface 2: Thinner, lighter, more sensitive Touch Cover

Moving on from the Surface 2 Pro and its assortment of accessories, Microsoft narrowed its gaze to the Surface 2 – which follows up, but doesn’t replace, the poorly-received Surface RT.

Like its more powerful sibling, the Surface 2 also offers an enhanced 10.6-inch Full HD display and was promoted as being thinner, faster and lighter. The tablet is powered by Nvidia's Tegra 4 processor, has smarter dual-facing cameras (5MP snapper on the rear; the 3.5MP camera on the front has a sensor to adjust for bad light) and comes in colors of black or white.

The model will run Windows RT 8.1, which will bring Outlook to the ARM-based platform for the first time. Microsoft’s exec also ran through the operating system’s ability to multi-task across Skype, Outlook and even Halo.

The focus on improving productivity even extends to Microsoft's peripheral devices, with the new Touch Cover, shown at the event alongside the Surface 2, offering backlit-keys, predictive text entry and 1092 sensors. For some context, the original Touch Cover was 1mm thicker and only had 80 sensors.

In a bid to boost flagging tablet sales, Microsoft is also dangling a sizeable carrot on both devices; 200GB of free storage on SkyDrive (for two years) and free Wi-Fi and international calls on Skype. The firm has even found a way for SkyDrive to be used to restore a tablet if lost.

Microsoft has said that pre-orders for the two new tablets will begin at 8AM ET tomorrow, with the tablets to be available for sale starting October 22.

The Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro will start at $449 and $899 respectively, with the year-old Surface RT remaining at $399. The Surface 2 Pro comes in various configurations, going up from 64GB of memory and 4GB of RAM to 512GB of memory and 8GB of RAM.

Doug Drinkwater is the International Editor of TabTimes and is based in London, England.

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