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Microsoft takes second swing at tablets with new Surface 2 lineup

Faster and with longer battery life, but priced nearly the same as the originals

September 23, 2013 12:15 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft today kicked off its second attempt at cracking the tablet market, unveiling replacements for both the Surface RT and Surface Pro.

"We only set out to make them better," said Panos Panay, the Microsoft general manager who leads the Surface team, in a roll-out in front of an invitation-only audience of reporters and analysts in New York City on Monday.

The Surface 2, a renamed and revamped Surface RT -- it's no coincidence that Microsoft ditched the "RT" label, which few consumers knew referred to the Windows RT that powered it -- will cost $449 for 32GB or $549 for 64GB of storage space when it reaches retail next month, said Microsoft.

Those prices were $50 less than the original prices for the Surface RT, but $100 more than the heavily discounted prices of 2012's version after Microsoft began unloading it this summer.

Meanwhile, the Surface Pro 2 will swap pride-of-place in Microsoft's lineup with the Surface Pro. Like its ancestor, the Surface Pro 2 will run a full-fledged Windows able to handle legacy applications, and is not a scaled-back device like the Surface 2, which is capable of running only tile-style "Modern" nee "Metro" apps. The Surface Pro 2 will be priced at $899 for a 64GB device, $999 for one with 128GB of storage space.

The prices were identical to the initial prices of the Surface Pro when it launched in early February, but $100 more than the discounted prices the now-superseded tablet currently sports.

Both tablets will come with the 8.1 update for their respective operating systems: The Surface 2 with Windows 8.1 RT -- there's the "RT" again -- and the Surface Pro 2 with Windows 8.1 Pro.

Panay touted the changes in each tablet, citing 20% faster performance overall, a 50% increase in graphics performance, and a 75% boost in battery life for the Surface Pro 2, all largely -- though not entirely -- due to the use of Intel's new "Haswell" Core i5 processor.

The Surface 2 is also faster, said Panay, who claimed a three- to four-time increase in performance courtesy of the Nvidia Tegra 4 ARM-licensed processor, and an increase of battery life to 10 hours.

Microsoft also revealed several new accessories for the Surface line, including a keyboard-cover combination that packs an extra battery, new Touch Covers in five different colors, and a docking station for connecting the tablet in the workplace to peripherals such as multiple monitors and a full-fledged keyboard.

The Surface Pro 2 will run Windows 8.1 on Intel's Haswell processors. Aimed at power users and professionals, it will cost $899.

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