The original Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets were promising of a new Microsoft willing to adapt and capable of becoming relevant in the mobile computing space once again.
The Surface RT, to be concise, fell short of our expectations. The software and user experience left much to be desired, with lag and a shortage of apps to blame. The Surface Pro, on the other hand, proved to be a much more capable and fitting device, though its starting price tag is cringe-worthy and in the range of most Ultrabooks.
The Surface tablets haven’t performed nearly as well as Microsoft was hoping, failing to take from the likes of Apple’s wildly popular iPad models and a handful of successful Android tablets. But this year Microsoft aims to resolve the outstanding issues with its Surface 2 tablets.
Today, Microsoft unveiled the Surface 2 tablets – the Surface 2, dropping the confusing RT moniker, and the Surface Pro 2. And both came with a healthy portion of much-needed improvements. Below are our favorite notable points of both Surface 2 models.
The Surface RT was known for its lag. It was powered by a Tegra 3, which was notorious for often spurts of terrible performance. Surface RT owners made it very clear the RT model needed some more oomph. This year, Microsoft fitted the Surface 2 with a 1.7GHz quad-core Tegra 4 chip. Thanks to the NVIDIA Shield, we know this is one serious chipset capable of posting mind-boggling benchmark scores on Android devices. And we figure it should be no different running Windows RT. Microsoft claims the Surface 2 will provide a 60 percent increase in CPU speeds and dramatically improved graphical performance.
The Surface Pro 2 also received a significant upgrade in power. Last year’s Pro model came with a third-gen i5 processor. This year’s model is blessed with a i5 Haswell chip running at 1.6GHz.
Both of these new chips should – theoretically – bring us to our next point.
Better battery life
Battery life is a constant issue with practically all mobile devices, though tablets seem to be less susceptible to quick battery drain in normal usage. Both the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 have been given improved stamina times.
Microsoft claims the Surface 2 will offer roughly a 25 percent improvement in usage time – up to 10 hours of “active use.” The Surface Pro 2 is said to offer up to a 60 percent improvement in stamina. Haswell, as well as various hardware and software optimizations, will mean Surface Pro 2 owners should be able to spend less time charging and more time on the go.
And, of course, the Touch Cover and Type Cover will also come with an additional charge in tow.
More memory and storage options
Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t bring any additional storage options to the RT model. It will still come in either 32 or 64GB models. However, it did double the memory, from 2GB to 4GB. With the Pro 2, though, Microsoft added quite a few options. The 64GB and 128GB models will come with 4GB RAM. The 256GB and 512GB models come with 8GB RAM.
All of that is great news, though we would have loved to have seen at least a 128GB model in the Surface 2. Also, we’re wary of the price tags those larger model Pro 2s will carry.
Much-needed display upgrade
The display panel on the RT was 10.6-inches with a resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels. That’s just shy of 148 pixels per inch. Ouch. The Surface 2 will come with a 1080p panel at the same diagonal measure for a density of 208 pixels per inch – much better. The Pro 2 keeps the same 1080p resolution as its predecessor, but both second-generation models are said to have greatly improved color accuracy.
Side note: 1080p is great, but many competing tablets offer resolutions and densities well beyond 1080p and 200ppi, respectively. The Nexus 10, for example, offers 300ppi with a 10.055-inch display and a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels.
Connectivity options to boot
Connectivity options have also been brought up to speed with these hardware refreshes. Both the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 now offer Bluetooth 4.0 support, as well as USB 3.0 ports. Panos Panay of Microsoft confirmed on reddit earlier that an LTE-equipped Surface 2 will be available early next year.
Whether that envelops both the Surface 2 and the Pro model is up in the air.
Oh, and if you just so happen to need an add-on accessory for the ultimate control over your music, there will also be the Surface Music Kit. This in itself isn’t all that impressive, but the doors this sort of add-on could open is most definitely intriguing.
Essentially, Microsoft kept its collective ear to the ground and listened to feedback for its second-gen Surface hardware. It’s improved – at least on paper – most, if not all, the sore points from the original Surface RT and Surface Pro. Here’s to hoping the complete package delivers, and as always, we’ll let you know as soon as we get our filthy hands on some new Surface tablets!