Microsoft announced its ARM-powered Surface 2 tablet at a press event in New York early Monday, confirming earlier reports of the device receiving primarily internal upgrades along with a thinner and lighter body.
As Neowin reported on Sept. 9, the Surface 2 will feature a 10.6-inch 1080p screen, an improvement from its predecessor's 10.6-inch screen that had just a 1366x768 resolution. The tablet runs on NVIDIA's 1.7GHz quad-core Tegra 4 system on a chip, up from the 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3 found in the original Surface. The new Tegra 4 processor powers a single USB 3.0 port, making it the first Windows RT device to support the latest USB standard. Battery life has also improved thanks to the new processor, with Microsoft claiming the Surface 2 typically lasts 10 to 12 hours on a single charge, up from the Surface RT's roughly eight hours.
Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Surface team, called the Surface 2 “the fastest product I've used relative to a personal tablet,” which he credited to both the new hardware and improvements made in Windows RT 8.1.
“The [tablet] runs three to four times faster than you've seen in the past,” he told the event's audience. “We take the full pixels [and] bring them to life – no latency, no lag, full speed. If we're going to have you and ask you to be productive, we have to make sure we give you the best device possible to do so.”
Panay demonstrated the tablet's power by having Julie Larson-Green, head of Microsoft's devices division, play “Halo: Spartan Assault” from a wireless USB 3.0 Xbox controller while four Microsoft Office applications ran simultaneously on the Surface 2 in the background.
“When you use an app on here you realize how powerful this product is – and we've increased those apps, and [the Windows Store] is coming to life,” Panay said. “As with anything, the power of this product will come out through these applications.”
Though the tablet weighs less and is slightly thinner, its design is nearly identical to the original Surface, except for its new color. Unlike the Surface RT, which came in black, the Surface 2 will only be available in silver, though the bezel around the screen will remain black.
Both the front- and rear-facing cameras received upgrades for the Surface 2, with Panay calling the back camera “phenomenal,” though he said the front camera is just as important, citing the use of Skype to video chat with friends and family. While both cameras were 1.2 megapixels on the Surface RT, the front camera on Surface 2 is now 3.5 megapixels, and back camera is 5 megapixels. Panay said a new sensor was placed near the front camera, allowing the tablet to dynamically adjust lighting in a photo or video.
As with the Surface Pro 2, the Surface 2 features an improved kickstand offering two position levels for better video angles and flat-surface viewing.
Microsoft notably cut the price of the original Surface by $100 within eight months of its release, but the Surface 2 won't see the same reduced price, though it will still cost $50 less than the Surface RT's launch price. A 32GB Surface 2 will retail for $449, while a 64GB version will cost $549. Microsoft is also providing 200GB of SkyDrive storage for two years as well as free international Skype calling and hotspot access for one year to anyone who purchases a Surface 2.
The Surface 2 will be available through retail outlets on Oct. 22, with pre-orders beginning 8 a.m. Tuesday through Microsoft's website.
Images via Microsoft