Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 Tablet: A Look Under the Hood

Microsoft officials spill more technical details about the improvements they've made to its business-oriented Windows 8.1 tablet, Surface Pro 2.

Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 tablet, which launched shortly after Windows 8.1 Oct. 22, sports major upgrades according to Ed Giaimo, senior director of product development for Surface Pro 2, and Steven Bathiche, distinguished scientist at the software maker's Surface unit.

The company offered a look at what makes the Surface Pro 2, beyond what the official specifications reveal. In a Nov. 13 blog post, Microsoft shared "what we did to make a great product even better and deliver all the performance that you expect from a high-end laptop with Surface Pro 2."

While Surface Pro 2 reviews have been mixed, most praise the tablet's performance, particularly its ability to run desktop-grade software with ease and deliver a responsive experience. After clearing a challenging setup, eWEEK's Wayne Rash said in his Surface Pro 2 review that when outfitted with a Touch Cover, Microsoft's slate was "a lot like using an Ultrabook, but even more portable."

"It weighs less than 2 pounds, which is equivalent to the lightest Ultrabooks, and the HD screen is clear and easy to read. ... Overall, I found the Surface Pro 2 to be far better for doing real work than my iPad, and because it will run nearly any Windows application, there's a huge selection to choose from," he wrote.

It's no accident that the Surface Pro 2 performs like an Ultrabook. "In order to replace a laptop, Surface Pro 2 is furiously fast; 10 to 20 percent faster than the original Surface Pro, depending upon the amount of RAM available," stated Giaimo and Bathiche. In terms of graphics performance, an Intel HD4400 GPU pushes pixels "50 percent faster than the original Surface Pro," they boasted. "This performance improvement is across the board and especially apparent in graphics-intensive apps."

Other, more subtle steps were taken to enhance the user experience, including "making Surface Pro 2 quieter and the case cooler to touch." The tablet's fan kicks in less frequently and at lower rpms, a result of Microsoft's work on bumping up the accuracy of the tablet's thermal sensing and cooling regulation components.

One more noticeable change shows up on the device's touch-screen. "We improved the overall color accuracy of the Surface Pro 2 display by about 46 percent," they claimed.

Users will also notice that the tablet lasts longer between charges. In addition to its more energy-efficient Haswell Intel Core i5 processor, the Surface team worked with Intel and solid-state drive (SSD) vendors to optimize performance. A redesigned motherboard sports "more efficient high-power switching voltage regulators with dual-mode low power leakage characteristics," they added. All told, the tweaks yielded a 75 percent improvement in battery life compared to its predecessor, "without increasing the battery capacity, product size or weight," they said.

The improvements are paying off. Shortly after launch, Microsoft issued a firmware update that stretched battery life by nearly 25 percent under certain workloads, enabling users to toil away for more than eight hours before the juice runs out.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...