Microsoft Surface 2 Tablets Debut

Better luck this time? Microsoft takes the wraps off its second-generation slates, which are slated to launch in October.

Microsoft is gearing up to release the Surface 2 next month. During a press event in New York City on Sept. 23, the company unveiled the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2 tablets, both of which are set to hit store shelves with upgraded components, thinner profiles and a range of new accessories.

Arriving on Oct. 22 in several regions including the United States, the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 will run Windows RT 8.1 and Windows 8.1, respectively. The new tablets will launch in China in early November, according to the company. Microsoft is accepting preorders online starting on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

Upgrades on the Surface 2 include an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, USB 3 and a full HD 1080P 10.6-inch display (versus 1,366 by 768 on the current Surface RT). The device will sport new optics, namely a 3.5-megapixel front camera and a 5-megapixel rear shooter that both capture 1080P video. The tablet will ship with Office 2013 RT, including Outlook RT, and will be available in 32GB and 64GB varieties.

According to Microsoft, improved battery life enables the Surface 2 to support up to 10 hours for video playback. Pricing for the Surface 2, which will come in 32GB and 64GB models, starts at $449.

Surface Pro 2 ($899 starting price), which runs Windows 8.1, "is a true laptop replacement, capable of running virtually all your Windows software," said the company in a statement. Powering the tablet is Intel's fourth-generation Core i5 processor, code-named Haswell. The more energy-efficient chips help stretch battery life up to 60 percent further than its predecessor.

Like its ARM-based counterpart, the Surface Pro 2 is outfitted with a high-speed USB 3 port. This time around, buyers will be faced with more storage options, namely 64GB and 128GB models with 4GB of RAM and 256GB and 512GB versions with 8GB of RAM.

Despite the updated specs, analyst Jack E. Gold, of J.Gold Associates, doesn't expect the new tablets to improve the fortunes of the slow-selling Surface. In a research note, he stated, "Other than upgraded HW (chips primarily, and somewhat better cameras) and a somewhat lower price (than the initial released pricing), I don’t see much incentive for people to buy these devices. Yes, the devices are cheaper than the iPads, but is that enough reason?"

Gold added, "I think they needed to do something that was innovative beyond the first gen, and I don’t see that in these devices. I think they’ll continue to sell a few, but I don’t think this will dramatically alter their sales trajectory."

Microsoft also announced a new range of accessories, including the new Touch and Type Covers. They now feature backlit keys and are more rigid. Touch Cover 2, priced at $119.99, "registers keystrokes with greater accuracy and features updated sensors that support a variety of gestures across the entire keyboard," boasted the company in a statement. Type Cover 2 has quieter keys and more color options (Cyan, Magenta, Purple and Black) and will sell for $129.99.

In early 2014, the company will release a docking station for the Surface Pro and Pro 2 ($199.99) that enables the tablets to connect to USB peripherals (one USB 3.0 port and three USB 2.0 ports), an external monitor and a network via an Ethernet cable. A new wireless adapter for Touch or Type Covers ($59.99) utilizes Bluetooth to allow Surface owners to type with the covers detached.

Rounding out the new accessories is a car charger with USB ($49.99) and the Arc Touch Mouse Surface Edition with Bluetooth 3.0 support ($69.99).

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...