Monday, September 23, 2013

Microsoft launches Surface Pro 2 with up to 4x battery life, but same prices

Microsoft both pleased and disappointed on Monday, as it announced new second-generation Surface tablets. While the battery life on the Surface Pro 2 tablet has been increased more than expected, pricing of the new devices was -- although matching rumors -- was disappointing.

Microsoft said its new Surface Pro 2 tablets would have 75 percent better battery life than last year's model. Intel had been saying the Haswell CPU -- the main reason for the power savings -- would give devices, not the Surface tablet specifically -- a boost of 50 percent.

Given the real-life reports of a battery life of four to four-and-a-half hours, a 75 percent boost would give the tablet seven hours of battery power. That is still on the slim side, but Microsoft also announced another rumored feature: the Power Cover, which is basically a Type Cover with an embedded battery.

According to Microsoft, that should increase the battery life of the Surface Pro 2 by 2.5 times. That would amount to 18.5 hours, more than enough for a full day's work. Of course, your mileage will vary.

Also unfortunately, the Power Cover will cost $199.99, considerably more than the Type Cover.  It also has no specific launch date, although Microsoft said it will be available early next year.  [Tip to Microsoft: Something this important should ship with the device].

There were other additions and changes to the Surface Pro 2 accessory cache. For one, this year Microsoft is shipping an accessory it said the Surface tablet, which is primarily a mobile device, didn't need: a docking station. The Surface Pro docking station features three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, and a mini DisplayPort, along with wired Ethernet, Audio In, Audio Out and Power.

The Surface Pro 2's new kickstand design that supports multiple viewing angles, which was a big complaint about the original model.

However, price was also a pain point, and that has not changed. What happened to that new $799 price for the Surface Pro? That will remain, as Microsoft will continue to sell the 64GB model of the Surface Pro for that price. However, the Surface Pro 2 will see an $899 price for the 64GB model, which most folks know is just not enough space for the Windows 8 (and presumably, 8.1) install.

That price rises to $1,799 for the high-end model. Storage tiers run from 64GB all the way to 512GB, with the 64GB and 128GB models seeing prices of $799 and $899 (and 4GB of RAM), while the 256GB or 512GB models will sport 8GB of RAM and requisite higher prices.

Microsoft also introduced the Surface Pro 2's little brother, the Surface 2, which has lost its RT moniker. Running Windows RT, with the ability to run only Metro UI apps, the original was an abject failure.

The new version sports an NVIDIA Tegra 4 CPU, which should help performance quite a bit. The device reportedly also sports 25 percent better battery life. As with the Surface Pro 2, the new Surface 2 has kickstand modifications to make it more "lappable," as Microsoft said.

It’s cheaper than the Surface RT when that device was first launched, starting at $449; the Surface RT debuted at $499. As with the Surface Pro, the older model -- the Surface RT -- will continue to be sold at its bargain basement $349 price.

Both devices be available for pre-order online beginning Sept. 24 at at 8 a.m. EDT. They will ship with Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 on-board beginning on Oct. 22, just a few days after the general release of Windows 8.1.

Microsoft Store

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