Microsoft is out to try the whole tablet concept again, and though the earlier versions of the Surface and the Surface Pro weren't without at least some success, Microsoft has high hopes for the new versions, and is underscoring these new releases with a slate of new features and quite a bit of new power to hopefully inject new life into the tablet line.
The Surface 2 starts things off by slimming down, being both thinner and lighter than its predecessor, and offers a two-angle kickstand to make using the device a lot simpler and more efficient, especially while traveling. Thanks to the improvements in hardware, the Surface 2 can offer up a 1080p cleartype HD touchscreen display, which is actually the same screen offered on the Surface Pro 2.
The Surface 2 offers Windows RT 8.1, which can offer up a three-way split screen that even includes games, as well as a new GPU with 72 cores, up from the original 12. Further hardware benefits allow the device to not only run three to four times faster than its predecessor, but at the same time offer up a 25 percent improvement in battery life. Even the camera has been improved, giving the front-facing camera options to adjust performance according to light levels in the room, making it a huge benefit in Skype chatting.
The Surface 2 Pro, meanwhile, ups the ante still further. Microsoft actually notes that the Surface Pro 2 is faster than fully 95 percent of all laptops currently available, and that the Surface Pro 2 boosts graphics performance by 50 percent and overall performance by 20 percent. It has the same kickstand and display that the Surface 2 does, but the Surface Pro steps things up further by putting extra juice into the battery life. A common complaint among Surface Pro users, at last report, was that the battery didn't stack up the way many thought it should have. But with the Surface Pro 2, thanks to a new Haswell architecture, the battery life is improved nearly double, getting 75 percent improvement over the previous version. Even the keyboard cover got a revamp in the “Power Cover,” which can actually charge the Surface Pro 2 while in use, improving that battery life still further to a total of 2.5 times the original.
It's hard not to hand it to Microsoft on this one. That's a lot of improvements going into a product line that really isn't that old and hasn't brought out a lot of issues to begin with. But Microsoft is still facing much the same problem that it was in the beginning: entrenched competition. People already know what an iPad experience is like, regardless of the suffixes attached to same. People already know what the Android experience is like, again regardless of suffixes or even prefixes. But Microsoft needs to show its users how the Surface experience is not only different, but also better. The bring your own device (BYOD) movement is fueling a lot of possibility as far as this goes, but Microsoft needs to really show its overall prowess to break users out of established patterns.
Microsoft's commitment to improvement is impressive, but in order to get users away from hardware that's been standard for years, Microsoft doesn't need to just commit to improvement, but show where it improves on the competition as well.
Edited by Alisen Downey