Microsoft brings longer battery life, faster processors to Surface

The battery life of Surface Pro 2 has been boosted "so it lasts nearly a full workday"

Microsoft hasunveiled Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, the first major overhaul of its tablet/laptop lineup that now feature longer battery life and faster performance, both attractions for corporate customers.

The battery life of Surface Pro 2 has been boosted "so it lasts nearly a full workday" says Panos Panay, Microsoft vice president of Surface in the Surface blog. This is by virtue of a newer generation Intel Core i5 processor that improves battery life by 60%.

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Augmented by Power Cover ($199.99) cordless use "lasts more than 10 hours," he says. Power Cover is an accessory cover/keyboard that contains an extended battery that charges while the device is working or when it's connected and the computer is turned off.

A second accessory makes the device suitable for business deployment within a corporate site. Docking Station ($199.99) for Surface Pro includes Mini DisplayPort video output so the docked Surface Pro can use an external monitor. It also has an Ethernet port so it can connect to a wired LAN, as well as three USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port and 3.5mm audio in and out ports.

Surface Pro 2 runs the full version of Windows 8.1 that can handle both traditional Windows business apps and so-called Modern apps customized for touch and enabled by the Windows Runtime API surface.

The Surface Pro 2 has a two-position kickstand, making the angle at which it supports the screen more suitable for using it as a laptop on an actual lap. The original Surface Pro kickstand propped up the device at just one position that wasn't better adjusted sitting on a desk.

Surface 2 is the upgraded version of Surface RT, the tablet based on an ARM processor and tricked out with its own, abbreviated version of Office. The most significant upgrade for businesses is the addition of Outlook RT, a version of the email, calendar and personal information manager application that comes with the full Office suite.

He claims Surface 2 is much faster than Surface RT and includes 72 graphics cores, a USB 3.0 port (up from USB 2) and double the Internet speed. The processor has been upgraded from an NVIDIA Tegra 3 to a Tegra 4, which boosts speed and prolongs battery life, Microsoft says.

It comes in a color other than black a metallic hue that is the natural color of the magnesium it is made of.

The device is also "slightly thinner and lighter", though the blog doesn't quantify that. It has a 3.5 megapixel front-facing camera, up from 1 megapixel in the Surface RT, and a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, up from 1 megapixel. They've been tuned for low-light environments to improve the quality of video calling.

Both devices come with free Skype calling to landlines in 60 countries for one year and free Skype Wi-Fi services for one year at 2 million hotspots. They come with 200GB of free storage in SkyDrive for two years.

Both devices come with their respective upgraded versions Windows 8 Windows RT 8.1 and Windows Pro 8.1.

The blog says the Touch keyboard/cover ($119.99) is more responsive and more rigid than the original. Touch is a flat, fuzzy device with a keyboard embossed on it that responds to finger tapping but the key areas don't actually move. It's been upgraded with backlit keys. It's 2.75 mm thick, down from 3.25 mm.

Type Cover ($129.99) which is a thin traditional keyboard in which each key depresses and clicks when tapped has been modified to click more quietly and is more rigid than the original. The keys are backlit and has proximity sensors so the lights turn on as fingers approach the keyboard. Formerly it came only in black, but now it comes in three other colors, cyan, magenta and purple.

Other accessories include a car charger ($49.99), a Bluetooth mouse (69.99) and a wireless adapter ($59.99) for the Typing Covers so they don't have to be attached to the tablets themselves.

Surface 2 comes in 32GB and 64GB models, and pricing starts at $499.

Surface Pro 2 comes in 64GB and 128GB models with 4GB of RAM and in a 256GB model with 8G of RAM. Pricing starts at $899.

Both Surface devices will be available for pre-order Sept. 24 online, Microsoft Stores and Best Buy. They can be bought Oct. 22, in Microsoft Stores, and select retail stores in 22 markets Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States on Oct. 22 and China (early November).

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.

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