Microsoft Surface 2: Faster Performance, Better Battery Life, More Apps

Microsoft is hoping for better luck with its Surface 2 tablets, which sport an Intel Haswell processor, offer better battery life and support a bevy of new accessories including a docking station for business users. at its launch event in New York City Monday, Microsoft hammered home the point that it has learned some hard lessons from its original Surface launch.

Both Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets go on sale Oct. 22. There is no word, yet, in whether Microsoft has changed its channel strategy, which now only permits a select few of its largest channel partners to resell the tablets into the enterprise.

Both new Surface 2 tablets retain the 10.6-inch Windows tablet form factor as well as roughly the same size and weight.

The Surface Pro 2 is priced at $900 and is powered by an Intel Haswell Core i5 processor, boosting performance by 20 percent and beefing up graphics performance by 50 percent. Microsoft also addressed inferior battery life issues with its first-generation Surface Pro, increasing the Surface Pro's runtime by 60 percent, according to the Redmond, Wash., company.

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The Surface Pro 2 will be offered in 64-GB and 128-GB configurations with 4 GB of RAM and 256-GB and 512-GB configurations with 8 GB of RAM.

"The Surface Pro 2 is literally faster than 95 percent of laptops today," Panos Panay, Microsoft vice president of Surface, told attendees at the Surface 2 launch event.

The $450 Surface 2 tablet, meanwhile, features an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor that Microsoft said increases battery life to up to 10 hours for video playback. The Surface 2 also gets a camera upgrade from the previous model, with a 3.5-megapixel front camera and 5-megapixel rear camera. Surface 2 will ship with Windows RT 8.1, bringing improvements such as new multitasking capabilities and the addition of a full version of Microsoft's Outlook email client, the company said.

Microsoft's Surface 2 also attempts to quell critics who took issue with the original Surface kickstand. Along with upgrades to the hardware and software, Microsoft updated the Surface kickstand with dual angles that improve the tablet's "lapability," Panay said. Microsoft also addressed the number of apps available for the tablet.

"Last year we launched this product with 10,000 apps. This year I stand up in front of you and there's 100,000 apps in the Windows Store right now. That's critical," Panay said.

NEXT: Accessories Give Surface 2 Models Increased Functionality

Part of Microsoft's Surface 2 strategy to add portability and flexibility to the tablet included updating existing accessories and adding new ones.

Microsoft showed off a docking station with one USB 3.0 port and three USB 2.0 ports, a Mini DisplayPort, Ethernet, audio in, audio out and support for an external display up to 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. The docking station has a price tag of $200 and will ship in 2014.

The Surface Pro 2 also supports a new Type Cover 2 ($130) that features a backlit keyboard and a silent typing experience. Also new is a Power Cover ($60) that features a keyboard along with the ability to extend the Surface 2's battery by up to 50 percent, Microsoft said.

Microsoft also introduced a Wireless Adapter for typing covers ($60) that lets users type from anywhere in a room using Bluetooth technology. Microsoft said this feature is handy for people that want to connect their Surface to a TV and control it from a couch.

Microsoft said the new Surface models will be available at Microsoft retail stores, and select third-party retailers in the U.S. and 21 initial markets on Oct. 22 and China in early November.