The initial generation of Microsoft's Surface tablet didn't sell so well, but that hasn't stopped Microsoft persisting with an updated Surface 2 design running Windows 8.1. The good news for Australians? Based on what we know so far, there won't be any 'Australia tax' added to the price.
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The Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro will launch on 22 October in 22 markets, including Australia and New Zealand. Online pre-orders will begin from 10pm tonight (24 September, Australian Eastern standard time). The Surface will also be sold through JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman, but there's no pre-order option there.
The Surface 2 will be priced from $529 (for a 32GB model), while the Surface 2 Pro will be $1019 for the 64GB model. In the US, those prices are $US449 and $US899 respectively.
Convert those to Australian dollars at the current exchange rate and you get $476 and $1079 respectively. Add 10 per cent for GST (the US pricing doesn't include tax) and you end up with $523.60 and $1186.90. At those prices, importing wouldn't make a lot of sense, especially given you'll need a different power adaptor for Australia.
Here are all the announced prices for Australia:
|Surface 2 32GB||$529|
|Surface 2 64GB||$639|
|Surface Pro 2 64GB + Surface pen||$1019|
|Surface Pro 2 128GB + Surface pen||$1129|
|Surface Pro 2 256GB + Surface pen||$1469|
|Surface Pro 2 512GB + Surface pen||$2039|
While the pricing break is welcome (and contrasts with the lack of discounts on the original Surface at the recent TechEd Australia event), whether the second generation of Surface can wean users way from iPads and Android tablets remains to be seen. As a frequent Surface user, the most welcome improvement is the addition of a dual-angle kickstand, which is said to make the tablet more usable on your lap. This is definitely a challenge with the original design, so I'll be keen to see what difference that makes.
The Surface 2 comes in 32GB and 64GB models, while the Surface 2 Pro will be offered in 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB designs. The Surface 2's cameras have been upgraded (3.5MP front and 5MP rear), it can now play 1080p video, and its USB ports have been upgraded to the faster USB 3.0 standard.
Microsoft is planning a wider range of accessories, including an upgraded Touch Cover ($139.99; the original Touch Cover is, for all practical purposes, unusable) and Type Cover ($149.99, a much better choice). An optional wireless adaptor lets you connect the keyboard via Bluetooth -- useful for when the Surface itself is connected to a TV. A new Power Cover keyboard also acts as an extended battery, but won't be available until 2014. That's also the current release date for a docking station for the Surface Pro ($229.99), which will included one USB 3.0 port and three USB 2.0 ports, and a car charger ($59.99).