Yesterday, we got some hands-on time with Microsoft's next Surface model; the imaginatively titled Surface 2. While still based on the Windows RT operating system, Microsoft has added a stack of new tech under the hood in a bid to satisfy non-casual users. The result is a versatile tablet/laptop hybrid that genuinely fulfills both criteria. Here are five improvements that arguably make the Suface 2 a worthy laptop replacement.
Not to be confused with the Surface 2 Pro, the Surface 2 is an entry-level model that's set to replace the existing Surface RT. Despite the moniker change, it still runs on the Windows RT OS which has been upgraded to version 8.1. This will prompt many to steer clear, but here are a few reasons why the Surface 2 is worth keeping an eye on. Indeed, we think it could potentially serve as a secondary laptop replacement.
#1 Beefier Performance
Okay, so it's still a Windows RT machine which may be too much of a compromise for some, but there's no denying that the Surface 2 is a vastly more powerful system. The chipset has neen upgraded to a Tegra 4 processor clocked at 1.7GHz which translates to better multitasking, more sophisticated games and a far zippier performance overall. The extra grunt has also allowed Microsoft to implement a Full HD 1080p display (the previous entry-level Surface was forced to make do with a native resolution of 1366x768 pixels).
Multitasking and screen customisation feels a lot more fluid this time around; in our brief play-through we never felt like we were waiting for the Surface to catch up which isn't something that can be said about the original RT version. We also got to see a 3D racing game in action that was reminiscent of Wipeout -- the graphics were highly impressive with dynamically shifting reflection and water effects adding to the sense of realism. While unlikely to wow PC gaming enthusiasts, the demo was easily up there with current-gen consoles; not bad for a sub-$600 tablet.
#2 Smarter Design
One of the criticisms thrown at the previous Surface range was that the inbuilt kickstand wasn't particularly user-friendly. While it was fine for resting the tablet on your desk, trying to balance it on your lap was a trickier proposition; especially with a touch cover in tow. The Surface 2 neatly solves this issue with two adjustable angles. This makes it much easier to adjust the device to suit your position.
In addition, the assorted snap-on accessories (which we'll get to in a moment) are a better and more robust fit which is a huge boon when using the device in laptop mode.
#3 Better apps and software
When the original Surface RT made its debut there were a piddly 10,000 apps in the marketplace. This has since exploded to more than 100,000. While it's still lagging far behind Android and iOS, there are plenty of quality applications to choose from including most (though not all) of the essentials.
Crucially, Microsoft has also included the full Office 2013 suite this time around which makes the Surface 2 a far more alluring productivity tool, especially with Outlook 2013 onboard.
#4 Improved Battery Life
If Microsoft is to be believed, the Surface 2 boasts a 25 percent larger battery compared to its predecessor, which should translate to around 10 hours battery life. This is comparable to single-purpose tablets that have far less grunt under the hood.
In addition, the revamped Touch and Type Covers (pictured) have been enhanced with 30 watt-hour battery underneath the keys for a significant boost in battery life.
#5 Intriguing accessories
Despite its "use less" mantra, the Surface 2 will be offering an eclectic range of snap-on accessories that go far beyond the obligatory keyboard (although these have also been improved via 1000 sensors instead of one per key). We were given a hands-on demonstration of a new DJ cover, which turns the Surface into a music creation hub complete with a soft MIDI controller deck.
We also checked out a desktop stand (pictured at the top of the article) that essentially transforms the Surface into an all-in-one. Other promising accessories that we glimpsed in a video included a foldout piano keyboard and various motion-based gaming peripherals. While a lot of this stuff is bound to be hit-and-miss, it's great to see some first-party innovation.
The Surface 2 will come in 32GB and 64GB variants which will cost $529 and $639 respectively.