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Microsoft pumps up Surface tablets with faster chips, longer battery life

Mark Hachman | Sept. 24, 2013
Microsoft announced its next-generation Surface 2 tablet at an event in New York City and promised improvements in both power and battery life.

The latest Type Cover is one millimeter thinner the overall model, but with a better key switch that makes Type Cover 2 almost as thin as the original Touch Cover.  And it's silent, he said. Even better, it features a backlit keyboard that automatically dims after about six seconds--then relights when the user uses it again.

Panay also launched Touch Cover 2, a 2.5 mm-thick cover that is a millimeter thinner than previous generations, and is also backlit. The number of sensors inside the Touch Cover has been beefed up from 80 sensors to 1092, to improve the feel of the device.

"What does that mean? It means you can't miss a key," Panay said. Users can even do gestures on top of the new Touch Cover.

Finally, there's the Surface Remix Project, a cover specifically designed for DJs. The cover is also pressure-sensitive and lets you use your tablet like a drum kit.

Surface 2 not forgotten
But what about the Windows RT-powered Surface 2? Microsoft also redesigned it. "It's not the changes that everyone wanted, but it has the change that people need," Panay said.

surface 2
Microsoft's Surface 2

"It's the fastest product that I've used relative to a personal tablet," Panay said. The CPU speed has increased "dramatically," and Microsoft doubled the speed of the Wi-Fi as well as the speed of the memory. Microsoft even added a Surface logo to the back of it.

The Surface Pro 2 and the Surface 2 share the same screen. Battery life has increased to 12 hours, 25 percent better than the original Surface, Panay said. But Microsoft also made the Surface 2 lighter and thinner. An HDMI output allows users to throw games on the large display. "I'll tell you how it's even sexier, because it is," he said.

Part of the sexiness, Panay said, derives from Windows 8.1, the new version of the Windows OS. Panay said that the number of apps have increased in the Windows Store, to more than 100,000. And the most powerful app is Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

Users will receive free international calling with Skype and access to Skype hotspots free for a year. Additionally, Microsoft put a third sensor in the front of the tablet to improve the look of Skype callers. The sensor will filter additional light through the product to "light" the maker of the Skype call.

Panay also highlighted the power of Microsoft's services, including SkyDrive, which Microsoft will beef up: Surface buyers will receive a free, additional 200GB of SkyDrive for two years.

Will the Surface 2 be the saving grace of Microsoft's hardware aspirations? Panay hopes so. "Go get it," he said of the new Surface 2 devices. "It's a beast."


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