Sep 23, 2013 (12:09 PM EDT)
Microsoft Surface Tablet Details, Examined

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Tablet Buying Demystified: 10 Tips
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Tablet Buying Demystified: 10 Tips
Microsoft announced second-generation Surface tablets Monday at an event in New York.

The Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 replace the Surface RT and Surface Pro, respectively, and look almost identical to their predecessors, aside from a new color for the Surface 2. But both devices offer substantial improvements, mostly under the hood.

Microsoft VP Panos Panay, who presided over the event, said the Surface Pro 2 uses Intel's i5 "Haswell" processor. He said the chip means the Surface Pro 2 runs 75% longer between charges than the current model, whose battery life has been one of its most criticized features. The improvement should translate to between seven and eight hours of battery life.

[ Trying to integrate tablets into your workforce? Read The Good And Bad Of Tablets At Work. ]

He also said the Surface Pro 2 boasts 50% better graphics processing, an improvement that presumably comes courtesy of Haswell. The device's screen maintains the old model's 1080p resolution but should render colors 46% more accurately, Panay stated.

The device will come in 64-GB and 128-GB configurations, each with 4 GB of RAM, for $899 and $999, respectively, and 256-GB and 512-GB configurations with 8 GB of RAM for $1,299 and $1,799.

Surface 2

Panay said the Surface Pro 2 is faster than 95% of laptops on the market, and he repeatedly asserted that it is the best mobile option for professionals.

"It's one of the best products Microsoft has ever built," he said.

The Surface 2 drops its forebear's "RT" branding but still runs Windows RT, unlike the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2, both of which run the full version of Windows 8, with support for both Modern UI touch apps as well as legacy desktop apps. Panay touted Windows RT 8.1's benefits over not only the earlier version but also other tablets. Those benefits include support for Microsoft Office -- including Outlook, a new addition -- and mutli-tasking capabilities.

The device runs on Nvidia's Tegra 4 processor, which makes it noticeably faster than its ancestor, and competitive with many tablets in its class. It uses the same 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display as the Surface Pro, switches out its USB 2 port for USB 3, and includes a 3.5-megapixel front-facing camera whose sensor is designed to keep Skype chats looking good in poor lighting. It also includes a 5-MP rear camera.

The Surface Pro 2 will come in black, like the original, whereas the Surface 2 includes both a black version as well as an attractive "magnesium" option.