Microsoft just announced the long awaited successors to its Surface RT and Surface Pro devices at a press event in NYC. We were fans of the original Surface devices, however neither was quite perfect. It'll be a short while before we can actually review these things (they ship on October 22nd), but on paper we can already get a good indication of what Microsoft has done to both lines.

Surface 2

 

Surface RT is succeeded (not replaced) by Surface 2. The previous generation Surface RT model will remain on sale for $349, putting it at a very compelling price point in the 10-inch tablet market - especially considering that it comes with a full version of Office. The new Surface 2 takes its place at $449 and features a long list of upgrades. The display is now full 1080p with improved color accuracy compared to the outgoing model. Microsoft spent a lot of time last year talking about how it's 1366 x 768 panel was better than most thanks to its optically bonded display, but it's good to see a shift towards a higher resolution panel. The focus on improving color accuracy is important as well. In our original review of Surface RT I found its display to be ok, but hardly accurate. Given that both Apple and Google are now shipping relatively well calibrated tablet displays, it's key that Microsoft does the same. The only downside is it looks like the new display isn't full sRGB but rather a smaller gamut.

Internally Tegra 3 is out and replaced by Tegra 4. Just like last time, Tegra 4's 5th shadow core isn't exposed or used under Windows RT 8.1. Update: NVIDIA tells us the shadow core is enabled (contrary to what we originally heard from MS at the event), although it won't tell us how it's used. I know I was personally expecting a Snapdragon 800 based device, but those initial rumors also pointed to the Qualcomm based Surface tablet being smaller than 10.6-inches as well so it's entirely possible that we'll see Qualcomm show up at a later point. The move to Tegra 4 comes with four ARM Cortex A15 cores and a much better GPU. The combination of the two should deliver a much better experience on Surface 2 than with Surface RT. The latter was simply too slow, but I'm expecting big things from the Tegra 4 upgrade. Although I completely understand why Microsoft is interested in going with an ARM partner for Surface 2, I do wonder if it might've been a better idea from a power efficiency standpoint to use Intel's Bay Trail instead. Note that with Surface 2 Microsoft drops the RT from the device's name. We'll see what happens with Cherry Trail next year.

Microsoft Surface 2/RT Comparison
  Surface 2 Surface RT Apple iPad 4
Dimensions 10.81 x 6.79 x 0.35" 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37" 9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37"
Display 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080 w/ Improved Color Accuracy 10.6-inch 1366 x 768 PLS 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 IPS
Weight Less than 1.49 lbs 1.5 lbs 1.44 lbs
Processor NVIDIA Tegra 4 1.7GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3

Apple A6X

Connectivity 802.11n WiFi 802.11n WiFi WiFi , Optional 4G LTE
Memory 2GB 2GB 1GB
Storage 32GB or 64GB eMMC 32GB or 64GB 16GB—128GB
Battery ? 31.5 Wh 42.5Wh
Starting Price $449 $349 $499

Surface 2 retains the full sized USB port and microSD card slots on the device itself, although the former gets upgraded to USB 3.0. Internal storage options remain at 32GB or 64GB eMMC. Both front and rear facing cameras are improved over the original design as well.

The design of Surface 2 improves over its predecessor. Surface 2 is slightly thinner than its predecessor and is a little lighter as well. The device now features a silver colored VaporMg finish and a 2-stage kickstand. Although I loved the idea of the kickstand with the original Surface devices, I felt that it was often not at the right angle for me to use on anything other than a table. Surface 2's 2-stage kickstand should allow for some flexibility, although I'm curious to see how this works in practice and if there are any sacrifices to the overall stability of the stand.

Surface 2 will ship with Office 2013 RT including Outlook RT and come with 200GB of free Sky Drive storage for 2 years. The entire package starts at $449, but once again does not include a touch or type cover. The 64GB Surface 2 will sell for $100 more at $549.

Surface Pro 2

 

Surface Pro 2 sees a similar set of upgrades. It gets an updated display (the original Surface Pro was already 1080p) with better color accuracy. USB 3.0 support existed on the previous model as well. The big upgrade here is to a Haswell based Core i5-4200U. That's a 15W Haswell part (similar to what you'd find in an Ultrabook) but with Intel's HD 4400 graphics and not HD 5000. The move to 15W Haswell means there's no real reduction in device thickness with Surface Pro 2. This continues to be an interesting design decision on Microsoft's part. While I'd personally advocate for a lower wattage Y-series SKU, it could be that Microsoft feels the added performance of a full Ultrabook Haswell ULT SKU is necessary for Surface Pro's target market. Either way the move to Haswell should come with significant improvements in battery life (Microsoft claims a 75% improvement for Surface Pro 2, and 25% for Surface 2). 

Microsoft Surface Pro Comparison
  Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro Apple iPad 4
Dimensions 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53" 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53" 9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37"
Display 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080 w/ Improved Color Accuracy 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080 PLS 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 IPS
Weight 2.0 lbs 2.0 lbs 1.44 lbs
Processor Core i5-4200U with HD4400 Graphics (15W Haswell ULT)

Core i5-3317U with HD4000 Graphics (17W Ivy Bridge)

Apple A6X

Connectivity WiFi WiFi WiFi , Optional 4G LTE
Memory 4GB or 8GB LPDDR3 4GB 1GB
Storage 64 or 128GB (4GB RAM)
256GB or 512GB (8GB RAM)
64GB or 128GB 16GB—128GB
Battery 42.0 Wh 42.0 Wh 42.5Wh
Starting Price $899 $899 $499

Surface Pro 2 starts at $899 and now comes in four different configurations You can get Surface Pro 2 with a 64GB ($899) or 128GB SSD ($999) and 4GB of RAM, or if you want 8GB of RAM there are 256GB ($1299) and 512GB ($1799) versions as well. Surface Pro 2 retains the old front and rear cameras.

Interestingly enough, the internal shots of the Surface Pro 2 feature a SKhynix mSATA SSD. I wonder if it's using a Link_A_Media controller:

As you can see in the gallery below, the PCB for Surface Pro 2 is absolutely huge. I'm really curious to see why Microsoft went this route vs. trying to fill the device's volume with a battery like most of the other tablet makers. I know in the past Microsoft was very big on weight distribution vs. lower overall weight, but I do wonder if a lighter Surface Pro 2 might've made sense here.

A big part of the Surface story is of course the detachable keyboard covers. This generation both type and touch covers see upgrades. They are both thinner and lighter, and both are now backlit as well. The new touch cover features 1092 sensors (up from only 80 in touch cover 1), which should improve response and accuracy. If you remember back to our original Surface reviews, touch cover accuracy was one of my biggest complaints. It was better than typing on a screen, but not as good as a real keyboard. I'm wondering if the new design helps here at all.

The type cover sees a 1mm reduction in key travel, which helps reduce thickness of the cover itself (although potentially at the expense of typing feel). You can also now get the type cover in four different colors as well (purple, pink, blue and black), instead of just black like the original design.

Other accessories include a new power cover with integrated battery, a docking station, and a music kit that replaces the traditional keyboard with something optimized for music playback/remixing. 

Both Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 will be available for pre-order starting tomorrow, with devices available on October 22nd. 

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  • vishal_ec - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    microsoft is the one with the markup here. there is a price difference of 100% between surface 2 and surface pro 2, while almost all components are same except for slightly larger battery and intel processor. i can't imagine (haswell + slightly larger battery, memory) costing MS 450$ more. i understand intel charging premium for haswell, the processor being leader in its class, but i can hardly say that for surface!
    Microsoft could have priced surface pro2 at 200-250 above surface 2, because that's what i think is the cost difference in BOM and they could have sold tons more than what they'll now sell.
    A device with Y series haswell could've also brought desktop performance in tablet formfactor and tablet weight, and would have been a hit, but would definitely have cannibalized surface 2's sales.
    the dock is definitely a welcome feature and makes surface pro 2 even more appealing to enterprise now.
    Reply
  • vishal_ec - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    Also, what i believe, MS needs at the moment is market share first and the profits would follow Reply
  • Borkmier - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    The i5-4200U, sells for $287.00 from Intel, and the chipset is probably around $15-20.00. The additional RAM given it's LPDDR3 is probably somewhere from $15-25.00. The increased size of the battery is good for $5-10.00. Moving from 64GB of eMMC storage to a full blown SSD is gonna increase the price by at least $10.00. An active compact heatpiped cooling system is easily another $15.00. Lastly there's all the other small differences under the hood caused by moving from an ARM based system to an x86 one probably somewhere from $25-45.00. A $450.00 price difference is totally justified. Reply
  • Dentons - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    Microsoft is not paying anything near retail for the Intel CPU. Intel wants this product to work. They want to kill RT. It would be surprising if Microsoft isn't receiving a massive discount on both the CPU and chipset.

    Regarding the other components, certainly they add cost, but in many cases Microsoft's costs will be just a small fraction of the prices you've estimated. Yes, the Pro has additional costs. It is very unlikley to cost double the price of the RT.

    The reason it's so expensive is very likely because of the Microsoft tax. They want to have a competitive mobile tablet but are reluctant to give up their full Windows 8 OS margins.

    They are also very aware that their existing Windows 8 licensees aren't the least bit happy to be competing with them. Microsoft is treading carefully so as to not release a product at a price that their licensees would be incapable of hitting.
    Reply
  • rituraj - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    Don't forget the digitizer. Reply
  • rituraj - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    Also history is witness, the bigger a company is... more is the price they charge for each single component. You certainly have noticed upgrading in any company website is far more costlier than buying the same form the market.. Reply
  • Nagorak - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    I don't know, I'd be pretty happy to be competing with MS on tablets. Their stuff is so overpriced that it's pretty damn easy to undercut them on price. Reply
  • vishal_ec - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    287(haswell) +45to65 (ram,chipset,battery,ssd) +(15)cooling+(35) x86overhead - (35) tegra4 - office 2013 cost.
    The cooling overhead could have been removed with Y series haswell.
    Please detail what is the x86 overhead you mentione over arm, seems highly unlikely to me that that overhead is as much as the price of Tegra 4!!!
    Above math comes out to way below 450.
    That said, i see how i hadn't counted the cooling costs and the x86 overhead you mentioned.
    also i didnt know that in today's SOC world there's an additional cost for chipset that arm counterparts dont see! I can see the 450 reduce to 350 at the very least!
    Reply
  • Borkmier - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    Just to clear up things from multiple posts, $287.00 for the CPU is the OEM cost for the part you have to buy at least 1000 CPU's to get that. Also, a consumer cannot but this CPU outside of a product as it is a BGA component that is soldered to the board so there is generally no lower price for it, Microsoft may get a slight discount on it over the OEM price, but it is probably less than 1%.

    Next, Haswell is not a complete SoC so it still has need of an external chipset to support a system, even bundled most Intel chipsets are about $15.00 for the cheapest compatible version. In fact, in the past the chipset for the original Atom Processor was more expensive than the CPU, if memory serves me.

    Now while there would be less need for active cooling with a Y series part, those CPU's are even more expensive, the OEM price per thousand is $304.00. The difference between the prices is about what the cooling for the less efficient part costs. While it is a lower power part and generates less heat, the downside is that you lose GPU and CPU speed out of it, which may have been a deal breaker for Microsoft.

    Now, because Haswell is not a complete SoC, it doesn't bundle in WiFi Radios, Bluetooth, and/or wireless Modems, so all of these things are extra and not included in the costs I estimated before. Tegra on the other hand does have at least some of these things, I'm not sure how much of it is integrated in the Tegra 4 SoC but it's all available from nVidia as a package for far less than the price of Intel's CPU. Also, I do not believe Intel provides for Sound either, so some kind of sound DSP is probably needed.

    Part of the overhead costs in any x86 based system are the complexity of the Mother Board. Most if not all modern x86 PCB's need to be multi-layered at least near the CPU and chipset, due to the large number of power and data connections needed for those parts. Now these things may be drastically reduced, depending on what features the tablet can do without, but Microsoft views Tablets as PC's without a keyboard, they always have. Given Microsoft's view, there is only so much they can afford to cut out before the tablet cannot provide PC-like functionality. Thus it is likely that the PCB is at least a bit more complex and expensive to manufacture than the competition.

    Also, to my knowledge, Haswell uses at least two different power planes, possibly three. While I believe Tegra uses only one, this means that the power circuitry on the Surface 2 Pro is going to need to be more robust to properly power everything, and thus more expensive.

    The last major issue between the two, is that with the exception of Atom, all Intel architectures, regardless of how low the TDP, are designed for performance over efficiency. While Intel may optimize to reduce power consumption, and may even devote more transistors in a given generation to make the chip more power efficient, they are really just underclocking a high performance design to make it fit into a lower power envelope. As a result of this, Haswell has some high performing features that a tablet doesn't need, like high speed buses, DDR3 support, Dual Channel Memory, 64 bit Memory Addressing and Registers, PCI Express, SATA3, USB3, and I'm sure there's more. Just having these features drives up costs, whether the product uses them or not, and Surface 2 Pro in it's best configuration, uses almost all these, but even in the lowest configuration it uses the same amount. However ARM systems don't use any of these things, maybe USB3, but it woudn't make sense with eMMC.

    Anyhow, I would guess that Microsoft is making maybe $100-150.00 per unit, which isn't out of line with what other manufacturer's make on their premium tablets and that's the ultimate point. The Surface 2 Pro is a premium product for a premium price. It was never meant to be a cheap product for the masses, it is a product whose purpose is to promote Microsoft's idea about what they believe a tablet should be at it's best, not it's cheapest. Whether or not it will cause a shift in the thinking of the market is unknown, but at least they are trying.
    Reply
  • Nagorak - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    They could have also made a version with a Baytrail Atom processor and the cost would not have to be much higher, if at all, then they are already charging for their gimped Surface (RT) 2. Reply

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