Microsoft has officially unveiled its second-generation tablet products, Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro, while confirming that it is committed to the concept for at least another generation.
At an unveiling event in New York late last night, Microsoft formally unveiled the rumoured replacements for its Surface line of tablets - and it's an evolution, rather than a revolution. Available, as before, in full-fat Windows 8.1 and ARM-compatible Windows RT 8.1 flavours, the new tablets are available to pre-order now with formal availability scheduled for the 22nd of October.
Externally, the biggest change in the tablets' appearance comes courtesy of a silver magnesium body for the Surface 2, which features Nvidia's Tegra 4 quad-core processor and a claimed battery life of ten hours. The Surface Pro 2, meanwhile, uses a Haswell-based Intel Core i5 chip to run a full-fat Windows 8.1 installation, and while it doesn't get the eye-catching silver finish of its cheaper ARM-based equivalent it does boast an impressive 75 per cent boost to battery life - one of the biggest complaints levied against the original Surface Pro.
The Surface 2 includes a refined Full HD display, previously limited to the Surface Pro model, and a full-size USB 3.0 port. Both cameras have been upgraded, the front-facing unit to 3.5 megapixels and the rear-facing unit to five megapixels with both offering 1080p capture, and the overall size and wieght has been reduced. Microsoft has confirmed plans to launch 32GB and 64GB models, neither of which will include a cover as standard.
The Surface 2 Pro, billed by Microsoft as a 'true laptop replacement
,' will be available in 64GB and 128GB models with 4GB of RAM, or 256GB and 512GB models with 8GB of RAM.
Both models include a redesigned integrated kickstand, claimed to be more well-suited to use on your lap and now featuring two different positions, along with the option of either Touch Cover 2 or Type Cover 2 accessories - both of which, impressively, now include backlit keys.
Other accessories unveiled at the event include the Power Cover, which has a real laptop-style keyboard and integrated battery - take a bow, Asus Transformer family, for your clear inspiration here - and for the Surface 2 Pro a desktop docking station, which includes external monitor connectivity, wired Ethernet, integrated speakers, built-in PSU, one USB 3.0 port and three USB 2.0 ports. A somewhat stranger accessory is the Wireless Adapter for Typing Covers, which connects to any Touch Cover or Type Cover and turns it into a Bluetooth-connected keyboard - allowing you to work away from the main body of the tablet, should that be something you desire to do.
Previous Surface tablets have proved poor sellers for Microsoft, being blamed for a massive hole in the company's balance sheet thanks to a sudden price drop which resulted in a $900 million write-down. While it certainly seems to have listened to critics, the company is still going to have to work hard to convince the world as to the benefits of its Windows RT platform and of the logic in buying a Windows 8.1 tablet compared to a cheaper touch-enabled laptop.
Pricing for the Surface 2 starts at £359, while the Surface 2 Pro starts at £719. The Touch Cover 2 is priced at £99.99, the Type Cover 2 at £109.99. The dock and power cover, meanwhile, aren't due to arrive until early 2014 and do not yet have UK pricing set. More details are available on the official website