Microsoft Surface Pro 2 gets sneaky CPU upgrade
January 3, 2014 // 10:31 a.m.
Microsoft has quietly revised the hardware inside its Surface Pro 2 tablet, replacing the processor with one that offers a significant speed boost along with features that could interest enterprise users especially.
Designed to replace 2012's Surface Pro, the Surface Pro 2 is largely an internal revision. Aside from an improved kickstand and minor casing changes, the biggest difference between the two models is in hardware makeup: the original's Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz 17W processor is replaced with a next-generation Core i5-4200U 1.6GHz 15W chip. As well as offering improved performance despite a lower clockspeed, the chip helped dramatically improve the battery life of the tablet - a major criticism against its predecessor.
Now, Microsoft has changed processors yet again - but without the fanfare of the Surface Pro 2 launch. Models received as warranty replacements and purchase new in the US in the last few days have turned out to feature a Core i5-4300U in place of the expected Core i5-4200U. While still a 15W part, the higher-end chip boasts a boosted clockspeed of 1.9GHz and a slightly faster Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated graphics processor (IGP) at 1.1GHz to 1GHz.
The change isn't just about boosting performance, however: the i5-4300U includes numerous enterprise-grade features missing from its lower-end equivalent, in particular support for transactional memory operations in the form of the Haswell-specific Intel TSX-NI instruction set extensions. The processor also includes support for the vPro and Intel Trusted Execution Technology security features, again missing from its predecessor, along with the Intel Virtualisation Technology for Direct IO (VT-d) support originally lost in the shift to the Core i5-4200U.
The new processor, in other words, is a considerably more capable beast and includes features that enterprise users - Microsoft's primary target market for the Surface Pro line, in case its moniker wasn't clue enough - will find of particular interest. Quite why the company has made the switch without fanfare, then, is not clear - although once stock of the Core i5-4200U models is depleted, we wouldn't be surprised to see an official announcement of the change being made by the company.
For now, there appears to be no guaranteed way to ensure that a given Surface Pro 2 will include the upgraded processor - beyond hassling suppliers for confirmation that their stock does indeed come from the very newest batches.