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Everything you need to know about Microsoft’s new Surface tablets

As expected, Microsoft has announced two new Surface tablets. Both are sequels to last year’s models, with several improvements both inside and outside the tablets.

The Surface 2: Harder, better, faster, stronger… but still running Windows RT

First up is the Surface 2. It still runs Windows RT, but Microsoft has bumped Windows up to 8.1. That brings many (many!) benefits along for the ride, such as improved multitasking and better DPI scaling.

And that last feature should certainly help with the new high-resolution display. Last year’s Surface RT included a 1366×768 display – the new Surface includes a 1920×1080 panel instead. Internal specs have seen an upgrade as well, with the Surface 2 including Nvidia’s Tegra 4 SoC and promising up to 10 hours of battery life. Microsoft has upgraded the lone USB port to 3.0 too, so file transfers should generally be speedier.

The cameras on the tablet are also better. The rear camera has seen a jump to 5-megapixels, while the front-facing camera has been bumped to 3.5-megapixels. Microsoft has specifically focused on low-light performance, which should help to alleviate dark and noisy Skype calls with family and friends. And the kickstand now locks into two different positions instead of one, so it shouldn’t be nearly as frustrating to find just the right angle.

Despite all the hardware upgrades, the Surface 2 manages to be thinner and lighter than the original Surface. Microsoft didn’t give exact measurements, but you can tell that the company has managed to shave off a few millimeters just from looking at the pictures.

The Surface Pro 2: A nice battery boost, plus an improved display

The Surface Pro has seen an upgrade too. Just as rumours suggested, the Surface Pro 2 includes Intel’s new Haswell processor, leading to big battery savings. Microsoft says that the second iteration of the x86 tablet should last up to 75% longer than the original. Overall performance has seen a 20% boost, according to the company, with graphics performance in particular seeing a 50% increase. The display resolution remains unchanged at 1080p, but Microsoft claims that colours on the new edition are 46% more accurate.

Accessories, accessories, accessories

The big push, though, seems to be accessories. Microsoft recognizes that its various covers for the Surface tablets are a key selling point, and has responded accordingly. The refreshed Type and Touch Covers are both one millimeter thinner, and are now both backlit. The Touch Cover is more accurate too: Microsoft has equipped the second version with over 1,000 sensors compared to the original’s 80.

There’s also a new Power Cover. Microsoft says that the Power Cover includes the same keyboard as the Type Cover, as well as an integrated battery that apparently boosts battery life by up to 50%. The company hasn’t ignored those often travelling between different desks either: a Docking Station for the Surface Pro adds even more ports to the tablet, as well as monitor and Ethernet lifelines.

How much does everything cost?

The Surface 2 will thankfully come in a lower price point than the original Surface. Microsoft says that the 32GB model will run £359 here in the UK – there’ll be a 64GB model too. The Surface Pro 2, meanwhile, will start at £719 for the 64GB model with 4GB of RAM. Other options will include a 128GB model with 4GB of RAM, and 256GB and 512GB editions with 8GB of RAM. Exact pricing wasn’t given for those three versions, however.

The new Touch and Type covers will cost £100 and £110 respectively. The Docking Station for the Surface Pro will be significantly more expensive at £165, and won’t be released until “early 2014”.

Microsoft will open pre-orders for the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tomorrow. The company says that both tablets will be officially released on October 22nd.

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