Finally! Microsoft's second generation Pro tablet is here, the Surface Pro 2. Why are we excited? There was much we loved about Redmond's diminutive powerhouse, but battery life was abysmal, making it a less than ideal 10.6" partner on the go. The second generation Microsoft Surface Pro 2 has much better battery life thanks to the fourth generation Intel Haswell Core i5-4200U. Haswell sips power rather than guzzles, and the result is nearly doubled battery life that's averaged 6 hours for us without draconian power savings.
For those of you who are still understandably confused by the Surface lineup, the Surface Pro 2 runs full Windows 8.1 Pro 64 bit and it can handle anything that a contemporary Ultrabook can do. You can install Photoshop CS or CC, Skyrim and USB drivers meant for Windows. The 1.6GHz Core i5 dual core CPU with Turbo Boost means Surface Pro 2 is a powerful laptop, though it happens to look like a tablet. The Pro 2 is available with 4 or 8 gigs of dual channel DDR3 RAM, and your choice of 64, 128, 256 and 512 gig mSATA SSD drives. The price starts at $899, and the keyboard is still an optional accessory.
Design-wise nothing has changed, and that's fine by us because the first gen Surface Pro was a unique and cool looking piece of hardware. The VaporMg metal casing, angled sides and integrated kickstand are here. The kickstand now has two positions, one good for desks and the other for laps and low tables. The fan is quieter and runs less often. Microsoft released the Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2 with improvements as well: both are backlit and easier to type on, particularly the Touch Cover 2 (the original Touch Cover sometime tried our patience). Windows 8.1 is pre-loaded with several improvements, including better handling of display scaling.
What's the same? It still weighs 2 pounds and is 0.53" thick. The display is still full HD 1920 x 1080, and that suits us fine since 10.6" is too small for higher resolutions in desktop mode. Microsoft claims the display has a much wider color gamut, though in our tests, we wouldn't call it a huge difference. That said, it's a lovely display and it still comes with the Wacom digitizer and pen that's perfect for taking notes and doing art. You still get one USB 3.0 port, a mini DisplayPort, stereo speakers and a 3.5mm combo audio jack. The battery remains 42 Wh, and it's sealed inside.
Here's our Microsoft Surface Pro 2 video review. Our full written review will follow.