Microsoft today announced the second generation of its Surface tablets, the Surface 2. Available starting October 22, the devices include full 1080p video, speedier processors, more memory, and increased battery life.

The Surface Pro 2 runs Windows 8.1, and comes in four models, starting with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage, with the top end offering 8 GB RAM and 512 GB storage. It tips the scales at about 2 lb. The Surface 2 runs Windows RT 8.1, and has up to 64 GB of storage, and 2 GB RAM. It weighs about 1.5lb. The Surface Pro 2 boasts a fourth generation Intel i5 processor, while the Surface 2 is driven by an NVIDIA Tegra 4.

Microsoft claims that the Surface Pro 2 is faster than 95 per cent of laptops currently on the market, and offers a 75 per cent improvement in battery life over its predecessor, thanks in part to the inclusion of the fourth generation Intel processor, code named Haswell. The company also added Dolby audio, and a second position for the kickstand to make device use more comfortable for taller users, and to make usage on the lap easier.

The Surface 2, running Widows RT 8.1, has been made thinner, lighter, and faster, and was given the same high-resolution screen as the Surface Pro 2. Microsoft claims up to 12 hours battery life, a 25 per cent improvement over the first generation Surface.

Brian Hall, general manager, Microsoft Surface, said that the two tablets serve different constituencies: The Surface is for the consumer who also wants to be productive, while the Pro is targeted at business people who need the productivity of a full PC, but also want the convenience of a tablet.

The Surface 2 comes with the full Microsoft Office suite, including Outlook, which was missing from the Windows RT 8 version. The free upgrade to Windows RT 8.1 that will also be available to users of original Surface tablets will also give them the additional program. The omission of Outlook from Windows RT 8 drew strong criticism from business users, who rely on the program for not only e-mail, but calendaring, task management and contact lists. Hall said that, with the addition of Outlook, he now is able to use a Surface as his main machine.

The company also launched several accessories, including improved Touch and Type keyboards that are more responsive and more rigid than the originals, making them better for laptop use. The new Type keyboard will be available in colour, like the Touch keyboard, as well as in the original black. Both keyboards now have backlighting that is powered from the tablet, and dims when the keyboard is not in use to save the battery.

A third keyboard, the Power Cover, contains a battery and charges the tablet even when it’s powered off. Another addition, the Surface Docking Station, adds USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet connector, and a mini Display Port connection. With it, users can drive two monitors at up to 3840 x 2160 resolution. The dock and Power Cover will be available early next year, while the new Touch and Type covers will ship at the same time as the Surface 2. They are available for pre-order now online, through Microsoft stores and at selected retailers.

The Surface 2 starts at $449 US, and the Surface Pro 2 starts at $899 US. Purchasers will receive one year of free Skype international calling and Wi-Fi hotspot access, as well as 200 GB of SkyDrive cloud storage for two years. The original Surface, running Windows RT, will remain on the market, listing for $349.

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