Microsoft Tablet Improvements only Scratch the Surface

by Matt Klassen on September 24, 2013

Yesterday Microsoft unveiled the second generation of its Windows-powered Surface tablet line, and while the external form factor remains the same, many changes to the platform can be found, appropriately enough, just below the surface. In fact, while the dimensions, styling, and user interface are all largely unchanged, the new Surface RT and Surface tablets both sport enhanced graphics, faster processors, larger storage capacity, and longer battery life.

Designed as a “full laptop in a tablet design,” the Surface certainly pushes the bar for what tablets can and should do, offering consumers a component hybrid device that is able to offer the mobility and accessibility of a tablet, with the processing power and functionality of a laptop.

But that said, if you were looking for a paradigm shifting rebuild from Microsoft—who admittedly had struggled to sell the first iteration of its tablet/laptop hybrid series—you no doubt came away from Monday’s unveiling a little disappointed, for while the Surface still serves as the benchmark for the Windows tablet ecosystem, its clear that the upgrades only scratch the surface when the biggest changes are to tertiary components and battery life, meaning there just isn’t that much to get excited about.

Leading up to this release event I had noted that Microsoft would certainly deliver a strong rebuild of its Surface series, simply for the fact that unlike Apple, Microsoft isn’t known for flashy release events that deliver incremental upgrades. Now that I’ve seen the Surface 2 RT and Surface 2 Pro, I may have to revisit my initial assessment of Microsoft, as while this latest iteration is a ‘modestly improved version’ of what came before, I have to agree with the CNET report that it’s hardly a ‘true 2.0 version of Microsoft’s flagship tablet.’

Briefly, as reported by CNET, “The RT version contains a Tegra 4 chip from Nvidia…It also features a full HD 1080p screen and runs three to four times faster than its predecessor. At the same time, battery life is 25 percent better than the first Surface.”

For its part, the Surface 2 Pro sports Intel’s newest fourth generation I-series processor, which offers the tablet a modest boost in performance with significant improvement to overall battery life. In fact, Microsoft noted the Pro 2 will offer 50 percent better graphics performance and 75 percent longer battery life. The Pro 2 will also run the Windows 8.1 OS; an enhanced version of the ubiquitous operating system that Microsoft says will contribute to improving battery life as well.

But again, while those things make the Surface 2 series a worthy tablet/laptop hybrid, they do little to really set the Surface apart from the crowd. This means that without any new features or any dramatic change to the device’s look or feel, the draw of the Surface once again comes from the device components. The company noted—at length I might add—that some of the notable upgrades to the Surface are the newly revamped Touch and Type covers, which are thinner, are backlit, and offer improved tactile feedback and that the Surface now features an adjustable kickstand.

So you’ll have to excuse me if it sounds like my initial excitement has turned to mild disappointment, because I find it hard to get really excited about backlit keyboards and improved kickstands. If Microsoft really wanted to jump to the head of the tablet class, what it needed to do was push the envelope, not just incrementally improve it.

Release date set for October 22nd.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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