Microsoft has unveiled the next model of their Surface Pro tablet, but we'll forgive you if you think it looks like they haven't changed anything. On the exterior, there's little altered in the Pro as it enters its second generation, with Microsoft sticking to an "if it ain't broke..." mantra for product design. It's the same VaporMg magnesium build, the same dimensions, and the same 1080p, 10.6" ClearType screen -- and yes, the stylus and digitizer are still here.
Inside, however, Microsoft has tweaked and honed the Pro 2 bringing it in line not only with other Windows 8 tablets, but many Windows 8 laptops, too. Starting with that 1080p screen, it's been altered to display 50 percent greater color accuracy, which should be a boon to artists and creative types who relish the Pro's stylus. Powering everything is the latest Intel Haswell CPUs, specifically a Core i5, which is paired to either 4 or 8GB of RAM depending on how much storage you opt for -- 64 and 128GB of space will net you 4GB of RAM, while 256 and 512GB of SSD room will grant you access to all 8GB of RAM. Haswell brings with it gains in speed and graphics power compared with last year's Pro, and also something that will appease those annoyed by the first generation's lacklustre battery life -- the Pro 2 promises a 75 percent boost in the time it take to drain a charge, aided both by the Haswell CPU and the new, optimized Windows 8.1, which the Pro 2 launches with.
Also on board are improved speakers -- another mediocre feature on the original Pro -- which should be a perfect companion to another inclusion. The kickstand, which was a standout feature on the original Surface, was often maligned for its lack of adjustability. Microsoft have fixed this, by giving the kickstand two positions -- the original, 22-degrees angle for desk use, and a new, lower angle which Microsoft claim aids in "lappability" -- their word, not ours -- making the Surface much more versatile in different situations.
Around the sides of the Pro 2, it's a familiar set-up, with SD support, a USB 3.0 slot and a Mini DisplayPort for outputting video. Microsoft, backing up their claims that the Pro 2 is a laptop-replacement tablet, state it's capable of outputting 3840x2160 video, and can process raw 6K data. Panos Panay, VP of Surface, said on stage that they envisaged movie professionals taking the Surface on to set and editing video without leaving the set or carrying a laptop around -- and demonstrated this by plugging in a Red Monster camera, before scrolling through and editing footage without fuss.
Pre-orders for the Pro 2 start tomorrow, September 24, at 8 a.m. EST, with shipments expected to begin on October 22 in 21 markets around the world. For the base 64GB model with 4GB of RAM, pricing starts at $899, with that price expected to rise dramatically with greater storage/RAM configurations.