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Microsoft Surface Pro 2 hands on: Can it help Microsoft win over tablet fans?

Surface Pro 2, with Windows 8.1, better battery life and an adjustable kickstand, is Microsoft's second swing at coming up with a tablet to unseat iOS and Android devices in the enterprise.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Microsoft has unveiled updated versions of its Surface tablet PCs, which are central to its plans to claw back some of the market share the company has lost to .

The Surface Pro 2 is aimed at business users, while the Surface 2 (an update to the device previously known as the Surface RT) is aimed more at the consumer market. Both go on sale on Tuesday 22 October.

Above is the Surface Pro 2 with the clip-on 'Touch Cover' in black.

 

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2 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Although it was praised for its elegant design, the original for its weight, disappointing battery life and lack of an adjustable kickstand. And while the design and weight of the Surface Pro 2 remains the same, Microsoft has addressed some of the other gripes in this second iteration: the tablet's kickstand (seen above just poking out on the right hand side) can now be set at two angles, for example, with the idea of making it easier to use on your lap or on a desk.

Here you can see the Windows 8.1 start menu on screen.

 

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3 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

The 'Touch Cover 2' is a thinner (2.75mm) and lighter update to the original Touch Cover, and includes backlit keys for better readability (or typing in the dark). Microsoft has added more sensors to make typing more accurate and to support gestures — swiping two fingers across the keyboard to highlight text, for example.

 

 

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4 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Here's the kickstand in its narrower setting. In our brief experience with the Surface Pro 2 this does makes typing on your lap easier, but (at least with the thin and slightly flexy Touch Pad keyboard), it's not something you'd probably want to do for very long.

 

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5 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Here's the kickstand in its wider setting.

Microsoft describes Surface Pro 2 as a 'true laptop replacement', and it runs a fourth-generation (Haswell) Intel Core i5 processor that Microsoft says will offer up to 75 percent longer battery life than the Ivy Bridge-based Surface Pro. It comes in four versions: 64GB and 128GB models with 4GB of RAM and 256GB, and 512GB configurations with 8GB of RAM.

 

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6 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Unlike the Windows RT-based Surface 2, the Pro 2 also features a pen for enterprise applications, which can be attached to the tablet by the magnetic charging point, both seen above.

Surface Pro 2 is central to Microsoft's plans, delivering an enterprise-class tablet experience. By marketing it as a laptop replacement rather than as a third companion device (after laptop and smartphone), Microsoft may be hoping it will find favour with companies that have so far proved reluctant to buy tablets (relying instead on staff bringing their own).

 

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7 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Without the detachable keyboard the Surface operates as a standalone tablet, although most users are likely to buy the keyboard. In our limited testing the tablet felt too narrow when in portrait mode.

Microsoft has also updated some of the accessories and added a few new ones. Like the new Touch Cover, the Type Cover 2 is also backlit and adds new colours — Cyan, Magenta, Purple and Black

 

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8 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Here's the reverse of the device, again showing where the magnetic charger attaches and the kickstand when closed.

A number of accessories that won't be available until next year may also make the tablet more attractive to enterprise customers. For example, the Power Cover with a built-in battery promises to extend battery life by up to 50 percent.

Other accessories include a Bluetooth adapter for the type covers that will allow you, for example, to connect a Surface tablet to a monitor and type from another location; the Arc Touch Mouse has also been updated to connect via Bluetooth 3.0, freeing the tablet's USB port for use by other devices.

A docking station, also expected to be available early next year for Surface Pro 2, allows the tablet to connect easily to desktop PC peripherals. When docked, the device can connect with an external monitor, Ethernet, speakers and power supply. PC peripherals connect via the dock's single USB 3.0 port and trio of USB 2.0 ports. A USB car charger allows you to charge your tablet on the move and includes a secondary USB port for simultaneous charging of a phone or other device.

 

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9 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Here's what the Surface 2 Pro looks like with the Touch Cover closed.

The Surface Pro 2 faces an uphill battle: currently Apple's iPad, Samsung's Galaxy and Amazon's Kindle Fire are the top tablets used in businesses across the US, Canada, UK, France, and Germany — 53 percent, 18 percent and nine percent respectively according to research by Forrester, thanks to the BYOD movement that has seen consumer devices increasingly used in the office.

 

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10 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

The Pro comes with a chunky power supply, seen above.

Both new Surfaces will go on sale in countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US. It will go on sale in China in early November, says Microsoft.

A full review of Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 will follow soon.

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