Battery life and something called "lapability" were the top two design parameters in the overhaul of Microsoft's Surface and Surface Pro tablets, according to the team that developed the new versions of the devices.
To those ends, Microsoft uses different processors that boost battery life and has created a Power Cover keyboard that carries in it a supplemental battery that further extends the life, according to answers given out by the Surface team during an online discussion on Reddit.
In addition, adding a second position for the kickstand that props up the device makes Surface sit at a better viewing angle when placed on a lap. This is what Microsoft is calling lapability, which ranks among the top two goals in the redesign.
“The focus for Surface Pro 2 was on battery life and 'lapability',” the Surface team says in its answers to Reddit questioners.
“What is the battery life of the Surface Pro 2?” one questioner asked. The answer: 60% more than Surface Pro. Estimates for the previous version were 4 to 5 hours, which means the new ones would be 6.4 to 8 hours, based on testing.
With Surface 2, expect a 20% increase in battery life, the Surface team says, which comes to about 9.6 hours based on Microsoft literature. Adding the new Power Cover keyboard, which contains an auxiliary battery, doubles that to 19.2 hours, the Surface team says.
The supplemental battery in the cover recharges the battery in the tablet.
The Power Cover supports the first-generation Surface Pro as well as Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 but not its predecessor Surface RT.
An upgrade to the other Surface keyboards adds backlighting of the keys to make them easier to see, but the backlight is not a feature of the Power Cover. “We focused the Power Cover on longest battery life possible. We thus did not support backlight key on the Power cover,” the Surface team wrote.
The backlit keyboards are features of Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2, Microsoft says.
Colors were a big concern of Redditors. Microsoft says the new Type Covers will come in four colors whereas the earlier version came just in black. Touch Cover 2 comes only in black, whereas before it came in five colors. Those old colorful Touch Covers without backlighting will stay on the market, the Surface team says.
The color scheme is changing for the Surface 2 body as well. Before it was black, and the new version will be the natural metallic color of the magnesium alloy it is made from.
Microsoft seems particularly proud that its kickstand now has two distinct positions, but one Reddit reader asked whether the new, lower angle would make the kickstand susceptible to damage. “We put a ton of design time into this feature,” Microsoft responds. “The new kickstand will not break on you in use. We made it a top priority to make sure it is the most sturdy part we could design.”
Microsoft is introducing a docking station for all Surface devices old and new to support external displays and an Ethernet connection. The dock charges Surface when they are connected.
Many users found the magnetic power-cord attachment to the original Surface devices to be awkward, and they have been redesigned, Microsoft says. “We spent a lot of time redesigning the profile of the connector, the part that you hold with your fingers. We designed it so it is much easier to position and insert it. We also redesigned the LED on the connector such that you can see its indicator from every angle,” the team says.
Other questions from Reddit visitors and the Microsoft answers:
Will the Surface RT pens and chargers still work with the Surface 2?
Capacitive passive pens that worked on Surface RT will work on Surface 2. The active pen on Pro will work on Pro2. The chargers work across the whole product line, gen 1 and gen 2.
Does the Surface 2 support the use of an active stylus?
No, but it will work with passive capacitive pens.
Is the SSD in the Surface Pro 2 a PCIe SSD drive?
No, it's not PCIe, it's MSATA. In fact, it's low-power MSATA for even better battery life.
The first Surface RT was a 5 point multi-touch display. Is this changed on the Surface 2?
Surface 2 supports 5-point multi-touch display as Surface RT.
Are the speakers physically different from the generation 1 models or are they simply digitally enhanced versions of the gen1 models?
Yes, the speakers in both Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 have been upgraded to new speakers. Both Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 have Dolby processing built-in to enhance the audio experience.
Will Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 both have Miracast support?
They will have the same Miracast support.
Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.