Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet lineup now available to pre-order

Today Microsoft opens the pre-order books for its second-generation Surface lineup. The two slates, Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, come with major under-the-hood and external changes, including beefed-up processors that are faster and help deliver better battery life and revisions to the built-in kickstand, as well as a slew of new accessories.

Surface 2 comes with the most noteworthy improvements of the two new slates. It now sports an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor which Microsoft says is up to four times faster than the Tegra 3 chip from the old generation, offers 25 percent more battery life, comes with a two-angle kickstand and features a full HD -- 1920 by 1080 resolution -- display which, again, is better than before (Surface RT's panel has a lower resolution of 1366 by 768). Pricing starts at $449 for the base 32 GB model. The 64 GB model costs $549.

Here are the complete Surface 2 specifications: 10.6-inch ClearType display with a resolution of 1920 by 1080; 1.7 GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 processor; 2 GB of RAM; 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage; 5 MP back-facing camera with 1080p video recording; 3.5 MP front-facing camera with 1080p video recording; Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0 LE (Low Energy); stereo speakers; dual microphones; USB 3.0 port; microSDXC card reader; HD video out port; sensors: accelerometer, ambient light, gyroscope and magnetometer and Windows RT 8.1. Microsoft quotes up to 12 hours of battery life or 10 hours of video playback. The Surface 2 comes in at 10.81 x 6.79 x 0.35 inches and less than 1.49 pounds.

Surface Pro 2 is the flagship of the lineup and it too received an overhaul, but a more subtle one. Microsoft upgraded the processor to a fourth-generation Intel "Haswell" Core processor which is 20 percent faster overall and 50 percent faster in the graphics department, compared to the chip from the previous generation. The battery life is also improved -- Microsoft admits that the first model had a "notoriously weak battery" -- making it 75 percent better than before. Surface Pro 2 also comes with a two-angle kickstand, like the Surface 2. Pricing starts at $899 for the 64 GB model.

Here are the prices for the Surface Pro 2 models:

  • 64 GB Surface Pro 2 (4 GB of RAM)-- $899;
  • 128 GB Surface Pro 2 (4 GB of RAM) -- $999;
  • 256 GB Surface Pro 2 (8 GB of RAM) -- $1,299;
  • 512 GB Surface Pro 2 (8 GB of RAM) -- $1,799 (not available to pre-order at the moment).

The complete Surface Pro 2 specifications are as follows: 10.6-inch ClearType display with a resolution of 1920 by 1080; 1.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-4200U (Haswell) processor with 2.6 GHz Turbo Boost; Intel HD Graphics 4400 graphics; 4 GB or 8 GB of RAM; 64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB or 512 GB of internal storage; 720p front and rear cameras; Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0 LE (Low Energy); stereo speakers; microphone; USB 3.0 port; microSDXC card reader; mini DisplayPort 1.2; sensors: accelerometer, ambient light, gyroscope and magnetometer; stylus and Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit. Microsoft quotes up to 7 hours of video playback. The Surface 2 comes in at 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53 inches and 2 pounds.

Microsoft will also sell you accessories to match the new Surface slates, which you can also pre-order today:

  • Touch Cover 2 (keyboard) -- $119.99;
  • Type Cover 2 (keyboard) -- $129.99 -- in Cyan, Magenta, Purple and Black;
  • Wireless Adapter for Typing Covers (connects to the keyboards, allowing you to type without attaching them to the slate) -- $59.99;
  • Arc Touch Mouse Surface Edition -- $69.99.

There are more accessories coming, as soon as early next year:

  • Power Cover (keyboard with battery) -- expected to cost $199.99 and be available in "early 2014";
  • Docking Station for Surface Pro -- expected to cost $199.99 and be available in "early 2014";
  • Car Charger with USB -- expected to cost $49.99 and be available in "early 2014".

Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 users will receive 200 GB of free SkyDrive storage, for two years, and free Skype calling to landlines (in more than 60 countries) and unlimited Skype Wi-Fi (includes more than two million hotspots worldwide), for one year. The new storage plan was unveiled yesterday and it normally costs $100 per year. That equates to $200 in savings for those who purchase a second-generation Surface tablet and use the 200 GB of cloud storage to its fullest, excluding the Skype perks. Both Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 officially go on sale on October 22.

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