Microsoft officially launched its Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets on Tuesday morning, stealing a few hours of the spotlight before Apple is expected to announce refreshed versions of the iPad later on Tuesday.
Microsoft kicked off with midnight launch parties at several Microsoft Stores, where customers could win several "challenges" and win a chance to be flown to Florida for a special Pitbull concert. Photos from the Westchester, N.Y. launch and the Dadeland Mall in Miami indicate that at least a few people showed up.
The Microsoft Surface 2 costs $449, and will be available in 32GB and 64GB configurations. Surface Pro 2 will come in 64GB and 128GB configurations with 4GB of RAM as well as 256GB and 512GB configurations with 8GB of RAM, with prices starting at $899. Some of the orders for the higher-end Surface Pro 2 options have been pushed back until December, although Microsoft has said that it may have some in stock at physical stores.
The thinner, backlit Touch Cover will cost $120, while the new Type Cover will sell for $130.
Over time, Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 could end up being the face of modular computing, with a docking station and so-called Power Cover debuting next year. But Microsoft has had to weather the embarrassment of writing down its first-generation Surface tablets to the tune of over $900 million, as demand for the pricey tablets fizzled. Microsoft then instituted a series of discounts to try to move its inventory, with limited success.
Same song, different verse
Unfortunately, early reviews of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 were middling. As with the first generation, the Surface hardware was almost uniformly praised, with reviewers generally panning the lack of Windows RT/Surface 2 apps within the Microsoft Store. PCWorld conducted its own hands-on of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablet. Look for our own review within the next few days.
Below is a sampling of the Web's Surface reviews:
Surface 2 review score: none. Engadget praised the tablet's battery life from going from "impressively long to ridiculously long" but noted the discrepancy between its emphasis on productivity and the lack of available apps. Although a "top-notch" product, "recommending the Surface becomes harder when there are other Windows tablets that cost less and run full Windows".
Surface Pro 2 review score: none. "When it came time to hand down a verdict on the first Surface Pro, we ultimately decided that, nice as it was, it felt compromised as both a laptop and a tablet," the site concluded. Buy a convertible ultrabook instead, the site recommended.
Surface 2 review score: 7.1 out of 10. The Verge concluded that the Surface 2 marginally improves on the existing hardware, but was unimpressed by the battery life and the lack of available applications.
Surface Pro 2 review score: 7.8 out of 10. Again, too much was left unchanged from the previous generation, The Verge found, with not enough redemption from within the upgraded hardware.
Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 review score: none Making the bold choice to review both tablets as a single product, Wired called for more Metro apps: "Without more third party programs designed to run as touch-first (dare I say Metro) experiences, Surface risks becoming little more than a curiosity." Wired: video, SkyDrive, Touch Covers. Tired: lack of apps.
The Associated Press:
Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 review score: none The AP managed to raise the question—Should I buy it?"—then dodged it. In all, the AP was impressed by the battery life and hardware of the new Surface tablets, but added that they lack "the style and fun of their competitors". No Candy Crush Saga, alas.
Surface 2 and Surface Pro review score: none "Third party software aside, the Surface 2 is a beautifully built, compelling device," Fox concludes. "But will anyone buy it?" Fox appreciated Windows 8.1's integration into the Surface Pro tablet but was frustrated by the lack of apps.