24 Sep 2013

RED editing? Dedicated controllers? Could this be a tablet that professionals can use?

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Surface Surface Microsoft


More powerful than '95% of laptops', the Haswell equipped Surface Pro 2 was shown processing 6K videos at Microsoft launch event. K. Stewart reports

To underline the claim that Surface Pro 2 is faster than 95% of today's laptops, Microsoft Surface VP Panos Panay showed a RED Dragon - the 'camera used to make Game Of Thrones' - transferring 6K footage via USB3 into a Surface Pro 2.

And while the resolution of the Pro 2's screen is just 1080 Full HD, a £165 Surface docking station due in 2014 has a Mini Display Port capable of driving a 3840 x 2160 resolution monitor. The dock also offers a USB 3 port, three USB2, Ethernet and audio in/out.

While you can plug in virtually any USB keyboard, Microsoft offer a choice of three specific to Surface. The Power Cover is the bulky one, as it includes a 30Wh battery, while the £110 Type Cover 2 is improved over last year's model with backlit keys and a refined feel. The £99 Touch Cover 2 is enhanced with a doubling of the sensors to 1092 and there's a variation of this same technology in a Surface Music Kit that has a custom control layout for remixing music. A custom layout for NLE operation would, obviously, be welcome if Microsoft really is seriously about video!

In truth, Surface 2 isn't going to be anyone's first choice for high-end video editing, but for an ultra mobile device to take on a shoot for a photographer to store and review pictures, or a videographer wanting a compact viewer for content, Microsoft is seriously in the mix. USB 3 and micro-SD expansion ports drive the point home about professional usage.

As does the price...

Microsoft turns cannibal?

Launched on the same day as Tesco revealed its surprisingly decent £119 7-inch Hudl tablet, the New York press conference for Surface 2 seemed very Microsoft. Which is to say the same emphasis on productivity as at the launch of Surface 1, but with more power, more accessories. The prices start at £359 for a 32GB surface 2 and £439 for 64GB - which is to say around £100 cheaper than equivalent iPad models.But that said it's not a direct comparison as Surface 2 requires more space for the OS and Office (the 32GB version only has 15GB free for user content according to MS) and the £100 keyboard is a pretty much essential extra.

Plus Surface 2, it should be pointed out, is actually Surface RT2 - which is to say the latest iteration of the ARM-based Surface variant which offers iPad-style battery life at the price of incompatibility with all those Windows/Intel apps. Whether comparing Surface RT/2 to iOS or x86 Windows, its range of apps is disappointing.

The full fat, real x86 experience starts at £719 for a Surface Pro 2 64GB machine with 4GB of RAM and rapidly increases up to £1439 for a top spec of 512GB and 8GB RAM. Which is to say MacBook Air territory more than iPad.

Hitting pretty much exactly the same play with productivity lines as last year may seem stupidly bullheaded on Microsoft's part, but the Redmond giant is used to misfiring on a first iteration and then slowly crushing competitors over the long term.

Speaking to CNET, Panos put Surface into context; "We have such a long road map ahead of us, and we know we're in this marathon. The team knows that. You start with your first generation of products, you put them out there, you know they're good. There are ways they can get better. Now the second generation comes, they only get more motivated and when you look at our road map to come."

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