Microsoft is now taking pre-0rders for the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets, with prices starting at $449. But bargain hunters can still pick up a first-generation Surface tablet for as little as $349.
The only catch is that you’ll get a Microsoft Surface RT with an aging processor, a limited selection of apps, and no support for some of Microsoft’s cooler new accessories including the Power Cover.
It’s not clear if Microsoft plans to continue selling the original Surface RT tablet indefinitely, or if the company’s just hoping to clear out the remaining inventory. But while the original Surface Pro is still available for $799, it’s not exactly prominently featured on the Surface website.
The Surface RT, on the other hand, is displayed front and center, right next to the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro — the only change is that it’s now just called the Surface. There’s no mention of Windows RT in the title.
The original Surface tablet does run Windows RT though, which is a stripped down version of Windows that only supports apps designed for computers with ARM-based processors, and primarily runs full-screen apps designed for the Metro user interface in Windows 8 and later.
If you want to run classic Windows apps or most desktop-style apps, this isn’t your best bet.
The good news is that the Surface tablet does come with Microsoft Home & Student 2013 pre-loaded, which means that for $349 you can get a 10 inch tablet for viewing and editing docs on the go, watching videos, surfing the web, and more. That’s not bad for a tablet that costs substantially less than a full-sized iPad.
The Microsoft Surface features a 10.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display, an NVIDIA Tegra 3 ARM Cortex-A9 quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB to 64GB of storage, front and rear cameras, stereo speakers, and an 8 hour battery. It supports WiFi and Bluetooth, has a full-sized USB 2.0 port and a microSD card reader, measures 0.37 inches thick, and weighs 1.5 pounds.
You can also add an optional Touch Cover for $50, or pay separately for a Type Cover. As I mentioned, the Power Cover with an extra battery won’t work on this model.
If you spend an extra $100 for a Surface 2 instead, you get a model that’s a hair thinner and roughly the same weight, but which has a 1920 x 1080 pixel screen, an NVIDIA Tegra 4 ARM Cortex-A15 quad-core processor, and a 10 hour battery. This model will support the upcoming Power Cover.
The Surface 2 also comes with 200GB of free cloud storage at Microsoft SkyDrive for 2 years, as well as free international Skype calling for 1 year.
While the original Surface is the cheaper option… I have to wonder why anyone would spend $349 on that aging model rather than a little more to get the more powerful, more versatile Surface 2.