Surface 2 Upgrades that Early Adopters Should Consider

Surface 2 Upgrades that Early Adopters Should Consider

There's something new for all existing Surface users

If you were an early adopter and picked up a first generation Surface RT or Surface Pro, you may be looking at Microsoft's new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 devices and wondering whether it makes sense to upgrade. Generally speaking, the answer is probably no, but there are some Surface 2 accessories you should examine.

Here's how I think about the new Surface devices and accessories from the perspective of an existing Surface RT or Pro owner.

Surface 2. If you are currently using Surface RT, it's time to evaluate whether trading in this device will net enough to justify the expense of a Surface 2, which costs $449 (32 GB) to $549 (64 GB) depending on the version. Oddly, Microsoft doesn't offer a Surface RT trade-in, but Amazon, Best Buy and others do. Why trade in your Surface RT? It's just too slow, and even the Windows 8.1 upgrade won't fix the endemic issues that plague this machine, with its pokey TEGRA 3 processor. If you could get $200 or more for your current device, that would more than justify the upgrade in my opinion.

Surface Pro 2. With rare exception, it's hard to justify upgrading from Surface Pro to Surface Pro 2. The new device is only negligibly faster, and the versions with more RAM (8 GB, vs. 4) are incredibly expensive. If you're looking at the Surface Pro 2's battery life with envy, consider holding out for a Power Cover instead. This $200 typing cover will debut in early 2014 and will turn your Surface Pro into an all-day device with just a small increase in weight.

Touch Cover 2. While the Touch Cover 2 offers a slightly better trackpad and desirable backlighting, $120 is a lot to pay for such niceties. You're better off sticking with the original Touch Cover, or upgrading to a Type Cover 2, which offers a vastly better typing experience.

Type Cover 2. Those currently using a first-generation Type Cover or Touch Cover should seriously consider the new Type Cover 2. It's a bit expensive at $130, but comes with many advantages, including backlighting, your choice of colors (black, purple, cyan and magenta), and a new felt-like coating on the non-keys parts of the cover that keeps off skin oil and is nicer to hold. This is an upgrade all Surface users should think about.

Power Cover. It won't arrive until early 2014, but the Power Cover will be a must-have add-on for virtually all Surface Pro users. (It will not work with Surface RT.) Yes, it will be pretty expensive ($200) and yes it will lack backlit keys. But the Power Cover will improve the battery life of Surface Pro by 75 percent, turning the relatively feeble (from a battery life perspective) device into an all-day champ. This accessory will extend the usable life of Surface Pro considerably, I bet.

Docking Station. It's not shipping until early 2014, but the $200 Docking Station will turn your Surface Pro (or Pro 2) into a desk-based workstation, letting you attach multiple USB devices (three USB 2.0, one USB 3.0) and other peripherals. This is a truly compelling peripheral, though you can certainly roll something similar on your own with a USB 3.0 hub today. This is a Surface accessory I'm seriously considering for myself.

Wireless Adapter for Charging Covers. This unique barrel-shaped peripheral connects to any Type or Touch Cover (first or second gen) and lets you use those typing covers from up to 30 feet from your Surface RT or Surface Pro (or Surface 2 or Pro 2). From there, the connection to the Surface occurs over Bluetooth and the device itself charges with an included USB cable. This adapter is useful in a number of scenarios, and if you just like being a bit further back from the screen, it's a not unreasonable $60.

Arc Touch Mouse Surface Edition. The new version of the Arc Touch Mouse is a bit expensive at $70, but it's styled to match the Surface (assuming you don't have a color Type Cover), connects over Bluetooth, and lies flat for traveling. This is a great companion for any Surface device—including Surface RT and Pro—and one that respects the portability-above-all-else principles of those devices.

Power Supplies. As with the first generation of Surface devices, Microsoft is selling two new versions of its power supplies, a 24 watt version ($40) that works with Surface RT and Surface 2, and a 48 watt version ($80) that works with all four Surface devices and provides a USB charging port on the brick for peripheral charging. If you have a Surface RT or original Pro, I strongly recommend looking into getting a replacement gen-2 charger: These new power supplies have a much clearer ring of light that better indicates when your Surface is charging, and that kind of peace of mind is important. (With the current version, you really have to pay attention, not to mention plug in the charger a certain way to tell whether it's working.)

Car Charger with USB Port. This useful accessory will charge any Surface device—including Surface RT and Pro—as well as any USB-based device (like your phone) using your car's charger port. It won't ship until early 2014, and I'm not clear on the pricing. But this is one of those things you either need or you don't.

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