CPU upgrade boosts Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 tablet

Microsoft's Surface 2 Pro tablet has gotten a little bit faster. The 10.6" Windows 8.1 slate debuted with a Core i5-4200U processor, but the units shipping now have the faster i5-4300U. The change was confirmed by The Verge, who quote a Microsoft spokesperson as saying that the company "routinely makes small changes to internal components over the lifetime of a product, based on numerous factors including supply chain partnerships, availability, and value for our customers."

The tablet's $899 starting price remains unchanged, so consumers are getting a nice little upgrade for free. Or early adopters are getting screwed out of a better chip, depending on how you want to look at it.

The two chips in question line up like so. Both are dual-core, quad-thread Haswell parts with 15W thermal envelopes. The Core i5-4300U has a 1.9GHz base frequency and a 2.9GHz Turbo peak, while the i5-4200U is clocked at 1.6/2.6GHz. On the graphics front, the i5-4300U has a 100MHz edge in maximum GPU frequency.

And there's more. The replacement chip has a bunch of extra features attached, including support for TSX-NI instructions meant to improve multithreaded performance. A switch has been flipped to enable VT-d Directed I/O for virtualization. Trusted Execution security tech is on the menu, too, though it's hard to imagine the NSA can't get around it.

Interestingly, the i5-4300U is also part of Intel's Stable Image Platform, which guarantees 15 months of driver and component stability from the initial qualification point. Microsoft may be planning to keep the Surface 2 Pro around for a while. Let's hope there are Surface tablets with Broadwell and Atom CPUs in the cards, as well—preferably with keyboards that can be perched easily on one's lap.

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