Last month I reviewed Microsoft's Surface RT tablet, and came away generally impressed. The form factor and attention to detail were both much better than expected from Microsoft. The integration of the touch/type covers into the design was very well executed in my opinion. That being said, Surface RT seemed to me like a great start but not the perfect product. I would love to see a Cortex A15 based version with some minor tweaks. We'll likely get that next year, but before then there's one more Surface tablet that we'll meet: the Surface Pro.

Surface RT is Microsoft's Windows RT (Windows on ARM) launch vehicle, while Surface Pro is based on Intel x86 hardware. Despite the funny wording in today's blog post, Surface Pro uses an Ivy Bridge based Core i5 (ULV) processor with Intel HD 4000 graphics. Contrary to what I assumed initially, Surface Pro will launch with a 17W Ivy Bridge CPU - so this is the same chip you'll find in modern Ultrabooks. Without a doubt we'll see a Haswell version sometime next year, but not at launch. I wondered if we might see Microsoft use Intel's upcoming 10W Ivy Bridge, but at this point that seems unlikely.

Surface Pro keeps the same display size, but increases tablet thickness by 43% over the RT version. Weight is also up by half a pound. Screen resolution goes up as well, at 1920 x 1080. Memory capacity also increases to 4GB, and Surface Pro comes with much more NAND on-board. With a 7-series chipset you get SATA support, so my money is on Surface Pro having a full blown SSD inside instead of something eMMC based.

Microsoft Surface Comparison
  Surface RT Surface Pro Apple iPad 4
Dimensions 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37" 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53" 9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37"
Display 10.6-inch 1366 x 768 PLS 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080 PLS? 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 IPS
Weight 1.5 lbs 2.0 lbs 1.44 lbs
Processor NVIDIA Tegra 3

Core i5 with HD4000 Graphics (Ivy Bridge)

Apple A6X

Connectivity WiFi WiFi WiFi , Optional 4G LTE
Memory 2GB 4GB 1GB
Storage 32GB or 64GB 64GB or 128GB 16GB—64GB
Battery 31.5 Wh 42.0 Wh 42.5Wh
Starting Price $499 $899 $499

Battery capacity goes up to 42Wh, an increase of 33%, putting it about on par with the 3rd and 4th generation iPads. Charger size also goes up to 48W compared to 24W with the RT version. Update: Microsoft announced via its Surface Twitter account that the Pro version would offer roughly half the battery life of Surface RT. Without S0ix support, Surface Pro should look a lot like a standard Ultrabook when it comes to battery life. If you want the best of both worlds, Haswell will be what you'll need to wait for.

The big news is we now have pricing for Surface Pro: $899 for the 64GB model and $999 for the 128GB model, both available in January 2013. Both versions come with a Surface pen, but neither includes a touch or type cover. Microsoft's Surface Pro pricing is clearly higher than any other ARM based tablet, but I'd look at it more as an Ultrabook/MacBook Air alternative. I'll reserve final judgement for when I get my hands on a review sample, but I'm pretty interested to see how the Pro does in our tests. This could end up being one of the better Ultrabooks. I do wish Microsoft had thrown in a touch or type cover into the bundle though, that would make it a real alternative to a standard Ultrabook without having to pay for anything else. It is entirely possible that Microsoft is banking on notebook users bringing a more traditional keyboard and mouse for work though.

The other big omission is the lack of Thunderbolt support. I don't know what it is with Microsoft's crusade against Thunderbolt (the port is no longer on Acer's W700 either), but I think that's a big mistake. Surface Pro would be a great platform for Thunderbolt in my opinion.

For full specs check out the Surface Pro on Microsoft's site.

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  • jhoff80 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Pure speculation. It's just as likely that they use Perceptive Pixel (who they acquired shortly after the Surface announcement)'s technology which uses a projected capacitive method. Reply
  • Taristin - Saturday, December 01, 2012 - link

    Either way it's unlikely that the surface pro supports pressure sensitivity. And if that is the case, they missed out on a large demographic. Reply
  • JLQ - Monday, December 03, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the link.

    That is a concern for me, because I was planning on using the tablet primarily for digital art. If it doesn't support pressure-sensitive input in Photoshop or Painter, then I'll be looking at the Thinkpad Tablet 2 or the Latitude 10 instead.
    Reply
  • uhuznaa - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    OK, this may mean it's revolutionary... or it's just awkward. It's not a laptop (because you hardly can use it on your lap without an adjustable display and a floppy keyboard, you *need* a table), it's too heavy and expensive for a tablet (and using Windows software with a touchscreen is just painful), it's too small and not powerful enough for an all-in-one desktop machine... So what is it? A bit of everything? Like Windows 8 is a bit of everything?

    I can fully understand that MS is a bit in trouble right now and Surface certainly is fascinating, but still: I have no idea what this thing is actually good for. OK, there will be cases where it is just ideal, but as a mass product it looks like an epic fail to me.

    I'm looking forward to a full review. If this thing has a standard SSD and the battery life is north of 8 hours it may be more than just a curiosity. If it's just an awkward ultrabook you can't use at you lap, hmm.
    Reply
  • althaz - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Its the perfect product for me. Its a tablet, ultrabook and portable desktop in one. I can watch videos on the train (who am I kidding, I'll be playing football manager), do some coding on an aeroplane and when I go to a mate's place I can hook it up to his network and play some starcraft. I can do all this - but I get something truly ultra-portable that also lrts me comfortably surf the web on the couch (laptops suck at this). Reply
  • andrewaggb - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I think with a dock so that you can use a desktop monitor/keyboard/mouse when at work and then just pick it up and go, it has potential.

    The i5 should be powerful enough for anything you'd want to do, though you'd want the 128gb version to be sure.

    I'd like a haswell version... but I have no idea if they'll do a 6 month refresh or wait a year to refresh... hopefully they'll do a refresh on both surfaces right before back to school next year.
    Reply
  • Kornfeld - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I think the lack of docking option will be one of the reasons to choose other devices over the Surface Pro. Also, it's a bit heavy. That may sound odd, but if it does weigh 2.0 lb. that will make it still makes it heavier than some of Samsung's products that have an 11.6" screen. Info is starting to leak out on the Lenovo Helix. So far that seems the most attractive of these new slate designs.

    If you can get a device that is much like an iPad or other 10" tablet that only weighs about 0.3 lb more and is a fully powered Core i5 system that snaps into some expansion device as desired to give keyboard, pointing device, and extra battery, why bother using a laptop and a tablet. You can do all of the things on the device that you can't do on the tablet. Battery life will be somewhat less, but it seems like 6 hours of real world use will be realistic.

    It seems like the gap in these designs vs the tablets may continue to shrink in the new Shark Bay products.
    Reply
  • Zodiark1593 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Now, I wish intel had a better GPU. That's probably the biggest thing lacking for me. :/

    I wonder if ULV Haswell will come with a quad core option? That would be quite awesome as well.
    Reply
  • JAH - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Any guesses on how many hardware generations before we get to a W8Pro tablet for $500? Reply
  • bplewis24 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    So, I figured the price point would be north of $700, and it's actually $900.

    Now I also assumed battery life would be significantly inferior to ARM tablets. Any idea what we can expect there?
    Reply

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