Final Words

Surface Pro is about as well executed as Microsoft could have made it given the currently available hardware. Its performance is outstanding for a tablet - it’s truly in a class of its own. If I sit down and use Surface Pro as I would an iPad or Android tablet, it delivers an appreciably quicker user experience. Apple does get fairly close in some cases on far slower hardware, which should concern Microsoft quite a bit should Apple ever choose to go ahead and build a tablet/notebook convergence device of its own. But overall, there’s just not a faster tablet on the market. It’s really the combination of a very fast CPU and very fast storage that enable such great performance out of Surface Pro.

The beauty of Surface was in its flexibility. The ability to quickly switch between tablet and notebook usage modes, between content consumption and production. Surface Pro really takes that to the next level. It can quickly switch between operating modes just like its predecessor, but it can also double as a full blown notebook or desktop PC. There’s tremendous potential in what Microsoft is trying to do here with Surface Pro.

The inclusion of a Wacom powered digital pen is interesting for the creative professionals out there. My only complaint there is the lack of mouse tracking for the pen, it can only be used in pen mode, but if that’s something you’re ok with then I can see the pen being a good solution to consolidating tablet, notebook and Wacom tablet into a single device for use on the road.

The downsides are obvious. Compared to an iPad or Nexus 10, Surface Pro’s battery life is abysmal. Compared to other Ultrabooks it’s not too bad, but for Surface to succeed it really needs to do well in both spaces. Haswell is part of the solution to this problem, but we’re still talking about waiting until the end of the year before Microsoft can realistically integrate that.

Surface Pro is also considerably thicker and heavier than any popular ARM tablet on the market. Even Surface RT feels like a pleasure to hold after working with Surface Pro for a while. If you’re coming from an ARM based tablet, you’re not going to be happy with Surface Pro’s weight. If however you’re coming from the perspective of a notebook user, it’s not bad at all. Once again, with lower power hardware I see Microsoft being able to minimize this - but that’s a topic for Surface 2 Pro.

My only complaint on the pricing front has to do with the fact that Microsoft won’t throw in one of its keyboard covers with the $899/$999 MSRP. I feel strongly that the Type Cover should be bundled with Surface Pro, or perhaps at least offered at a considerable discount.

At the end of the day I found it difficult to recommend Surface RT because I knew faster hardware was less than a year away. Surface Pro is an easier recommendation simply because you don’t have to wait for the Windows ecosystem to mature, you can already run all of your existing PC apps on the platform and it’s competitive with other Ultrabooks in terms of performance. If you’re shopping for an Ultrabook today and want that tablet experience as well, Surface Pro really is the best and only choice on the market. If however you do a lot of typing in your lap and in weird positions, a conventional notebook is better suited for you. The same goes for if you’re considering a tablet for reasons like all-day battery life or having something that’s super thin and light. Surface Pro is probably the best foot forward towards converging those two usage models, but it’s not perfect for everyone yet.

I still believe Microsoft has the right idea here. It just needs some more iterations.

Battery Life: The Downside
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  • Morgifier - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 - link

    The design of the (as yet unreleased) Asus Transformer Book seems preferable, with the external keyboard providing rigidity, additional battery life and extra storage. I wonder if Microsoft have considered this?

    Although I'm yet to use Windows 8, I do like the idea of device convergence...
    Reply
  • cmikeh2 - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 - link

    I totally agree with you that Transformer Book seems a lot nicer (especially with the bundled dock) but they're sort of in two different product classes since the Transformer Book (1.9 kg) is about twice the weight of the Surface Pro. Reply
  • althaz - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - link

    If you want something that is three-in-one (desktop replacement, tablet, notebook replacement), the Asus or the Samsung ATIV with similar specs to the Surface Pro are a much better choice.

    For me though, I never, ever want to type with this thing in my lap. I want to watch videos or play games (mostly Football Manager) while I'm on the train. I want to hook it up to a bunch of XBox controllers and a TV for playing on the multitude of old-school emulator with my buddies, I want to plug a keyboard and mouse into it to play starcraft at my mate's place and my wife wants to surf the internet and play angry birds at home.

    I have a desktop at home and at work, this is for everything else which means I don't need the dock (the touch cover would be handy for typing things up when I'm say, on an aeroplane or on a holiday though), or the added weight and price it includes.

    I can't wait to get one of these!
    Reply
  • jeffkibuule - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - link

    The Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro has typical Samsung tablet build quality. I wouldn't touch that thing with a 10" pole. Perhaps their Ultrabooks are of better build quality, but the ATIV isn't it. Reply
  • LetsGo - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - link

    Nothing wrong with my Samsung 7.7 Tabs build quality.

    When they update there 8" Note to a Octo-core I will get one, a tablet should be light therefore being made out of plastic is good design.
    Reply
  • B3an - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - link

    Does anyone know when the Transformer Book is actually going to come out? Been waiting for this for ages. Asus are taking the piss. Might just go for Surface Pro. Reply
  • PubFiction - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - link

    IMO, the whole point of surface was to bring to market something the other OEMs were not doing. Transformer is a great form factor, but so what ASUS whom is a big MS partner is already making it why would MS step in and build another transformer when one already exists? The draw to surface is the light ultra thin keyboard. But are you going to get the best typing experience from that? No, of course not, will it be better than typeing with the softboard? Yes.

    Surface brings one major thing to the table, the ultra thin tablet / laptop combo device. It can do everything, but of course in certain situations it will not be the best device. But compared to the price of other ultra books it is very good. It sports a good CPU, touch screen, digitizer etc. Ultimately you see an over abundance of negative posts which are simply stupid because they compare apples to oranges. People compare this to a mac book air, which has no, touch screen, no tablet mode, and no digitizer. Well duh if all you want is an ultra book then this isnt for you but its ridiculous to even bother comparing a device which is so different and lacks so many features.

    What we really need is for the OEMs to fill in the gaps in product lines not try to compete with each other in products that already exists. What we are still missing is a gaming level convertible. Alienware, samsung series 7 gamer, clevo et al. Lenovo has built alot of combinations of tablets and laptops but now we need something sporting at least a 660M that can flip into a tablet and has a built in digitizer.

    My biggest complaint with this device has to be the lack of slot for the digitizer pen, the big strength of surface was the compact all in one nature where the keyboard is not a clumsy accessory but an integral part of the device. The pen should have followed that lead.
    Reply
  • PubFiction - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - link

    Of course the other issue is non remvable battery which means if you are dropping $900+ on this it wont last more than 2 years before the battery craps out like all sealed batteries. Reply
  • Netscorer - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - link

    most ultrabooks have non-accessible battery. Not sure what your point is. If it is important to you to be able to access memory, storage, battery and other internals, buy a regular laptop, not a tablet.
    And realistically, batteries last more then two years. The performance may become degraded after some time but I've had batteries lasting 3-5 years on all my devices and by the time they are truly dead, the device is typically obsolete and needs replacement, anyway.
    Reply
  • spencer.p - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - link

    That's true.

    I would recommend perhaps getting a Surface Complete warranty for it (if you get it from the Microsoft Store). $99 for two years of accidental, too.
    Reply

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