With Microsoft Surface Pro, Microsoft has developed a tablet device for mainstream use. It comes equipped with an Intel based processor and Windows 8, which means you get to use every imaginable application that works on a regular desktop computer. The Microsoft Surface Pro brings with it the promise of being both a productivity device and a consumption device. But does the it deliver on it’s promises? Let’s find out in this Microsoft Surface Pro review.
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The Microsoft Surface Pro definitely has a lot going for it. But also may have some show stoppers. Let us examine the pros and cons of the Microsoft Surface Pro:
Microsoft Surface Pro: Pros
Here are some of the benefits and advantages of the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet:
- Powered by Windows 8 Pro (x64) – Having Microsoft Windows 8 Pro on the go has many advantages. You have every application you would otherwise have on your personal computer. Apps such as full version of Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop are at your fingertips, offering you the same office or home experience on the go.
- Intel Inside – With a core i5 processor, you not only get performance but also support for all legacy desktop applications. With Surface RT, the ARM processor came into heavy fire because of the lack of support for traditional Windows applications. This feature alone makes the Windows Surface Pro the winner over Surface RT.
- USB Ports on a Tablet! – Having a USB 3.0 port on a tablet is a blessing. It allows you to plug a variety of peripherals and accessories into your tablet. There are very few tablets out there that have an actual USB Port.
- Full HD Display – Microsoft Surface Pro comes with a glorious full HD, 1080p resolution display. This permits vivid imagery, beautiful and sharp colors, and excellent video playback.
- Exceptional Build Quality – Microsoft Surface Pro has an excellent build quality overall, something you would expect from an ultrabook/tablet device these days.
- Great Design – The ability to turn the Windows Surface Pro into a laptop by attaching a keyboard and utilizing its inbuilt kickstand has many benefits. You can use it in the office or college as a regular laptop and turn it into a tablet once you are on the go. Moreover, Microsoft has cleverly designed the keyboard right into the cover of the tablet, which means you won’t have to carry it separately.
- High Performance – Needless to say, Microsoft Surface Pro comes with the all powerful Intel Core i5. With this processor, you can multitask, run heavy applications and enjoy casual games.
- Mini HDMI Port – Feel like extending your desktop to another screen? With the Microsoft Surface Pro’s dedicated Mini HDMI Port, you can extend your desktop to a bigger screen and enjoy more work space or simply view movies or series through your HD TV.
- Pressure Sensitive Stylus – Microsoft Surface Pro ships with a handy pressure sensitive stylus from Wacom. This is a high quality stylus with an eraser on the back. It is excellent to use while taking notes or working with Adobe Photoshop.
Microsoft Surface Pro: Cons
Here are some of the advantages and drawbacks of the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet:
- Limited Storage – Unfortunately, the biggest shortcoming of this Windows 8 tablet is its limited storage. The OS itself takes away at least 45 GB of your SSD storage. This is seemingly quite expensive for the 64GB version. For this very reason it is recommended that you should try getting your hands on the 128GB variant of the tablet, otherwise you may quickly run out of storage.
- Short Battery Life – Another drawback of the Microsoft Surface is its battery life. Microsoft promised to offer extended battery life on its new Windows 8 powered tablets. Unfortunately, with Microsoft Surface Pro, it seems the company did not live up to the promise made. With average usage, the tablet/laptop hybrid can max out at 4-5 hours, which can be a problem for some.
- Heavy and Thick for a Tablet – Weighing at almost 2lbs, it is quite a bit heavy for a tablet PC. But there are certain advantages of this too. For example, when on its kickstand, using its weight the Windows tablet can easily balance itself. But be prepared to tire your hands if you use it as a tablet.
- Awkward Laptop Mode – The kickstand serves its purposes well when you are using the tablet as a laptop with its keyboard attached. However, if you ever try using it in its laptop form on a couch or in bed, you will have to fight a constant battle to balance the device on your lap.
- No Discrete GPU – Microsoft Surface Pro comes with an Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics chip. It is powerful enough to give you beautiful and vivid imagery with excellent full HD video playback. However, if you have a hidden gamer in you, you might be slightly disappointed. The device can run some recent games but with almost all advanced settings turned off.
- Few Touch Friendly Apps – While Windows 8 compatibility gives the Surface Pro Tablet a big advantage over tablets from other platforms, you will find that many popular, touch oriented tablet apps have yet to become available for Windows 8 Tablets. While we expect this will change in the future, this is definitely a point to consider if you are buying a tablet today.
Microsoft Surface Pro Review Round-Up
Still haven’t decided if the Microsoft Surface Pro is the right thing for you? Can’t decide simply by looking at its pro and cons? Let’s see what the critics have to say about this device.
David Pierce of The Verge didn’t exactly like the fact that he couldn’t use the laptop form in a comfortable position; for example, while sitting on the couch. He calls this a ‘dealbreaker’ for him.
‘’Actually, that’s what frustrates me about the Surface Pro. It’s definitely not a tablet, but it’s also not a “laptop,” strictly speaking — I never figured out how to actually use the thing on my lap, with a keyboard attached and the kickstand out. I like kickstands on tablets, and this one is plenty sturdy and clicks in and out with a satisfying firmness. It only goes out at one angle, though, which is too upright unless you’re sitting at a desk with the Surface directly in front of you. But the real dealbreaker for me was that it’s just unusable in my most common position — sitting on my couch, feet on the coffee table, with the computer on my lap. I’d spend forever getting the device balanced, only to have it tip over as soon as I touched the screen or tapped on the Type Cover. I don’t know if a more flexible kickstand would solve the problem or not, but as it is you’re pretty limited in the ways you can use the Surface Pro’’.
Jason Evangelho of Forbes was surprised by Surface Pro’s video gaming capabilities. He tested games like ‘Diablo III’, ‘Portal 2,’ ‘Civilization V’ and XCOM, and was quite happy with the performance.
‘’The Surface Pro is a prime example of synergy between well-chosen components. Intel’s Core i5, HD Graphics 4000, 4GB of RAM and the snappy SSD cooperate to deliver surprising AAA gaming performance – yet another reason this machine sits firmly in the realm of ultrabook and not tablet.
My testing in this category included one constant: running the games at the Pro’s native 1920×1080 resolution. Portal 2 and Diablo III impressed, both outputting at least 25fps on near-maximum graphics settings (shadows and Antialiasing were bumped down slightly). The same for Civilization V and XCOM: Enemy Unknown.’’
He also pointed out that Call of Duty Fans should be aware that Microsoft Surface Pro can struggle to run their favorite game.
‘’It struggled with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 even low settings with advanced features like antialiasing off, but we can’t expect miracles from integrated graphics. The shooter was playable, but stuttered dramatically during scenes with numerous enemies and explosions’’.
Mary Branscombe of TechRadar compliments the performance of Surface Pro. She assures the tablet/laptop hybrid is capable of running most conventional apps.
‘’When running Photoshop and applying complex filters, editing 15GB raw images in Lightroom, rendering HD videos in Premiere Pro, watching 450 fish swimming at 60fps in the FishIE benchmark, the Core i5-3317U in the Surface Pro shows its speed and power.
You’ll have no problem transcoding audio and video, running Visual Studio or using modelling and CAD software.
If you’ve used one of the very latest Core i5 processors, you know what sort of performance to expect from the Surface Pro. If you’ve used one of last year’s Core i5 notebooks, the Surface Pro is definitely faster’’.
Scott Lowe of IGN calls the Microsoft Surface Pro a ‘costly endeavor’. He believes there is still a huge room for improvement in the PC/tablet hybrid category.
‘’There’s a future in PC/tablet hybrids and with Windows 8 and the Surface series, Microsoft is making significant headway. But there’s still significant barriers when it comes to portability, energy efficiency, and cost. At $899 for the 64GB variant and $999 for the 128GB model (of which, only offers 29GB and 89GB of available storage), the Surface Pro is a costly endeavor. And until processing and battery technology get to the point where thinner, lighter, and more energy-efficient products can emerge, the category will be limited to all-in-one portables that struggle to match the utility and efficacy of their tablet and notebook equivalents’’.
Should you buy the Microsoft Surface Pro?
Microsoft Surface Pro is a pretty good Windows 8 Tablet PC overall. It has the full capabilities of a desktop PC and the portability of a tablet. If you are a professional or student always on the go, you get the ability to use your entire desktop setup in the palm of your hands. The ability to run potentially millions of desktop apps, including your per-existing corporate apps, school apps, etc. give the Windows Surface a distinct advantage over tablets on other platforms.
While the Microsoft Surface Pro offers a lot of potential benefits, for some people, its potential is less important than its actual accessibility and overall design. The Surface Pro suffers mostly due to its form factor, especially if you are the kind of a person who often works from the couch or any other awkwardly comfortable positions. It is not only uncomfortable to use on your lap, but also runs out of power if you are not constantly charging it. Storage is also a key drawback with Microsoft Surface Pro. With the operating system taking almost two thirds of the available storage space, you have no choice but to spend an additional $100 and get the 128GB variant. With its high price and short battery life, the Microsoft Surface Pro will be a tough choice for anyone not a corporate user, professional, or tech geek with money to burn.
Ultimately, we feel that Windows 8 Tablets are the way of the future. It will just take time for the price and the performance to reach a level where mainstream consumers are interested in buying the device. Unit that happens, Windows 8 Tablets will struggle to gain mind share, let alone market share. Perhaps the Windows Surface Pro II will provide a practical alternative to the iPad and Google Android Tablets.