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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  • bountygiver - Sunday, December 02, 2012 - link

    You know upgrading to specs like this costs a bomb?
    After upgrading to the specs you mentioned... BOOM $ 2000+ I can buy 2 Surface Pro with type keyboard with that.

    Everyone up there are comparing the $1019 Pro and $ 999 MBA
    Reply
  • bountygiver - Sunday, December 02, 2012 - link

    Also... the SD slot is only available on the 13" MBA, not the 11" version... Reply
  • kmmatney - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Oh Noes! No XBox Music! Reply
  • bountygiver - Sunday, December 02, 2012 - link

    I bet he got a xbox, so xbox music is an advantage to him Reply
  • gorash - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Zenbook Prime costs about the same, has 1080p and probably better specs. Reply
  • Cygni - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    $899+$129 for the Type Cover so you can actually do anything with it? You've gotta be kidding. Too thick, heavy, and expensive to be a tablet or consumption device, too gimped to be a real productivity device.

    Just like the RT, destined to fail. Only this time, even more expensively.
    Reply
  • menting - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    let me guess..Apple fan? Reply
  • Cygni - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Actually just a fan of good products. An overpriced convertible with a kickstand trying to be jack of all trades and master of none like this is just a flatout bad product. And as with so many of these 'niche filler' products that people keep cranking out year after year, it's not going to be around long before the plug is pulled because that's not what people want. Reply
  • gamoniac - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I agree with you on Surface Pro -- it is simply too pricey, even with the keyboard thrown in. Microsft better rethink about their pricing, coming from someone who really looked forward to Surface Pro...

    I am not so sure about Windows RT just yet though. I think it has the potential if Microsoft can open up and get some apps in the AppStore. Or else, there is little reason to go for RT.
    Reply
  • melgross - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Hmm! Windows fanboy? Reply

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