When it launched Surface RT, Microsoft mentioned that 3 months later it would be bringing out an Ivy Bridge version running Windows 8 Pro. At the end of last year, Microsoft announced pricing for Surface Pro: $899 for the 64GB version and $999 for the 128GB version, both without any bundled touch/type cover. Today we get the missing puzzle piece: availability. Surface Pro will be available in the US and Canada starting on February 9th.

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 (17W 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

Earlier in the month I had the chance to sit down with a pre-release Surface Pro. While my time with the unit was too brief for a full review, there are a few points I'd like to share:

- From a distance, Surface Pro looks a lot like Surface RT. You can easily tell the difference in display sharpness compared to Surface RT (1080p vs 1366 x 768 helps), but both sport the same 10.6-inch 16:9 form factor. When viewed head on with the display off, you can't tell it apart from the RT version. I really believe Microsoft settled on the right display size for a notebook/tablet convergence device (although I'm still not sold that this is the ideal aspect ratio).

- Surface Pro is definitely thicker and heavier than Surface RT. Microsoft does a good job of masking the weight in both of these devices, but I'd still like to see thinner/lighter versions next round.

- I'm not too bothered by Surface Pro's pricing, as it's ultimately an Ultrabook competitor. However I would like to see a bundled touch or type cover at those price points. I'd also like to see integrated Thunderbolt to truly enable the tablet/notebook/desktop usage model. 

- As I mentioned in the first Surface Pro announcement piece, the tablet uses a 17W Core i5 (Ivy Bridge) SKU. I'm not sure how much we should read into Surface Pro not being a 7W SDP Ivy Bridge launch vehicle. The performance per volume is obviously going to be very good as a result. Microsoft demonstrated content creation and even gaming workloads on the tablet, both of which were very responsive. This is really where I feel Microsoft dropped the ball on not including Thunderbolt, although if all you need is miniDP out then Surface Pro has you covered. If you're fine with an Ultrabook/MacBook Air-class system as your main machine, Surface Pro could really be everything from your tablet to your desktop.

- Don't be fooled by the similarities in capacity. Surface Pro uses a full blown SSD, not an eMMC solution for storage. It also features an integrated USB 3.0 port, so IO performance will be notebook-like not tablet-like.

- Surface Pro features two fans that are audible under heavy load but attempt to remain as quiet as possible. The fans will adjust their direction of rotation depending on how you're holding the tablet, with the goal of never exhausting warm air into your hands. The vents are located around the top half of the device as you can see in the image above (this separation doesn't exist on Surface RT).

- The digitizer that ships with Surface Pro attaches magnetically to the charge port on the tablet. 

- Surface Pro uses the same type and touch covers as Surface RT. These two remain the best tablet keyboards I've ever used, not in that they are great keyboards but they offer a great balance of usability and form factor. Type/touch cover really do feel like a cover that you never need to remove, whereas most other tablet keyboards make me feel like I've turned my tablet into a notebook. I would still like to see Microsoft take a second pass at the covers though, I feel like there's room for improvement in usability. MS nailed the form factor, now it's time to perfect the keyboard/trackpad functionality.

- Surface RT was built from three discrete pieces of VaporMg (injection moulded magnesium): frame, back and kickstand. Surface Pro only needs two: the frame and back are integrated, and the kickstand is the only other discrete piece of VaporMg. The finish feels identical to Surface RT, although the kickstand did feel different to me. I didn't get enough time with the unit to really pinpoint how it was different, I just noticed that something was different. Overall I'm still very impressed with the build quality of Microsoft's Surface devices, if the rest of the Windows RT/8 tablets and notebooks felt like this I'm not sure Microsoft would have needed to build Surface to begin with.

- As much as I love the kickstand (all tablets need Surface's kickstand), Microsoft still doesn't have a great solution for in-lap use. The kickstand is workable, but not ideal. I'm not sure if there's even a real mechanical solution to this problem, but I'd love to see one. 

Overall I'm very excited about Surface Pro. Like Surface RT, I feel like the one that's going to be really exciting is the next generation device though. Without Haswell you lose S0ix and support for ARM-like idle platform power, which I suspect is going to be largely responsible for the "5 hour battery life" claims vs. Surface RT. Anyone shopping for an Ultrabook won't be put off by the battery life, but compared to ARM based tablets it doesn't look good. When you can get Ultrabook/MBA performance and ARM-like idle power however, things get very interesting. The appropriate Haswell parts won't be available until Q3 of this year, making holiday 2013 (or maybe a little sooner) a probable launch for a Surface Pro 2.

I'm glad to see Microsoft going down this path. The past few years have been littered with form factor confusion, and while I don't have clear visibility to what will ultimately emerge as the "right" ones, I do believe there's currently room for something in between a tablet and a notebook. 

Microsoft remains ahead of the curve in building tablet/notebook convergence devices. Unlike Apple however, Microsoft doesn't have the luxury of showing up to an uncrowded market. As a result, Microsoft has to work a lot harder to convince folks that Surface is a platform worth using - the initial flaws are less excusable when the market is full of mature competitors.

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  • AncientWisdom - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    Agreed. Manufactures have completely dropped the ball in regards to offering Tablets and Hybrids with 3G\4G connectivity. A friend of mine has been on a tight lookout and can't find a single decent device that offers this. Reply
  • mnbob1 - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    I have been a Windows user since the very first version was released and my laptop is running Windows 8 Pro. That said, I can see how a tablet could make good use of the Metro interface but when it comes to using legacy applications, which you would be required to do, you lose the tablet's whole point which is to be a touch device -- not a keyboard or even a stylus device.

    Microsoft has gone after a completely different market segment here. This device is heavy, cumbersome, runs hot due to the legacy processor design and requires a fan and vent openings, and gets lousy battery life. The display is large but the pixels per inch is less than competitors.

    All of this and they couldn't build in mobile connectivity? Not even 3G? I'll tell you why. The wireless carriers wouldn't touch this with a 10 foot pole. It's a non-starter. This is not a mobile tablet device.

    It's not even a notebook device. It's some strange beast that Microsoft cooked up in their laboratories trying to compete with Apple and Android tablets but trying to hold on to Windows using Windows 8 that's just not really ever going to be tablet friendly because the developers and users just won't ever put down their styluses and give up their tactile keyboards.

    And yes I own and love an Apple iPad. It is truly a tablet. It handles 80% of my daily needs which turns out to be web-based. I do almost all of my email correspondence on it. It even has Office compatible apps loaded so I can edit and create spreadsheets, or write a Word document and email them back to my office or in my case I use Dropbox. I read the latest news, get the latest updates on my stocks, the weather, texting all without special applications and even when my tablet is asleep. I get all of this, 3G and 4G wireless, and over 10 hours of battery life.

    And yes I wrote this on my iPad.
    Reply
  • ATimson - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    If you want a mobile tablet device, get the Surface RT, not the Surface Pro. Reply
  • AncientWisdom - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    Sadly the RT doesn't answer half of what he does on his iPad. And in any way why would he switch from one tablet to another? Reply
  • jdperk - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    I don't want a tablet. I think a tablet is a waste of money and time. If all one wants to do is surf the web and check email OK then a tablet, be it iPad or Android, will do. The screen size will make it difficult to do anything with major PC apps but I am sure one can work with them in a pinch. What I want is what Surface Pro is and that is to include Samsung Slate 7 that I only found out about a few months ago. I want a full blown PC that I can take and use like a tablet. I will be able to code, create powerful Excel apps using VBA, and anything else a PC can do. Windows 8 is designed for a touch screen so it works here.

    I have been doing my homework and I have devised a docking system for Surface Pro or for that matter Samsung Slate 7 or similar. When I want to work on a PC app I will connect a blue tooth keyboard and mouse, I will use a product from Matrox call DualHead2Go to connect two large monitors and magically I have a docking system for a full PC. Now when I am on the go I just take Surface Pro and use it like a simple tablet; however, if I need to run a full PC app while I am out I can. I can't do that with and iPad, or Asus Tranformer Prime.

    As for battery life, it is a full blown PC and one has to power that hardware. I can live with the current battery life. I think most people think and iPad is a productive device, I for one think it is too limiting. My fellow workers have gone the iPad route and I only seen one person find a single use for one and he had to gel break it to get more functionality. He uses his to carry all the manuals he needs for his job in PDF form while traveling.

    The next big thing will be when one can carry a monitor the size of a wrist watch and project a 24" display in front of the person or on a wall. Then Surface Pro and others in this form factor will be truly portable.

    I also hear everyone talking about the next version will have this or that. That the next version will be better. No one can keep up with technology. If you can buy it then it is already obsolete. So I say buy today what you think will work for you and use it. Yes tomorrow someone will come out with the next big thing. Unless you have megabucks one cannot keep up with the megabytes.

    If I can find the funds I will buy Surface Pro and create a docking station as I have described. Right now my $4K 2007 Sager laptop is still working for me.
    Reply
  • tablet - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    This is my reason I think the surface pro is a better alternative tablet/PC to a lot of the competitors it makes a great road warrior one and all alternative I have owned the samsung series 7 slate for a year and I hated the separate docking station setup with the external bluetooth keyboard you could not do work on a plane because of the setup going through the airport security was a pain and packing and carrying the tablet,dock,and bluetooth keyboard and power adapter and setting it up on a table becomes cumbersome after awhile thats why the samsung is on ebay now as i post this message what the surface offers that other windows tablets dont is portability all you have to carry is the tablet and power adapter the keyboard doubles as a smart cover open keyboard tablet awakes from sleep close keyboard tablet goes to sleep when I left meetngs with the samsung I had to grab power adapter,docking station and bluetooth keyboard thats why the surface pro is good for road warriors. Reply
  • Netscorer - Thursday, January 24, 2013 - link

    Gosh, road warrior needs more then 4 hours of runtime, mobile connectivity and a keyboard that you can use with laptop on your lap. Surface Pro may be anything but it ain't road warrior. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, January 24, 2013 - link

    The problem is that it costs less to purchase a separate tablet and a separate PC than it does to purchase a tablet PC and a dock. A good dock is outrageously expensive. Why not just buy a kindle fire (or whatever) for only a fraction more. And you dont have to mess with all the problems that docks bring. Reply
  • KaRRiLLioN - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    Are we going to see a Windows 8 Tablet Roundup? There are a number of them out there, but this is the first one I've seen you guys review, unless I missed it.

    Any chance of rounding up some Pro tablets and comparing them? I'm not interested in RT.
    Reply
  • GotThumbs - Thursday, January 24, 2013 - link

    the comparison is between a $900 X64 powered computer and a $500 ARM powered tablet that only runs Apps.

    It's like comparing a garden trowel to a shovel. They both are similar in function, but one can do significantly more work at the end of the day.

    If Apple had a similar product, it would most likely sell for at least $1,200. IMO.

    At the end of the day, anyone who knows what their needs are, will make the purchase based on those needs. If they haven't a clue, then they will most likely buy the IProduct.

    Best Wishes,
    Reply

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