Microsoft Surface Pro review

Microsoft Surface Pro review

Summary: The Core i5-based Surface Pro combines ultrabook components with a (chunky) 10.6in. tablet form factor to deliver decent performance and excellent build quality. However, a few design issues, missing features and, above all, disappointing battery life suggest you'd be wise to wait and see how this product develops.

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  • Editors' rating:
    7.5
  • User rating:
    6.1

Conclusion
Like the ARM-based Surface RT, the bulkier, heavier and more powerful x86-based Surface Pro is very much a version 1.0 product. As with the RT model, build quality is generally excellent, although we have a few gripes, including the non-adjustable kickstand, the fiddly magnetic power connector and the lack of a slot to house the stylus. Because it's more of an ultrabook with tablet capabilities, there are a few missing features that would really make a difference if addressed, including a desktop dock with extra ports (USB and Ethernet in particular), a keyboard cover containing a second battery and support for lower-power processors than the 17W third-generation Core i5 currently used. Also, if you're going to work with a large external monitor, be prepared for some fiddling around with desktop scaling settings.

As ever, fans of all things Microsoft, and early adopters generally, will embrace the Surface Pro warmly — particularly the 128GB version. It's certainly an intriguing bit of kit that should give other makers of hybrid tablet/ultrabook hardware plenty to think about. But it's not perfect yet — especially when it comes to battery life. We look forward to the next iterations of Surface with interest.


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Surface Pro opinions from around ZDNet & Tech Republic

"Surface Pro flirts with greatness, but its caveats could become show-stoppers for a lot of users."

"The product brilliantly weaves mouse and keyboard and pen computing in ways that feel very effective and useful."

"The problem with Surface Pro is that it's trying to bridge the gap between two products, a laptop and tablet, and it doesn't quite stand out enough at either function."
Jason Hiner

 

"The ideal buyer of this device, I suspect, is someone who works in a large office and is continually bouncing between meeting rooms, with ready access to Wi-Fi and power outlets. The Surface Pro absolutely shines in that scenario, and it works for occasional trips outside the office as well: an hour or two in a coffee shop, a short flight to a customer meeting, a few hours on the couch in the evening with one eye on the big screen and the other on Twitter."

"It helps, too, if the person using this device is well connected to Microsoft products and cloud services and is already familiar with Windows 8 and eager to switch to a touchscreen device."
Ed Bott

 

"In the end, for me, the Surface Pro is just OK. I am waiting/expecting Microsoft to do better, in terms of delivering a Windows 8 PC. Microsoft may consider itself among those attempting to reinvent a computing device category by delivery a PC/tablet hybrid. But the Surface Pro isn't the best on either front. I am hoping for another Microsoft Surface-branded device that might be my next Windows PC. The Surface Pro is not this machine."
Mary-Jo Foley

 

"What Microsoft is delivering with Surface Pro is a laptop that's also a tablet (in a similar way, the Surface RT is a tablet that's also a laptop). It's shaping up to be the Tablet PC done right, with a mix of hardware and software that should make it attractive to many users — and at an ultrabook price point."
Simon Bisson

Specifications

General
Dimensions (W x H x D) 27.46 x 1.35 x 17.3 cm
Case form factor tablet
Weight 0.903 kg
OS & software
Operating system Windows 8 Pro
Software included Office 365 Home Premium (30-day trial)
Chipset & memory
RAM installed 4096 MB
RAM capacity 4 GB
Video
GPU Intel HD Graphics 4000
GPU type integrated
Video connections Mini-DisplayPort
Display
Display technology ClearType Full HD 10-point touchscreen
Display size 10.6 in
Native resolution 1920x1080 pixels
Connections
USB 1 x USB 3.0
Flash card MicroSD
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Bluetooth 4.0
Input
Pointing devices trackpad (on Touch/Type covers), stylus
Keyboard Touch Cover, Type Cover (optional)
Fingerprint reader No
Camera
2nd camera front
Flash No
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 1 megapixels
Main camera resolution 1 megapixels
Audio
Audio connectors audio out
Speakers stereo
Microphone yes
Miscellaneous
Accessories 48W AC adapter
Battery
Battery technology Li-ion
Number of batteries supplied 1
Number of batteries supported 1
Removable battery No
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.7 GHz
Processor manufacturer Intel
Processor model Core i5-3317U
Solid-state drive
Interface SATA III
Capacity 128 GB
Expand

Prices

Price
Price USD 999

Topics: Microsoft Surface, Laptops, Reviews, Tablets, Windows 8

About

Charles has been in tech publishing since the late 1980s, starting with Reed's Practical Computing, then moving to Ziff-Davis to help launch the UK version of PC Magazine in 1992. ZDNet came looking for a Reviews Editor in 2000, and he's been here ever since.

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Talkback

124 comments
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  • Try Harder MS

    3.0

    Jack of all trades yet master of none.

    Needs to $500 to succeed.
    Alan Smithie
    • Try harder, Intel (not Microsoft)...

      8.0

      Jack of all trades, master of many.

      But ultimately the biggest issues with it (battery life, thickness and weight) are in the hands of Intel and not Microsoft.
      wp7mango
      • Amen

        1.0

        A truly portable device that I will carry EVERYWHERE has to have huge battery life, be lightweight, and be thin. This device is/has none of the above. If I wanted to carry something only relatively portable to create massive amounts of content, I'd buy a real Ultrabook over this half-a$$ed version. It tries too hard to target both audiences and it is a mediocre version of both. Major fail.

        If they can double the battery life, make it thinner, and make it lighter, it MIGHT stand a chance at catching up with the iPad in popularity. As it exists now, there is no way that's going to happen.
        BillDem
    • Yeah that was my first impression

      as well. Its trying to be everything and so succeeds at nothing.
      baggins_z
  • how come it takes that long for a review ?

    6.0

    All other major tech sites have long covered this tablet.

    Regarding the tablet : Neither fish nor fowl.
    Want a REAL tablet : go Android or iOS = smaller, lighter, better battery lifetime
    Want a REAL laptop : any ultrabook will do = sturdy, works in lap, better connectivity (ethernet, more USB port, docking station, ...)

    How many users need a device that is such a compromise ? Only a few. All others either go for a tablet or laptop or both.
    EnticingHavoc
    • Agree with you

      I have been away for a while. I notice a lot of new(?) handles and a very organized pro-MS flagging campaign. MS must be desperate to try to control the narrative around the Surface Pro.

      Just watch the flagging of this post. Will the MS shills be able to resist?
      D.T.Long
      • Are you serious?

        Why is it that any opinion other than your own automatically means they're an "MS Shill"? Don't you get tired of calling people that? Has it occurred to you that perhaps there are people out there who genuinely enjoy their MS products?

        Probably not. I want a Surface Pro, yes I'm aware of the trade offs. But with it I can leave my iPad at home for my daughter and give my Ultrabook back to the company. It's a perfect devices FOR ME. And I'm not paid by MS, although I would be more than happy to take some money. Perhaps even a free Surface Pro. Since you say there are so many MS employees roaming these boards I'd be okay if one of them wants to contact me regarding such opportunities.

        And for the record, I'm a Systems Engineer at a company that isn't even a MS Partner. We specialize in Storage, Route/Switch, Compute and Virtualization. So no, I don't depend on MS for my living either.
        LiquidLearner
        • Face it, you guys are shills

          1.0

          Who in their right mind would use, or let alone defend M$’s products? A shill would, that’s for sure. Regular people wouldn’t since they make the worst junk you can buy. Would a regular person who spent money on one of their products, only to find out what a piece of crap it is, then go out and defend them after M$ just ripped them off?

          Wake up. It’s clear the only people defending MS are the shills that get paid to come here and do that.
          I Am Galactus
          • Spoken like a real impartial neutral observer

            And you truly want us to believe you purchased both an RT and Pro Surface?
            The same person who states "they make the worst junk you can buy".
            Its ok, not to like a product or company but at least be honest about it.
            No other name for you except LIAR.
            thekman58
          • I.T.

            Are you a teenager?

            Just because someone DARES to not agree with your point of view, doesn't mean they work for Microsoft.

            I can only hope, that when you get into the big boys world you will see arguing about I.T. equipment only makes you look like a total moron who doesn't work in I.T. This goes for you and D.T. long.

            My view, the surface pro is a tool that will fit in some categories, but I think I would rather have a Dell flippy screen tablet / ultrabook. I doubt it will do that well. I hope MS stick to what they are good at, software, and leave the hardware to the experts!

            And no, I don't work for Microsoft.. or Dell. I work for a non I.T. manufacturing company.
            carbine-465cb
          • I think they did a great job with the Surface Pro

            "I hope MS stick to what they are good at, software, and leave the hardware to the experts!"

            This is a much better tablet then some of those put out from hardware companies filled with experts. And iOS seems to be doing well even though it comes from a hardware company with no software experts.

            Looking at the surface, I would have to conclude that MS does indeed have hardware experts within their walls.
            William Farrel
          • I don't even know what a shill is but,

            10.0

            I'm an engineering student at UT and I actually bought the RT before exchanging it for the pro. I love the Surface Pro. Sure the battery life kinda sucks compared to the RT,(which is basically just a cool iPad). For people that need more productivity than entertainment, I think the Surface Pro works great. The pen input is super accurate with no lag whatsoever (I write all my physics and calculus notes on it). If you don't need a device with these capabilities then get a MacBook air, but otherwise it's a great laptop replacement.
            ruckon7
          • Paid Shills

            Paid MS Shill, that's ridiculous, or are you saying that because you are an Apple or Google paid shill? Get a life.
            groberts116
      • Same here.

        I flew in Sunday only to find that once I logged back in that cloggeddbottom7 looks to have made a few more "users" to help flag any non-MS hating filled or non-MS insulting posts.

        A new low, even for him.
        William Farrel
    • here is what you dont get..

      9.0

      The Surface Pro shines in the IT scenario... and ITs have a lot of employees all around the world.

      Neither android nor iOS shine in the IT scenario.
      Simon Tupper
      • True

        2.0

        but neither Android or iOS are more expensive than a fucking Mac only to offer what is essentially a medium-spec laptop
        bean520-0b405
  • Too little, too late.....

    Once again, Microsoft scrambles to try to catch up and by the time they do, AAPL will have moved on, creating a new market for the next big thing.

    Just good enough isn't good enough anymore..... sorry. This will just be an also ran in the overall market.
    techno_bob
    • crapple is now scrambling to catch-up

      10.0

      isheeps are worried they've got nothing like this
      ozinanoypi
      • POS

        2.0

        Toaster and a fridge.
        Marzell
      • Having the Surface

        3.0

        and mSheeps are worried because they do - just sayin'
        earljgray