So, Microsoft has finally revealed its US pricing for the Surface Pro. The question is, will it fly at that price?
We are still waiting for UK pricing for Microsoft's Surface Pro. However, given the exchange rate and the addition of sales tax, I'd say the base $899 64GB model should work out at £675 and the $999 128GB version £749 (I'm being very generous and avoiding the European mark-up that US companies frequently apply). That's without a keyboard, remember, and those cost £100 extra.
This is an ultrabook. You'd better buy the keyboard too
What are you getting for that money? Basically, a touch-capable ultrabook minus the keyboard — a very well-engineered one, but an ultrabook nonetheless.
Of course it's a tablet too, but I'm thinking in terms of the sole reason anyone would buy this rather than the ARM-based Surface RT: the ability to run the legacy Windows apps they already know and love. This is an ultrabook. You'd better buy the keyboard too.
What's more, this is an ultrabook with a reportedly rather rubbish battery life of around four to five hours. Bear in mind that ultrabooks are supposed to be notable for their excellent battery life.
Has Microsoft got this right?
Before looking at the Surface Pro specifically, I should mention what I would consider to be reasonable ultrabook pricing.
I'd say around £500 — about the same as a decent desktop laptop, if you know what I mean, with the portability of the ultrabook making up for its relatively poor graphics grunt. I know, this is not where the pricing is today, but if ultrabook volumes ramped up sufficiently, it could be somewhere in that region.
Problem is, there's something of a Catch 22 here: ultrabooks mostly cost hundreds more (depending on whether you're buying an old model or not), and tablets mostly cost less. So, if portability is your aim and you're not that bothered about having a real keyboard, these days you'll probably opt for a tablet. In other words, ultrabook volumes are probably not going to ramp up sufficiently to bring down the price.
Anyway, that's my fantasy pricing. Back to the real world, where the Surface Pro plus keyboard probably comes in at £775 or £850, depending on the storage.
Here are some rival ultrabooks and tablet-plus-keyboard combos that are currently available:
- Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro tablet with keyboard (£1,100) is similarly specced but heavier.
- HP Envy X2 tablet with keyboard (£800) has a worse processor (Atom rather than Core i5)
- Acer Aspire S7 (11.6-inch) ultrabook (£950 and up) is similarly specced but has an even worse battery life
The conclusion? Actually — and assuming my calculation for the UK pricing is accurate — Microsoft probably has this one about right.
The problem is the battery life. I cannot get past it. Apart from the S7 (which seems even more of a dud on this point), those rivals I mentioned above will all give you significantly more. And on that point alone, the Surface Pro suddenly becomes a bad deal. What is clearly a high-end device in so many respects suddenly becomes a mid-range device in practical usage.
After all, the whole point of having a tablet, even one with a keyboard, is that wonderful portability. Ditto the ultrabook. And, certainly when it comes to a productivity tool, portability is a function of battery life, as well as of dimensions and weight.
Otherwise you might as well have a mid-range, bulkier PC — which you probably already have.