Why I'm not trading my Surface RT for a Surface Pro

Microsoft's Surface Pro, to me, seems like a PC in tablet's clothing. I'm not missing Win32 apps on my Surface RT. So it's no Pro for me.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

As we know as of today, Microsoft's Surface Pro will go on sale starting on February 9.


Even before the promised Surface Pro January delivery date slipped into February, I have had a number of readers ask me whether I plan to "upgrade" and trade in my Surface RT for the Pro model. The answer: No.

I bought a Surface RT on October 26, the first day it was available. I had an opportunity to play with one briefly in the hours before it launched (thanks to Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott) and decided it was worth taking the plunge. I did this in spite of many colleagues warning me it would be nothing more than an underpowered and expensive toy.

I started out trying to use the Surface RT with a red Touch Cover. Right before Christmas, I gave up repeated attempts to actually make the Touch Cover (the colorful ones with flat, nontactile keys) work for me. I bought a Type Cover and my relationship with my Surface changed instantly. It became much more of my go-to device because the combined keyboard/cover actually worked as a keyboard.

Like those who've reviewed the Surface RT, I've had my frustrations with it. The screen sometimes doesn't register my touches. I'm not overly keen that IE10 is my only Metro-style browser choice. It's hard to get the power cord to connect correctly to the device. The magnets that keep the screen closed could be stronger. My battery life is good (eight hours on average; far less when I use Xbox Music), but not in iPad territory. And speaking of Xbox Music and the built-in Mail app... both are of alpha quality, at best.

Vote Now: The Great Debate: Windows RT: Worthless or the Future of Windows?

On the plus side, the Surface RT is light, portable and, for me, durable. I don't need to carry the power cord when I take it with me in my purse for the day. It fits in well my personal Windows-centric ecosystem. I've used it to write blog posts on planes, trains and subway cars.

The Surface Pro -- from reports from those who were granted limited hands-on time with the device at the Consumer Electronics Show -- has a higher-resolution display, better magnetic connector for powering up, and, of course, the ability to run existing Win32 apps. It also only has half the battery life of a Surface RT, so in the five-hour or so range. (From all accounts, it is not going to include the lower-power but higher-battery-life-enabling version of Intel's core i5 processor, contrary to some reports.)

It's not the price difference that's going to keep me away from the $$899/$999 Surface Pro. It's the fact that it is really a PC in tablet's clothing. I am interested in buying a new Windows PC this year. But I want one with excellent battery life. (I am totally indifferent if my next PC has a touch screen. I don't need one, as long as I have a touch-enabled mouse, like the Logitech one I've been testing out lately.)

Again, for me -- and your mileage likely will vary -- use of the Surface RT has shown me that the lack of Win32 (and even Metro-style) apps is not a big deal. I am spending about 99 percent of my time on the Surface RT in the Metro environment. I have found very few Metro-style apps I consider worth downloading. Instead, many of the things pinned to my Start Screen are web sites. I've found the Web versions of many sites (example: the New York Times) much better than the companion apps. The ability to store photos and documents in my SkyDrive cloud mean even the 32 GB model I bought has plenty of storage for me.

This, by the way, is a big problem for Microsoft. For years, one of the big reasons Windows has thrived is because users bought machines that could run make-or-break apps that were only available on Windows. If there aren't any "killer apps" for Windows 8/Windows RT, is there really much of an argument for choosing any Windows 8 or Windows RT device over a substantially cheaper ChromeBook?

My tablet is a consumption device first and foremost, with the ability to create (blog posts, in my case) a nice bonus. I do not consider the Surface RT a replacement for my PC, even though I originally thought/hoped it might be able to act in that capacity. I consider it a companion device, just like my iPad was before I donated it late last year. The Surface RT is a version 1.0 product, but it's helped me get used to Windows 8/Windows RT because it is hardware that makes the software palatable.

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