Microsoft Surface Pro Review: Too Much Future?

The Microsoft Surface was the biggest new tech of 2012. Its first iteration — Surface RT, a confusingly named and marketed tablet-with-a-keyboard — bombed. Pretty hard. So why believe in the full-powered Surface Pro? Simple. It's a braver and more divergent take on the laptop-tablet convergence than anyone else has risked so far.

But while the Pro improves on the RT in nearly every measurable way, it presents a whole different problem set for Microsoft. Where the RT was aiming at Tablet Plus — an ambitious enough goal — the Pro cannot afford to be Laptop Minus. In this strange new world of hybrid devices, is that even possible?

Giz AU Editor's Note: This is a US review of the Surface Pro. We will follow up with a local version shortly.

Why It Matters

The Surface Pro is the fullest expression of the Windows 8 ethos. It has the face of a tablet, the guts of a laptop and the soul of a crystal ball. Where other convertibles have struggled to contort old world design into now-world needs, the Surface starts fresh. This is the best chance we have to prove we might finally be ready to move past traditional, tired designs and interfaces.

But the Pro is also a reality check for Windows 8 itself. Defenders of the new OS insist that it just hasn't been given the right vessel to showcase it yet. Well, there will never be any righter hardware for Windows 8 than Surface Pro. If it doesn't work here, maybe there's a problem.

Design

Like the Surface RT before it, the Surface Pro is gorgeous. The Pro is a bit thicker than the RT, but keeps the same design principles. Trapezoidal angles, sure-footed kickstand, snap-in keyboard cover. Both Surfaces are so pretty and neat and new that you'll pick them up and touch them when you don't even need to use them.

At first blush, the Pro looks thick for what it is — a slate — and that can give the impression that it's bigger than small-for-a-laptop machines like the MacBook Air. Don't be fooled; it's actually lighter and thinner than the 11.6-inch Air. Along with the Surface, Microsoft will happily sell you either a Touch or Type cover, both of which function as the Surface's keyboard and trackpad. The Type cover has a traditional keyboard that's basically full-sized, while the Touch cover is a flat surface that detects your keystrokes with no moving parts. While these were purely optional on the Surface RT, they're essential to approaching the Surface Pro's full-PC potential.

Using It

The Surface Pro runs Windows 8 Pro, meaning it plays nice with all of Surface RT's Metro apps as well as all your old desktop apps. Its Ivy Bridge i5 processor, the same you'll find in most ultrabooks, launches apps almost instantly (another big upgrade from Surface RT). Want to use Surface Pro as a laptop? Snap in a keyboard cover, pop out the kickstand, set it down on a table. It works a lot like you see in the commercials.

If you try to use the Surface Pro like every laptop you've ever owned, though, you'll break it over your knee inside of a week. Sitting with it on your lap on the couch or a train seat, for instance, or typing IMs or emails in bed — you're not going to want to do any of that stuff here. It'll wobble on your leg. It won't prop itself up at a viewable angle on your chest. Surface looks and acts like a laptop when it has its keyboard cover in, but it's not one. It's less sturdy, less adjustable.

Surface Pro's point of view is that, well, why the hell wouldn't you just take the cover off and switch to tablet mode in those spots? That's its answer to a lot of things, actually. Inconvenient? You should be using touch instead! Which is valid, to a point. Maybe you should use touch to scroll instead of using the iffy trackpad. But that glosses over the loss of real utility, the ability to do some of the most common things people do with their computers, in the most common ways they do them. In many ways, it defeats the purpose. That's a deal-breaker for many who don't have any use for the future-is-here features of the Surface.

As a tablet, the Pro has significantly more heft to it than the iPad or Nexus 10. But the build quality is so strong — everything feels like it just fits — that you don't really mind, unless you try to use it one-handed. It's a little too heavy for that, which is understandable considering the guts, but enough to make you question if you actually want a Core i5 in a tablet — a serious concern for the Surface. Apps are fast (even the Kindle app lagged badly on Surface RT), and more importantly, the improved screen (207ppi) makes reading books or articles in the Metro UI at least comparable to the experience on competing tablets. And you'll actually appreciate having those big fullscreen apps for once, since the decision to switch to touch is more natural than other hybrid laptops.

One of the Pro's fundamental problems is almost tragically ironic. Its screen is too good. Which is to say, its 1080p resolution is so dense on the 10.6-inch screen that desktop programs seem too small, too cramped. Since you're already going to probably be hunched over your desk and squinting while using this 10.6-inch screen, teeny tiny text isn't much of a help. To offset this, Microsoft has made the default Magnification setting 150 per cent. That helps a bit by enlarging icons, text, and some apps, but results in many third party apps — like the Steam client — looking like fuzzy eyesores. It's a similar problem to non-retina-optimised apps on a retina MacBook Pro.

Even with the magnification, many of the controls remain too small to touch with any accuracy, a problem exacerbated by the too-small trackpad on both covers. A lot of this can be solved up by hooking up Surface Pro to a second screen. But Hey it works fine when you're stationary at your desk and connected to a huge monitor isn't exactly the on-the-go uprising the Surface Pro promised.

The Keyboard Covers

There is zero difference between the keyboard covers that come with the Surface RT and the Surface Pro. They're identical and interchangeable. But unlike RT, Surface Pro needs a real keyboard if it has any chance of fulfilling its potential.

Both the Touch and Type keyboards are totally usable. You'll need more time to get used to typing on the Touch, with the biggest difference being the lack of tactile feedback when you miss a letter. It's also a little harder to reliably hit the bottom row of function keys, because they bleed into the palmrest instead of being clearly delineated. Annoying, but manageable, mostly. You'll be able to type at basically full speed with the Type keyboard, and after a week or two, pretty confidently on the Touch cover as well.

But then there's the trackpad. It's (surprisingly!) very accurate on both covers, but it's just too small. Using the tiny pad to move the tiny cursor in the very tiny Desktop environment is enough to make you blind, and then cross-eyed. And sure, that problem is largely a function of desktop Windows in a mobile environment, and most apps not being touch-optimised yet. But that's where we are. And frustratingly, it would have been easy to fix.

Microsoft chose to squeeze in a superfluous top row of keys instead of giving the trackpad more breathing room. That top row of is a vestigial remnant of a kind of computing Microsoft abandoned years ago. You don't need F-keys on modern keyboards. The Touch cover doesn't even bother applying the F-numbers to them. It dedicates three keys to volume control, all of which are also controlled by a physical switch on the side of the Surface. Four more are dedicated to Charm functions, which can be also accessed by a simple gesture (swipe from the right side) or by mousing to either right-side corner. And the last four keys are reserved for fossils like Home, End, PageUp and PageDown. That leaves Play/Pause (also basically extraneous), Escape and Delete. Lose that upper row, and maybe you've got room left for a usable trackpad.

Yes, you can just use a mouse or the (quite good, once calibrated) stylus. But that's not the insinuation of the Surface — either at its announcement, or in all the commercials selling it as a self-contained über-device.

For Gaming

Gaming is a bit hit or miss. While the Pro runs just fine with all the games you'd expect to play given its guts (Borderlands 2, Diablo 3, The Walking Dead and Portal 2 were all playable at low-to-mid settings; Skyrim, less so), controlling them can be a challenge. The Touch cover especially suffers from the lack of tactile feedback. You can use a bluetooth keyboard to make up the difference, and that's fine for a desktop setup (the Pro handles a second 1080p screen just fine), but obviously not ideal if you're planning on gaming on the go.

Touch-enabled games are a different story. Civilization V, for example, has newish touch drivers, and plays exactly how you'd want a turn-based touch-enabled game to. Drag and select units, tap commands, play a full damn PC game as though it were a native tablet app. It's a glimpse of the fulfillment of Microsoft's promise of One Device.

But only a glimpse. In order to get Civilisation V to work properly with touch, you've got to turn off the Surface Pro's default magnifications setting that enlarges the UI to usable sizes (remember that?). Otherwise, the touch points don't match the in-game buttons, even at full screen. And it's not a simple fix; it requires you to log in and out of your account, and shut down all your apps. Then, once you're done playing the game, log in and out to change the settings back. Not the end of the world, but needlessly frustrating, and hugely confusing until you realise what's going on.

The lasting impression you get from gaming on the Surface Pro, though, is potential. There is an ungodly amount of potential here. Playing a game like The Walking Dead, which is a mix of traditional movement and menu-based actions, you imagine how awesome it would be to have touch drivers as well-tuned as Civ V's. You imagine the same for games like Cave, Crusader Kings II, or even Skyrim. And then you think, man, this thing is nearly there.

For Pros

The Surface Pro might be one of the most exceptional tools available to visual professionals. Especially once (if) industry standard software catches up to what the Pro is doing.

The Surface Pro has Wacom digitiser technology, which means it can be used with a pressure-sensitive stylus. It works wonderfully. Using the pen to draw in programs like Sketchbook, the performance approaches that of high-end devices like the Wacom's Cintiq devices. And it's effectively cheaper, since a 12-inch Cintiq runs $US850, and isn't a standalone device.

Photography is a little trickier. On one hand, the full desktop suite of Lightroom and Photoshop-like apps is a massive upgrade from the stripped-down versions found on the iPad and other tablets. But Adobe's products aren't plugged into Windows' magnification settings, so on the 10.6-inch 1080p screen, the controls are all painfully small. Dropping down the resolution to 1600x900 helps, and still looks sharp, but obviously isn't ideal. Still, being able to use the stylus in the field to touch up in Photoshop will be hugely valuable for many photogs. Others who deal with faster pace and and rougher conditions probably wouldn't be as interested.

One more note that applies to pro users especially — but also to anyone with a decent-sized onboard movie or music collection — is that the usable storage for the Pro comes in well under the listed numbers. 23GB usable for the 64GB model, and 84GB usable for the 128GB. You'll need to clear it out constantly.

Videographers, well, this one probably isn't for you just yet. Transfer speeds are great, but the limited storage, cramped controls, and tiny trackpad add up to a crappy field experience that isn't really enriched by touch controls.

That said, the underlying components perform well enough to use professionally. The transfer speeds on the SSD are impressively fast — faster than the MacBook Air in all tests — and it held its own in the Premiere Pro CS6 render test we run on pro-grade machines.

Like

We talk a lot about the future whenever anyone does something new. While the Surface Pro might not be the future, exactly as it is, it's absolutely full of ideas and functions that are just off the horizon, or just in from it. A pro-level stylus, touch-based everything, extreme portability, creative new ways to type. This is how you'd build a machine from the ground up if you wanted to make sure there was no chance of it falling behind the curve.

More concretely, the screen is gorgeous when displaying things that are the correct size, battery life is surprisingly good compared to ultrabooks (though nowhere near iPad levels) and the thing is damn beautifully made.

No Like

You'll need to tinker. Tinker tinker tinker. The process of getting and keeping the Surface Pro into a state that's comfortable and efficient is involved, largely because of Desktop scaling/sizing issues. Desktop is just too small and hard to control on the Surface. You need to go into a bunch of settings menus and dig and guess and hope to find a workable solution, and even the best are half-measures. Windows being Windows, there will be plugins that help, but this isn't an open-and-enjoy experience.

Most pressing, though, are all the ways that people looking for the perfect laptop/tablet hybrid can't use it like a laptop. The keyboard covers only work on flat surfaces; it's pretty bulky as a tablet even though it's well built; the trackpads are barely usable anywhere. A lot of this isn't quite the Surface Pro's fault. We have an ingrained set of habits we've formed, and the technologies to move past them — voice input, Kinect-like spatial gestures, eye tracking, SoC processors — haven't gotten to the point that they can make up for the Surface's shortcomings. It's a machine out of its time, in a way. And a lot of us aren't quite ready for it yet.

Test Notes

• While battery life compared well to ultrabooks in everyday laptop usage, it varied wildly in our tests, dipping as low as two hours 24 minutes (running just desktop Chrome, 20 tabs, 10-hour YouTube video running). Every other test lasted far longer; several programs and a video game running simultaneously lasting three hours 40 minutes. That said, leaving the Pro in standby mode while asleep sucks down battery unless you turn off a bunch of laptop-like functions.

• You can't just set Surface Pro down and pick it up days later and expect it to be charged, like you can with a tablet.

• When we first began using the stylus, its accuracy was totally fine in the center of the screen, but warped drastically around the top edge. That made it tough to use with apps like Photoshop. Calibrating the pen improved that hugely, though, and it was wonderful from then on.

• The stylus and the charger both attach to the Surface using the same mediocre magnetic connector. It's tough to get the charger to stick in there, and the pen just falls off in your bag. And you've got to find somewhere to put the stylus while Surface Pro is charging, obviously. Basically, you're going to lose the stylus.

• The Pro is always warm to the touch. Seriously, always. That's more or less expected given the guts at play, but it runs more consistently warm than a MacBook Air or a Lenovo Yoga when performing similar tasks. That's a bit of a problem for something you're intended to hold, though leaving the cover on helps.

• While speakers on a tablet or laptop are rarely worth mentioning, the Pro's sound is faint enough to actually be an issue. At max volume and with the screen literally six inches from my face, it was still impossible to make out some dialogue in a streamed video. Onboard sound is still a minor issue—you're probably using headphones—but it's a shame because the screen is so gorgeous while playing movies.

• One thing about Windows 8 that the Surface Pro highlights is the absence of a touch-based Explorer. The interface already exists in the SkyDrive app! There's no reason to not have a way to go through your files in the touch interface, instead of the miniaturized desktop version.

• If you've ever owned an iPad, you know that the Smart Cover streaks up your screen more than anything else. The Touch cover has a fun (not fun) variation where instead of three vertical streaks, it imprints an entire keyboard's worth of squares on your screen.

• A nice hidden benefit of the Surface's full Windows 8 Pro build is being able to use web-only/mobile-premium services like Hulu or Spotify on a tablet without paying a premium.

Should You Buy This?

If it fits your professional needs, you'll at least want to consider it. Same goes if you have enough scratch to take a flyer on a secondary computer (that also happens to represent the future of computing). For anyone else, the Surface Pro probably isn't worth it.

The Surface Pro is ultimately the best answer to questions a lot of people haven't bothered asking yet. That's different from being extraneous — it's more like being the girl who shows up 30 minutes early to every party — but it still means the Pro isn't for everyone. For a lot of you, a thick, superpowered tablet isn't necessary, and a laptop-like (and laptop-priced) machine that makes it harder to bang out emails, IMs, and tweets while on the couch or in bed is nothing you're interested in.

Specs as tested:

Display: 10.6-inch ClearType 1920x1080 (207ppi) Processor: Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge Graphics: Intel HD 4000 Memory: 4GB Storage: 128GB SSD Ports: Full-size USB 3.0, microSDXC card slot, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, Cover port Cameras: Two 720p HD LifeCams, front-facing and rear-facing Dimensions: 10.81 inches x 6.81 inches x 0.53 inches Weight: 907g Price: $US1000; $US130 more for a Touch Cover (Australian pricing and release date yet to be announced)


Comments

    So all in all an epic failure in the making then... except for blind-eyed MS users like Motormouth of course.

      You mean like Apple and Google Fanboys?

      Did we even read the same review? Having never attempted to use any laptop in bed, those concerns are irrelevant. As I always turn my computer off and never leave it in stand-by, I'm confident I would never have battery issues. Given the way I use my laptop now - plugged into a big monitor, keyboard and mouse at my desk - I cant see too many occasions on which I would need to switch scaling, so that's another total non-issue for me. That pretty much covers all the negative points, which leaves Surface Pro as pretty much all good for me.

      How exactly is it a fail for you?

        Im with you mate, there is no negatives for how i'd use it at home or work in this review, its all pure win.

        Will be picking me up a 128GB version, which will have 100GB of space free withing a few minutes of starting it.

          I'm along for the ride - though the price to me is the main sticking factor. It's *just* outside the sweet spot for what I think it should be. winRT is in the same boat.

          Ahh well, my need for latest/greatest will win out!

            Yeah I would have trouble choosing this over an Ultra book for the same price.

              I think I'll be passing on this generation of it, however what it does show me? Is the next generation of it, will be great. I can see exactly where they'll be improving and I can tell with those improvements, they'll hit the sweet spot of design and deliver something truly outstanding. It's MS's first foray into tablets with the RT and PRO, so I think people should cut them a little slack, the original iPad had its troubles too. The original iPhone was pretty crap and the original iPad wasn't without its faults either, lets not get started on the original android phones... so yeah like I said, I'm all aboard for the next generation of these. I might not be on board entirely with these ones? But they've got my attention right now, which is all they needed to do.

              Last edited 16/05/13 1:09 pm

                The next generation didn't help me with the iPad.

                My hatred of the iPad is limitless.

                  I don't really 'hate' any tech honestly. I can see the benefits of one, it just doesn't suit me. Suits others but not me. I've owned one and found it didn't serve my purposes.

        I actually like the Surface Pro a lot - the major drawback is the cost, which people who this appeals to won't care about. I think Kyle is being a little bit too precious here and unfairly hard on the Surface Pro.

        Last edited 06/02/13 2:52 pm

        That's pretty much what I'm looking at doing. Really interested in getting my hands on one of these.

        If you use it plugged in most of the time, why wouldn't you get a more powerful laptop that takes up a bit more room? Surely using a laptop/tablet thing plugged in most of the time defeats the purpose of having it?
        The surface pro is a much better device than the rt. I think there is a while to go until we have "one device to rule them all", but I can see the foundation of it in the surface pro.

          So what do you guess to buy .. I want something powerful .. which is light weight .. i have to carry it from home to office and back to home .. on my bike ... want to use photoshop i am designer and few emails..

          i have monitor and keyboard at office and home ... so display is not issue .. i really want light weight ..I travel frequently ...

        I agree, at last there is a tablet that suits me, today's modern man on the go. For years I have been using competitors products and they just seemed to be making me work harder than I needed to.

        Since purchasing the Microsoft Surface Pro I have been able to work faster and more easily than ever before giving me more time to spend on the things that are important in my life such as family.

        At only $999 I couldn't believe my eyes, I will be picking up another Microsoft Surface Pro for my wife in the near future!

          That reads just like a bad print advertisement. Well played, sir. Well played.

          Last edited 06/02/13 11:10 pm

          This is the most pathetic example of Astro-turfing we've had in a long time.
          Pirate Pete, you're fired.

          Signed
          S. Ballmer

      Yeah. Ha-ha, I mean, what would pretty much every corporate IT shop in the world know, right? Microsoft - what a joke!

      Still, it might not be as bad as this product: http://gizmodo.com/276116/no-bs-iphone-review . I mean, listen to this:

      Here's the verdict I'd give any good friend: Wait to buy the iPhone ... [t]his is what the phone of the future will look like

      Such an epic fail.

    "You don’t need F-keys on modern keyboards."

    WHAT

      Yeah, the guy obviously never uses Photoshop. Windows generally relies a lot more on F key hotkey combos than OS X, which probably accounts for the reviewer's confusion.

        and, like, the MICROSOFT office suite!

          I use office every day and haven't touched an F key in ten years. I use the Ctrl and Alt combos.

            You should look into it if you use it every day. They're pretty handy.

        or the large number of games that use them for shortcuts, or macros.

      I was going to mention that.

      He also says the Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys are "fossils". What? I use them every day!

        I understand Page Up and Page Down... But i've never encountered a use for Home or End?

          Fairly often i have to deal with 10000+ entry spreadsheets, and massive 100+ page process documents, so the home key gets used very often.

          I use home and end often when editing text strings and doing copy and paste type coding things.

          You would if you're a programmer. That's one of the things that turned me off OSX. I guess it's sort of a different way to use it, but using the 'fn' + left/right was so frustrating, I wanted my Home/End back

          I use them several hundred times a day. Just now I used it to edit this comment.
          Try Shift-Home or SHift-End sometime. It's a lifesaver

      They are pretty helpful in some development suites.

    The formatting of the test notes section is messed up... poor form.

    If you try to use the Surface Pro like every laptop you’ve ever owned, though, you’ll break it over your knee inside of a week. Sitting with it on your lap on the couch or a train seat, for instance, or typing IMs or emails in bed — you’re not going to want to do any of that stuff here. It’ll wobble on your leg. It won’t prop itself up at a viewable angle on your chest. Surface looks and acts like a laptop when it has its keyboard cover in, but it’s not one. It’s less sturdy, less adjustable.
    This says it all really..!

      i think this is more a failure of the fact that everyone is trying to push tablets in the first place

      seriously i was happy with my zenbook prime. Then all the companies convinced me that i needed a tablet in my life. Creating a solution to a problem that doesnt exist

      Then ms goes and makes it worse by implementing a horrible kickstand

      To this day, Asus's transformer series is the best implementation. They just need to add a stylus to the transformer book

        I like the swivel screens, Asus T91. Good memories

        I have (and write this on) an ASUS Tai Chi and I think its the best approach to laptop and tablet. I do have the same screen resolution issues that the review mentions, but otherwise, the Tai Chi hits all the numbers just right. (No stylus, in case that's implied.)

          the taichi + stylus is what i wanted (except maybe swivel, cause 2 screens is pointless imho). also wacom and not ntrig

      I never do any of that stuff, so all it says to me is that there are less issues than the reviewer would have you believe. His repeated reiteration of the trackpad issue makes his bias clear.

        As usual you have gone through and personalised every comment that doesn't suit your views. I really don't care if you it suits you or not. You are not the be all and know all of all things Windows/Surface/Pro or RT or indeed anything MS. You just think you are!

        Last edited 06/02/13 2:57 pm

        Pretty much this.
        The Surface is providing you with two options for each scenario for usability, but it seems Kyle is insistent on using the option where it's least effective as it's main focus point... Golly gosh, would you know it, it's not as good as the other!! But I don't wannnnnnnnt to switch to touch when im on the train - WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH

        That's your answer? "It sucks as a mobile computer, but that doesn't matter because I'l never use it like that."

      Just don't hold it that way?

        Gotta admit i didnt see this comment yesterday, well played, nice and subtle.

      Yeap that was my first thought too.
      It's really a case of "jack of all trades, master of none."
      And I don't think that's a good thing in this case.

    When I said it is, as a tablet, too heavy, as a laptop, does not have a keyboard and the font is too small, a lot of people complained.

    I just bought the Asus Vivo Tab a few weeks ago. Basically the same as the Asus Transformer range but for Windows. It comes with Full Windows 8 (not RT, but not Pro), a Wacom Digitizer, 2GB ram, a 1.8Ghz Dual Core Atom Processor ( no powerhouse by any means, but good enough for uni work and media consumption). The main reason I got it though was the amazing battery life. It's not quite the 19 hours stated on the box, but I get about 12 hours on average of usage, within 2-3 days of standby time. I guess it's thanks to the ULV Atom Processor, so I guess you've always got to make a compromise somewhere: Power or Battery life. I'm glad I picked the latter, it's very handy when you're on the move.

    Last edited 06/02/13 2:24 pm

      do you have issues playing 1080p videos? particularly on youtube?

        It's been mostly smooth sailing, I do get the very occasional hiccup, but I think that might be more attributable to the buffering from my crap internet connection, than system performance. Locally stored 1080p mp4 and mkv files play perfect as well. :) I noticed so you liked the Transformer range, plus this has a Wacom digitiser and stylus so I'd recommend it. I was soooo close to buying the Transformer Infinity, but I wanted a full Win 8 version.

        Last edited 06/02/13 2:33 pm

          I have the tf810c but mine has horrible lag with flash video playback

          i have even updated the drivers and everything.

          and i also cant calibrate the pen which goes funny around the edges

            Damn that sucks.... yeah mine starts to lag when I have a crap load of tabs open in Chrome with flash on them, but if it's just one or two it's usually fine.

          I was thinking of getting the vivo tab. I agree with you - for the things I would use it for I would prefer the longer battery life rather than the powerful processor.

          I was a bit put off by the 1366x768 res, and have heard on reviews that the screen can be very dim. Did you notice this at all?

          Also, where did you buy it?

            On the contrary, my screen at least is legible in direct sunlight when pumped to max brightness, which is also almost blinding when in the dark. As for the resolution, while it isn't at retina levels, it's still over 720p which suffices for me. I don't detect any noticeable grain. Oh and I bought it from a shop called Digital Star for $1000, it's either in Granville or Auburn, I forgot lol.

            Last edited 27/02/13 8:57 pm

        As an owner of an asus netbook from 2009 I had my concerns about flash vids/youtube on the atom tablets, but I checked out the Acer W510 at JB a week ago and it played a 1080P vid full screen like a champ: no hiccups or visible lag, unlike my current netbook

    I get the impression from this review that the reviewer wanted to bag the Pro from the beginning. I am not sure he really gets what most people will use the Pro for, especially from a corporate point of view. We are investigating these where I work because it gives a bit more control and just a bit more usability then an iPad. And that's what most people will use it for, just a bit more than an iPad. Most people will not use these as a laptop/desktop replacement but as an addition to the computing they already have.

      Yeah, I get the exact same impression. He bags it for not being very laptop-like in situations where most of us would use a tablet and for not being tablet-like enough in situations where most of us would prefer a laptop.

        In a way, that's fair though. That's exactly the space Surface is aiming for - to make the laptop more tabelty, and the tablet more laptopy.

        The issue is expecting it to succeed completely at both - that's completely unrealistic. Particularly in a first gen product.

        As long as it gives you more laptop experience than your current tablet, and more tablet experience than your current laptop - and does so well, which seems to be the case in the review - that should be a win. Everything after is either iterative improvement of the tech or changed behaviour of the user (i.e. what the iPhone did).

      I agree, the review seems like its written begrudgingly against the surface pro, even though nothing in the review is actually an issue, sounds like he was using it incorrectly in each circumstance

        All of the above, if Kyle had any experience in corporate scenario's where people want to use an iPad as a laptop, and the pain staking conversations and work arounds that must be done to achieve it - the surface solves them in one hit.

    As always now, If there is a review on Gizmodo. I read it and then read the reviews of the same roduct on other web sites. I find that the US reviews of new gadgets aren't fair.

    You’ll need to tinker. Tinker tinker tinker.

    There's any number of forums within which I'd say that would be a legitimate cause for complaint. But on Giz? How many people here look at a new tech and go "well, if I'm going to have to tinker around with it, I'm not bothering"? To me, that "Not Like" is actually kind of a plus. And the usual type-/touch-pad criticism is only really valid if you still think "laptop" instead of "portable" or "notebook". Problem is solved with whatever surface you really use your "laptop" on most of the time, and if you're still having problems, plugging in a "real" keyboard.

    Overall, this review is looking for causes to complain and found some, but they seem to be fair - if slightly picky - criticisms. Thanks, Kyle.

      Agreed, if i cant tinker with a new piece of tech im not interested.

        Love/hate relationship really. But definitely something I won't buy if it can't.

      This as well - the amount of bitching here about Apple's walled garden, and when you're given free roam, Kyle whinges.

        There's a big diffrence between being able to tinker and having to tinker.

          You're right. But Kyle mistakes one for the other. You don't have to tinker with Win8, it works out of the box just fine. But you can tinker with it if you want to.

            Maybe it isn't a mistake but a statement about how he uses his computer and how it doesn't suit for him. If he puts it as a minus, you should just trust that he feels it's an impediment. Getting second opinions doesn't hurt either, 'course

      bieng able to tinker is what microsoft lets you do well and apple doesn't let you at all.
      yes, i like to change my theme colour
      yes i like to change the way things look

    I think if I owned one I was just use my bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

    Given teh specs, do we know if the SSD HDD is a regular sized one? as in could i put in my own 260gb SSD.

      I think I read somewhere that it is, unlike the SurfaceRT. But I've been getting by with a 128Gb SSD in my last two laptops and haven't found it much of a problem. I just store a lot of stuff - music, movies, software installers, etc - on a USB 3 drive that is always plugged in when I am at my desk.

        yeah and thats normally fine, but i like to make things better :D
        no doubt i'll grab a 64gb SD card and a decent sized pocket HD as well for when i travel.

          A cool thing to make stuff better would be to buy an SSD and a USB 3 enclosure for it. I find the 64Gb SD card in my Series 9 to be way too slow to be of much use. It woudl be good to put your music collection on but mine is too big to fit these days.

            Music and documents for work would be my main reason for the SD card, nothing that needs a great deal of speed.
            and movies while traveling running off a USB drive would be sufficient.

      Considering that Win 8 Pro takes up nearly 46GB of space just to install the OS alone!!! (WTF is up with that) , I would hope you could install your own drive but don't hold your breath

        Misleading info, the OS only takes up 18gb, its office that takes up 3-4gb and then teh recovery drive, which i suspect is about 12gb.
        Delete the recovery drive and your up 12gb in 1 hit.
        Clear bloatware and you can probably save another 2-3gb.

      I think I read on the Reddit AMA that you can't replace the SSD. You can use a SD card or external HDD tho. Also you can install LInux

    Can you charge this thing via USB?
    If you cant do that then its a deal breaker for me unfortunately :(

      Can you name a real computer that can charge via USB?

      this is meant to be a super tablet is it not?

        You can't charge an iPad via USB 2.0. They need around 1000mA of current, and USB2.0 specs are only 500mA. Most tablets (I believe) are in the same boat. You might be lucky if your motherboard can output higher-than-normal current though.

          an iPad says "not charging" when plugged into a USB port but it still charges, albiet very slowly (last time I tried this anyway which was about 18 months ago)

          Geeze, what's your PC? An IBM 8086 with 64K of RAM? Nearly all motherboards these days recognise the high current needs for market dominant products like iPads and can deliver the requisite juice through USB. Hell, my GigaByte motherboard even recognises a USB device plugged in when it's powered off and delivers power to the USB interface so you can charge your iPad with the PC off.

    Yes... why is it that these "fingerprint *proof*" screens get so smudged by the cover? I look at my tablet now and I see my finger prints.. that's fine.. there's no such thing as a fingerprint proof.. but whenever I close the cover on it (to protect the screen while it's in my bag etc) and then open it.. there's these three large bars of smudge.. it's not like the cover is even dirty.. it was happening from the first day I got the cover..

    OK, sit back, relax and put your feet up, this could take a while. Let's start with the overall impression - Kyle seems to have this problem where he can't mix and match features. If he could, he'd understand that the trackpad is completely irrelevant, given that just a few inches from it is a 10" f@#king touchscreen!! It wouldn't be so bad, except he keeps coming back to harp on about it. One must assume that is because he was struggling to find other issues with the product but didn't want to give the impression that Surface Pro might actually be really good. Now to specifics.

    "If you try to use the Surface Pro like every laptop you’ve ever owned, though, you’ll break it over your knee inside of a week. Sitting with it on your lap on the couch or a train seat, for instance, or typing IMs or emails in bed"

    OK, I've owned 9 laptops and have never once attempted to type anything in bed. In fact, I can't even remember having my laptop with me in bed. The only time I ever really tried to use it on my lap was to rip CDs when I first decided to get all 1000 of them onto a HDD, which is irrelevant to a Surface Pro as it doesn't have an optical drive. So the things that migh tmake Kyle wan tto break it over his knee are completely irrelevant. I find this to be a general issue with the way Gizmodo contributors write. I think it would be far more reasonable for them to use the first person most of the time, rather than to have the arrogance to believe they speak for the rest of us. Of course, that would generate far less comment and controversary, so it seems likely they do it on purpose.

    "... that glosses over the loss of real utility, the ability to do some of the most common things people do with their computers, in the most common ways they do them." (In reference to the trackpad.)

    Let's get something straight here - only Mac users use trackpads and that is largely because Apple have never managed to make a decent mouse. OTOH, PC users have so much choice that most of us have found the perfect mouse and would never even think to use a trackpad. In any event, the whole idea of this kind of hybrid device is to give you a choice. If the trackpad will get the job done, use it. If it is easier to reach 4" forward and touch the screen, do that. Or if you just want to do things "in the most common ways they (we) do them", then just use your mouse. I would recommend an Arc Touch mouse to go with a Surface.

    "Microsoft chose to squeeze in a superfluous top row of keys instead of giving the trackpad more breathing room. That top row of is a vestigial remnant of a kind of computing Microsoft abandoned years ago. You don’t need F-keys on modern keyboards."

    This is either increible ignornace or more Mac bias (although you do need ot use the F keys for things like Expose on a Mac, so maybe Kyle is just weird?).

    "... you can just use a mouse or the (quite good, once calibrated) stylus. But that’s not the insinuation of the Surface — either at its announcement, or in all the commercials selling it as a self-contained über-device."

    But it ships with the stylus so doesn't that make it part of the the "self-contained über-device"? This seems especially deliberate when you think that the Type and Touch covers are optional extras, yet Kyle is happy to think of them as part of the "self-contained über-device". Inconsistent and very confusing.

    "Its screen is too good. Which is to say, its 1080p resolution is so dense on the 10.6-inch screen that desktop programs seem too small, too cramped... To offset this, Microsoft has made the default Magnification setting 150 per cent. That helps a bit by enlarging icons, text, and some apps, but results in many third party apps — like the Steam client — looking like fuzzy eyesores."

    OK, this is a semi reasonable criticism but it is a personal one. For me, 99% of the time I wanted to use it as a laptop, it would be connected to the same big monitor my laptop is (where I would then be able to use the device itself like a Wacom tablet - score!). When I was out and about, I'd always have the much better suited Metro side of Win8 to use for the common things I might want to do with a tablet. e.g. email, browsing, reading (Kindle or PDFs or whatever), listening to music or watching video content. The times I'd want to use the desktop away from my desk would be few and far between.

    "But Adobe’s products aren’t plugged into Windows’ magnification settings, so on the 10.6-inch 1080p screen, the controls are all painfully small.

    Here's a tip - if you ever hope to be able to get a job as a Photoshop/CS professional, you are going to have to learn all the hotkeys (many of which use the F keys along the top row), mainly because the Photoshop UX is perhaps the worst in the entire universe. Given that, having teeny-weeny controls means more room for the image(s) you are working on, which most of us would see as a good thing.

    "You can’t just set Surface Pro down and pick it up days later and expect it to be charged, like you can with a tablet."

    Of course you can, you just have to turn the freakin' thing off when you're done with it, you lazy sack of krap. Seriously, Win8 boots and shuts down so quickly there is simply no reason not to shut it down when you are not using it.

    I think that will do for now, although I should make it clear that as tempting as it is, I can't see myself buying a Surface any time soon, mostly because I don't see any value in tablets at all and therefore can't see any reason to buy something that tries to be a tablet and a laptop.

      TLDR

        Let me sum up for you. "The reviewer doesn't like it. I think it's awesome. Therefore the reviewer is wrong."

      This review summed in simple terms..

      "written by MS-Puppet"

        Don't you find it tiring to be so enraged all the time? Relax guy, put your feet up, take a break.

          I'd be very surprised if I wasn't just about the happiest man on the planet. That doesn't mean I have to put up with krap like this.

        Really, Bill? Go to Microsoft Answers and search for some of my threads and comments. (I'm Motor_Mouth over there.) I'm pretty sure no-one from Microsoft thinks I'm one of their puppets. In short, I really hate MIcrosoft. They are generally useless and seem to have little or no idea what they are doing most of the time. But every now and then they get some things right adn I am objective enough to see that and interested enough to encourage them in those directions.

        Last edited 07/02/13 3:15 pm

      Never had a wife who asks you to sit in bed with her and edit her English essays I assume? :)

      Never met my wife, who religiously uses the trackpad on her HP Laptop, have you? :) I bought her a mouse because like you, I hate trackpads.. but she simply doesn't use it :)

      Yes, Kyle isn't like you.. but neither is my wife.. we're not all made equal :)

      Well you lost me as soon as you started mac mouse bashing...seriously have you tried one in the last decade...yes they have multiple buttons, and their surface is a trackpad for a variety of functions...at least you didn't resort to "they've only got one button" though I get the feeling you were tempted to!

        Mouse support on Windows > OSX, plain and simple. Just has that micro lag that infuriates me. Touchpads on the other hand, Apple is world class.

        I've tried every one in the last decade. They are mostly rubbish. The Tit-Mouse was OK but still not actually good. We have one attached to each of our 6 workstations at work and guess how many of the 13 artists use them - zero. I tried to get by with them for a while but they track terribly. I ended up bringing my own in.

        In my last job I got a brand new MacPro with a brand new Magic Mouse. That thing has to be the least ergonomic, most uncomfortable computer peripheral I have ever come across. After two hours my hand was so sore I locked the mouse in a drawer, used an ancient HP ball-type mouse for the rest of that day, then brought an Arc Mouse with my own money to use thereafter.

      good work motormouth...
      firstly, i NEVER use a trackpad, i HATE them, also OH&S states to use a mouse over a trackpad, i dont know about other people, if i use a trackpad for more than 15 mins, i get a really sore shoulder.

      secondly, yes, shut it down when done. my desktop (with an old SSD) boots windows 8 FASTER than my computer goes through POST, windows boots faster than my splash screen on my monitor goes through... just shut it down

        yeah my BIOS takes 7 seconds to load, windows takes 3.
        So never worry about shutdown these days.

      All this, and you don't even own a Surface. So you're basing all your arguments on assumption. Nicely done.

        I have been using Windows 8 on Core i7 laptops for more than a year and I have spent enough time playing with a Surface in JB hi-fi to be able to comment on all the things I addressed. If I did own one, that would be grounds for bias, so it should be seen as a good thing that I don't.

    Review sort of misses the point. Ironically reviews of the Surface RT put it up against ultrabooks or the Pro itself, while reviews of the Pro put it up against an iPad in terms of form factor and battery life. But all that aside I kind of agree with some of the concerns. I have a W700 which is also an i5-based tablet (not as sleek in form as the Surface Pro though) and while it's great as an ultrabook replacement, I find it sort of impractical as a tablet like I'd use an iPad. It's too heavy for something like that. The W700 gets far better battery life than the Pro but even with the Pro's poor battery life it's not really designed to compete with things like an iPad.

    I think of these things more like ultraportable ultrabooks, which they do a good job at. From that perspective the Pro is great, but unless it redefines what people generally expect from a tablet (as set by the iPad/Android tablets as something that lasts ages on a single charge and is lightweight and easy to use with a touch screen) it's not going to be good as a tablet. From that perspective, looking at the kind of in-between market that it's trying to push into, this review does raise some valid points. But no doubt MotorMouth will reply and tell me that everything is wrong because he uses it his way and any other way is wrong.

    Super portable Windows machine that will play my games. Yes Please!

      In that case you should avoid the Surface at all costs and perhaps check this out.

      http://www.razerzone.com/gaming-systems/razer-edge-pro

      Unless your games consist of Theme Park and Maniac Mansion.

        as much as i want one, i need the surface pro for work and play, if the controls could be removed, id consider this more over teh Surface pro.

          Yup, the Edge's side-mounted stick controller thingies are part of a click-in shell, and it apparently pops out easily. Razer also makes a Transformer-like keyboard mount for it, and a docking station that let's you plug in your own keyboard and mouse. Good preview article here: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/razer-edge-fiona-gaming-tablet,3418.html

    With it running only a HD4000, I'd really like a 900p or 720p based tablet.

    Thats good news about the Pen Digitizer being reasonably decent. After playing with nearly every capacitive stick and wand and pen created for the iPad, I have been looking for something better. Anyone tried to see if any Wacom pen like from the Bamboo or Intous will work or if it only picks up Surface Pens?

    I am less likely to use this as a laptop, and more a supreme beefy tablet. For all those users used to a more laptop like experience where you whack it down on your leg when on public transport, or elsewhere, would some form of simple Clamshell case with laptop quality hinges that keeps the back and keyboard in the right spots do the trick? Quick. Someone turn that into an actual thing before I buy a Surface Pro.

    You can plugin a $15 keyboard and a $30 Bluetooth mouse and a 1080p screen to use it as a desktop. And when all you need to do is surf and reply to email, use it as a touch screen tablet on the sofa. The reviewer is missing the point.

      ^^^^^ THIS! *EXACTLY*. I'm a consultant and I f*cking HATE carting my bloody laptop around to clients when all I do there is take notes in meetings and run the occasional presentation. With a Surface Pro I get to plug it into my 27" LCD screen and USB mouse/KB at the office, and then just use the tablet functionality at clients.

      The *only* problem is the battery life, but that will be fixed mid year when the Haswell chipset is out (double the battery life is claimed, as well as passive cooling capabilities). So I'll probably buy a Surface Pro v2 purely for that purpose, but otherwise I'd snap one up right now.

        Double? I heard 15% more efficient. Certainly not double.

    Sony duo slider is a much better alternative than this if someone needs a good hybrid device

    I am using my Surface RT every day, after using PCs since 1986, yes an IBM AT, I have no problems with it My other computer is a Dell 15" laptop. This has been found to be too bulky for carrying everywhere. In todays environment where differnet devices are used for different purposes I now use the following:

    Nokia Lumia 800 for telephone and mobile comuting - while moving (walking, running etc) oh and of course a Internet Sharing device when a hotspot is not available.
    Laptop - high spec for games, photograph editing and applications. Limited mobility use, but handy when full desktop power required.
    Surface RT for mobile computing when not stationery - in cafe, work desk, at the gym on treadmill - used for ebooks, movies, tv, and MS office document.

    I am sure the Surface Pro would have been a better replacement for my laptop; but I had been waiting for many years for a reasonable tablet and jumped in. OEM PC makers have just taken way too long and so Microsoft have pushed them.

    A new 12 inch cintiq for $850? Even for an ebay purchase you'd typically pay $950 plus.

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