Review roundup: Microsoft's Surface Pro is about compromises

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
With Microsoft's Surface Pro about to hit store shelves, review embargoes have been lifted and tech writers across the web are releasing their thoughts on the company's second ever attempt at building a personal computer.

Surface Pro
Microsoft's Surface Pro with stylus and Typecover. | Source: Microsoft


Overall, the tablet's hardware appears to be the main draw for most reviewers, with a fast processor, sharp display and included stylus able to take advantage of Microsoft's latest Windows 8 operating system. Unlike Redmond's previous offering, the Surface RT, the Pro runs a full version of the OS, allowing installation of Windows programs.

Looking at the reviews, it seems as though Microsoft had a difficult time bringing the price of the hardware within an acceptable range. Unlike its smaller brother, the Pro lacks Windows Office built in, nor does it come with a physical snap-on keyboard. As reported in January, disk space is also at a premium, with the operating system gobbling up most of the on-board flash memory.

Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal

Mossberg lists the pros and cons of Microsoft's powerful tablet, suggesting that would-be buyers can theoretically use the device as a "full replacement for a Windows laptop?if you used one of Microsoft?s thin keyboard covers." Unfortunately, the snap-on peripherals are not included in the high entry price, one of the reviewer's main gripes about the Surface Pro.

Another minus is the unit's battery life, which Mossberg calls "pathetic." In his testing, he found the battery lasted just under four hours. The weight of the device was also a sticking point, and coming in at two pounds is some 40 percent more hefty than the heaviest iPad.

Unlike many Android tablets and Apple's iPad, neither of Microsoft's Surface models offer cellular connectivity out of the box.

"But just as the Pro is compromised as a tablet, it?s compromised as a laptop. You get fewer ports and less storage than on many laptops and a keyboard that can?t compare with those on many laptops."

Surface Pro with Stylus

Ed Baig of USA Today

Baig found the Surface's hardware to be top notch, lauding the solid magnesium chassis and convenient kickstand. The Pro "packs a punch" with an Intel Core i5 processor, and there is noticeable boost to performance from the Surface RT. Compared to the RT, the Surface Pro's display boasts wider viewing angles and higher-resolution panel.

There are drawbacks to the impressive hardware specs, however, and Baig found that he could manage only 3.5 hours of runtime when pushing the tablet by streaming movie over Wi-Fi with the brightness level set at max. Unit cost was mentioned as a possible negative.

"And the touch environment is what makes the new operating system, and Surface itself, feel fresh and modern. But the very schizophrenic nature of Windows 8 means you're likely to spend a fair amount of time going back and forth between handling the screen with your fingers and reverting to the more traditional mouse/trackpad and keyboard worlds in which you've comfortably lived for years."

Harry McCracken of Time

McCracken said that with the Surface Pro, Microsoft "decided to show us exactly what it thinks a modern PC/tablet hybrid should be," and built two very different models to that end.

Just as the other reviewers, McCracken lauds the Pro's horsepower and high-end internal components, but comes away seeing the same issues of price and additional heft.

"Microsoft likes to use the phrase 'no compromises' when describing that versatility, but in fact, Surface Pro ? like all computing devices ? is a study in compromises," he writes.

Perhaps more important is how the latest Surface handles software. McCracken found the touch interface to work well with Windows 8 apps, but programs not built to take specific advantage of the new hardware were cumbersome to operate.

"And over and over again, these useful programs reminded me that they weren?t designed to work well on a new-wave computing device like the Surface Pro."

Other perspectives

For additional takes on the Surface Pro, see reviews from Anand Lai Shimpi of AnandTech, Joanna Stern from ABC, David Pierce of The Verge, Tim Stevens of Engadget and Kyle Wagner of Gizmodo.

The Surface Pro hits stores on Feb. 9, with the 64GB model coming in at $899, while the top-of-the-line 128GB version will cost $999.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 92
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,382member
    So Walt agrees with Tim.
  • Reply 2 of 92


    Funny. The iPad is about making no compromises. This thing seems to be about making ALL possible compromises.


     


    In before, "Mossberg is in Apple's back pocket; of course he hated anything from anyone else!"

  • Reply 3 of 92
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,471member
    Battery life will be the death of this thing. Unbelievable that Microsoft would think it wouldn't be an issue. But the fanboys are predicting it will drive the iPad out of the enterprise tout suite.
  • Reply 4 of 92
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,756member


    Zune. 


     


    This thing is DOA. MS can't even sell the RT model. The branding is confusing. A laptop trying to be a tablet trying to be a laptop. 


     


    The UI is beyond ugly. 


     


    Etc., etc. 


     


    I can think of virtually no criticism which can't be at least reasonably applied to this ill-conceived attempt at making MS somehow relevant in mobile.

  • Reply 5 of 92
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    I would say Apple's products are ALL about compromises: you can't avoid compromise, so make the very best ones. Be proud of what you don't include, as much as about what you do.

    Microsoft had some interesting ideas here, but they made all the WRONG compromises... a heavy, low-battery-life tablet plus a non-adjustable awkward laptop, all at a bad price!

    If you really could have both a tablet and a "classic OS" laptop in one and have both be excellent, that would be something. But you can't. Let Windows go, Microsoft! For tablets, at least.

    The best combination of both is to forget legacy apps and simply get an iPad plus your favorite Bluetooth keyboard (some of which snap as screen covers, Surface-style). Or if you need conventional mouse-driven apps, then a MacBook Air is the best.

    If I were getting an MS product as a gift, I'd want it to be a Surface RT... but a hypothetical next generation that ditches the legacy Windows interface entirely. Metro is interesting. Metro crammed in with old stuff is just a mess.
  • Reply 6 of 92
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Funny. The iPad is about making no compromises.



     


    Not true. There are compromises left and right in the iPad. And Apple admits this. 


     


    The difference is which things they compromise and why. Battery life, for example, is not something they will screw with just to say they have a spec. Case in point, no retina on the iPad mini. 

  • Reply 7 of 92


    Of course it's full of compromises. At this stage of the game it's a mediocre proof of concept. I'm sure it'll get refined in time but no one will want one anyway.


     


    However it's not an iPad competitor at all. It's a Macbook Air / Ultrabook competitor. 

  • Reply 8 of 92
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    it appears that the word compromise, or rather saying a device has no compromise, is not good descriptor. Perhaps we need a new term that shows how the iPad's focus on a certain usage type compared to what MS has done by not wanting to give up any one thing so it ended up with a device that is mediocre in all its forms.
  • Reply 9 of 92


    Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

    Case in point, no retina on the iPad mini. 


     


    That's not a compromise; the tech isn't there yet.

  • Reply 10 of 92

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


     


    That's not a compromise; the tech isn't there yet.



    Nonsense. If there are 5in - 1920 x1080 (440ppi) LCD panels in mass production, they could very well make a 7in retina display at 326ppi. Apple chose not to for the first generation - and that's fine. Doing so would have a required a better GPU for sure, and all of that raises costs. 

  • Reply 11 of 92
    ifij775ifij775 Posts: 470member
    23 GB of free space on a 64 GB device is laughable. This should be listed as compromise #1
  • Reply 12 of 92
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


     


    That's not a compromise; the tech isn't there yet.



     


     


    You mean the tech isn't there at a price point Apple thinks people will be willing to pay? Clearly, Apple could put a Retina Display in the Mini. It just couldn't do it at a price point it wanted to do so. 

  • Reply 13 of 92
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    tbell wrote: »

    You mean the tech isn't there at a price point Apple thinks people will be willing to pay? Clearly, Apple could put a Retina Display in the Mini. It just couldn't do it at a price point it wanted to do so. 

    How is that clear? I assume that the weight, thickness, and battery life are key factors in the iPad mini's appeal and I don't see enough evidence to suggest that 4x as many pixels can be pushed while using a battery about the same size and weight.
  • Reply 14 of 92
    Totally moronic (Are you listening Walt) comparing the Surface Pro, running Windows, to an iPad. That's like comparing a Macbook running OSX to an iPad?

    I'll bet the Macbook Air and Pro are both heavier than an iPad also (Which it is!).

    Look, I have and use an Air and an iPad. I also use a 5 year old Dell desktop running Windows 8. All have their strengths and weaknesses. I can understand why someone would prefer one OS to another. But, I tire when people, who prefer one OS over another, feel the need to exaggerate, embellish or otherwise unfairly demean another system. If your case is so strong, why embarrass yourself with half truths (Or outright lies)?

  • Reply 15 of 92


    Originally Posted by tbsteph View Post

    That's like comparing a Macbook running OSX to an iPad?


     


    Maybe they shouldn't be trying to pass off a laptop as a tablet, then.

  • Reply 16 of 92
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    tbsteph wrote: »
    Totally moronic (Are you listening Walt) comparing the Surface Pro, running Windows, to an iPad. That's like comparing a Macbook running OSX to an iPad?

    It might not be the most comparable due to OS differences but the Surface Pro is still a tablet, and one that doesn't comes with a keyboard cover as default so I don't think it's wrong to make comparisons to the iPad.
  • Reply 17 of 92
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


     


    That's not a compromise; the tech isn't there yet.



     


    That depends on what you mean by 'the tech'. They can totally make the screen, after all they could use the same parameter in terms of ppi as the full sized ones.  So display wise, the tech is there. 


     


    Now if by 'the tech' you mean the total package with battery etc so as quality of use is more or less equal to previous standards, then no. It's not there. Which is my point. Apple could use said display but it would cost something more important. A rather than diminish use to say they have a spec they compromised and used less than a retina display. 

  • Reply 18 of 92


    So it's worse than a tablet, worse than a laptop and more expensive than both with less than half the battery life. Apple has nothing to worry about. Zune.


     


    At this point, Microsoft needs to bring back Windows 7 and concentrate on Office for tablets. I think over the next 2 years we will see them laying off thousands of workers and condensing their business. Steve Ballmer is old and doesn't get it anymore. They are the new HP.

  • Reply 19 of 92
    Other site's comments are raving about the stylus. Stylus-driven tablet PCs have been around for over a decade... yet their sales have proven to be niche at best. Why is the stylus suddenly the greatest thing ever?

    And the other big promise of the Surface Pro is that it is "a laptop and tablet in one"

    Where that fall apart for me is... the 10.6" screen. That's far too small to be my laptop... even if it can [I]also[/I] be a tablet.
  • Reply 20 of 92
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Other site's comments are raving about the stylus. Stylus-driven tablet PCs have been around for over a decade... yet their sales have proven to be niche at best. Why is the stylus suddenly the greatest thing ever?

    And the other big promise of the Surface Pro is that it is "a laptop and tablet in one"

    Where that fall apart for me is... the 10.6" screen. That's far too small to be my laptop... even if it can also be a tablet.

    I wouldn't say it's stylus driven, it's multitouch driven like the iPad. The included Wacom powered digitizer is just another way you can interact with the device, and it's something I hope Apple will adopt at some point.
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