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Microsoft Surface Pro Review

Microsoft Surface Pro

Posted: , by John V.



No longer being regarded as a handicapped experience, the Surface Pro is running the full Windows 8 Pro experience out of the box, which means that it'll run legacy Windows 7 software – in addition to the handful of new touch-optimized Windows 8 apps. Visually speaking, there's no arguing that Windows RT and Windows 8 share many commonalities, like the Start Screen and its amalgamation of dynamic and colorful live tiles, but the Surface Pro unequivocally has more depth with its legacy support. As we've mentioned in our review of the Surface RT, there's a steep learning curve initially when using Microsoft's new platform, seeing that there are an eclectic set of gestures that need to be mastered. However, once they become second nature, we find navigating across the platform to be very intuitive – still, some will surely miss the “windows” structure.

We won't go into much detail about the Windows 8 platform, since it's one and the same as Windows RT, but with the exception that it can run Windows 7 software in desktop mode. When it comes to personalization, Windows 8 isn't as deep as Android, but it's far better than what the iPad delivers. Without question, there’s a lot of flashiness in the way Windows 8 is presented, but one of its Achilles Heel at the moment, is none other than the paltry offering of quality third party touch-optimized apps. Yeah, Windows 8 incorporates social networking services such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but the People Hub, which aggregates all social networking content, doesn’t execute well with its layout. Making matters worse, third party offerings don’t do the platform justice just yet, however, it’s something we’re certain that developers will improve over time – as the platform builds steam and matures.

The Windows 8 UI - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Windows 8 UI - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Windows 8 UI - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Windows 8 UI - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Windows 8 UI - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Windows 8 UI - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Windows 8 UI - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The People Hub - The Windows 8 UI - Microsoft Surface Pro Review

The People Hub

The Windows 8 UI

From a tablet point of view, the Microsoft Surface Pro, much like the other available Windows 8 tablets and convertibles out there, benefit over the iPad and rival Android tablets thanks to its rich productivity aspect. From video editing software to PC games, the Surface Pro is equipped to handle them all – making it more valuable in getting things done on the road. When legacy software is installed, they all run within the desktop hub that most Windows users are familiar with, and to an extent, the touch navigation still works with all software – though, at times they’re not all that intuitive. For example, Internet Explorer for the desktop works fantastic, but when using other browsers like Chrome and Firefox, navigation is best executed the old fashion way – with a mouse. In fact, scrolling is a monotonous process – while pinch zooming isn’t even supported.

Despite those qualms, the Surface Pro negates all the compromises we’ve seen with tablets from the past, so when it comes down to it, this is a tablet that undeniably can replace your traditional personal computer. At the moment, Windows 8 might scare first time users initially, but with touch navigation, it brings Microsoft’s platform into the modern age. Much like any new platform venture, there are still some huge opportunities at the beginning, mainly getting some quality touch friendly apps, but over time, we can expect that to be less problematic.


On the surface, the core organizer apps of Windows 8 are the same to what’s found with Windows RT –so there isn’t a lot new with the experience here. Generally, things like the Calendar and People Hubs work relatively well, since the platform also provides synchronization between various accounts; such as Gmail. Also something we appreciate, Windows 8 packs along a myriad of useful tertiary apps that center around lifestyle – these consist of Finance, Games, Messaging, News, Sports, Travel, and Weather.

Even though its features set pales in comparison to the Gmail experience with Android, the Windows 8 email experience is nevertheless effective enough to handle our basic needs. Sporting the cookie cutter email layout, which employs a paneled interface, we’re able to organize our messages properly – with setup being a breeze as well.

Organizer apps - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
Organizer apps - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
Gmail - Organizer apps - Microsoft Surface Pro Review


Organizer apps

If you decide to forgo getting either the Touch or Type Covers for the Surface Pro, you won’t be at a disadvantage seeing that the on-screen Windows 8 keyboard is effective enough to deliver an equally lovable experience. With the sizable real estate of the display, the layout is comfortable enough to use – plus, it helps that it’s super responsive to the touch. After some practice, we’re able to move at an effective rate that rivals even us using a standard keyboard.

The on-screen Windows 8 keyboard - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The on-screen Windows 8 keyboard - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The on-screen Windows 8 keyboard - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The on-screen Windows 8 keyboard - Microsoft Surface Pro Review

The on-screen Windows 8 keyboard

Processor and Memory:

Showing off its might against other tablets, the Microsoft Surface Pro relies on PC-like components to power it. Indeed, it might not be as power efficient as some other ARM-based chips that are used by many tablets, but the 3rd generation 1.7GHz dual-core Intel core i5-3317U processor coupled with 4GB of RAM is no doubt a stranger amongst tablets at the moment. Not surprisingly, its performance rivals some of the Windows 8 ultrabooks on the market, which is good taking into account that it’s running a full desktop operating system. In general, it maintains a very buttery performance with all Windows 8 specific tasks – though, in our experience, it’s still prone to some of the bugs that can lock up or freeze the typical Windows experience.

Another advantage that the Surface Pro has over the sea of other tablets, is that features a solid state drive for quick reading/writing. Available in 64GB or 128GB capacities, it’s naturally higher in capacity than what we’re typically exposed to with tablets, but out of the box, the final free storage amount comes out to 29GB and 89GB respectively. Some will be bummed out by the revelation, but knowing that there’s a microSD slot in tow, we’re forgiving about it. Also, we can’t neglect to remember about its USB 3.0 port, which is an alternative source for storage needs.

Internet and Connectivity:

As expected, the web browsing experience with Internet Explorer is fantastic – and that’s with the two versions that are available with the Surface Pro! On one hand, the touch-friendly version gets things popping with its quick page loads, instant rendering, and wickedly smooth navigational controls. For a more desktop-like experience, Internet Explorer in the desktop mode is none other than the familiar one that’s used by all Windows PCs – so it even offers Adobe Flash support. Naturally, the Surface Pro can also run other desktop browsers, like Chrome, and Firefox, if Internet Explorer isn’t your cup of tea.

Internet Explorer - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
Internet Explorer - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
Internet Explorer - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
Internet Explorer - Microsoft Surface Pro Review

Internet Explorer

Currently, there’s no indication that we’ll be seeing cellular connected versions of the Surface Pro, so it’s strictly a Wi-Fi affair at the moment for this one. Being on the cutting edge of things, it doesn’t surprise us that it’s sporting the usual fanfare of connectivity features –such as aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and MIMO dual-antenna 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. Noticeably absent from the list, however, is the modern convenience of NFC that's increasingly becoming a standard.

  • Options

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 09:03 30

1. _Bone_ (Posts: 2155; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

To be honest I don't see all the fuss about a $1000 touchscreen windows device when you can get a very decent laptop or Ultrabook for the same price with 10 times the storage, more cable outputs and better battery life, which is not too kind on the Surface Pro.

Windows - laptop
iOS - tablet
Android - phone.

That's the way I see the best HW-OS match for portable devices.

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 09:34 5

7. feres13 (Posts: 307; Member since: 23 Dec 2011)

I agree with you, however i'd pick Mac OS for laptops since they can tun both windows and OS x

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 10:21 6

11. alterecho (Posts: 1099; Member since: 23 Feb 2012)

You mean mac hardware, since OS is compatible on it.

posted on 12 Feb 2013, 05:41 5

35. tmcblog (Posts: 19; Member since: 28 Jan 2013)

Macbook is sh*t... with the same price I can get a laptop with 2 more cores of processor, twice the memory, twice the storage and better GPU. The best thing is I can play battlefield 3 and have ubuntu OS that can be modified into MacOS X look & feel ;)
You can't play Battlefield 3 in Macbook :(

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 10:33 5

13. haseebzahid (Posts: 1853; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)

lame its the best idea any company could think of bringing tablet to real useable form not make toys like ipads and androids

posted on 12 Feb 2013, 01:31 2

32. theokan (Posts: 4; Member since: 11 Feb 2013)

@ _Bone_

That's because you already have everything you need. People generally don't buy an SUV if they already have a van.

The real question is, if you can only have one device, would you choose the Surface Pro, the Windows laptop, or the iOS tablet? You may not personally choose the Surface Pro, but there is definately a market for it.

posted on 12 Feb 2013, 03:16

33. _Bone_ (Posts: 2155; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

I have a desktop and a phone and considering an inbetweener, but can't see picking up the Pro. Theoretically the W8 tabtop is the ideal device with all-around functionality, but HW requirements take a toll on the price and battery life. So I'm like "wait for the HD Nexus 7 / iPad Mini because they are priced so well, or an updated Nexus 10 for a little more", all great bang for the buck mostly covering my needs.

Even at $600 the Pro would face great competition, so where Microsoft succeeded delivering a user-friendly, modern touchscreen OS, they need to enter the competitive price game, because RT sales show that the iPad-Nexus range is spot on with the performance/pricing.

posted on 12 Feb 2013, 05:05 2

34. theokan (Posts: 4; Member since: 11 Feb 2013)

The most pricey thing on the Surface Pro is the Wacom tech, which costs $900 just by itself (Cintiq 12WX). Ironically it's the least thing that people care for unless you're a digital artist, then it's the best thing in the world because it's a Cintiq with a built in computer for only $1000.

I can see them lowering the price by half just by taking out the Wacom pen feature, but then at that price range they would be competing with their own Surface RT. I think RT should have never happened, they could have released a $500 Surface Pro without the Wacom tech, then a $900 version of Surface Pro with the Wacom for those who needs it in their industry.

I would still personally get the $900 version because I'm mostly buying it just for the Wacom.


posted on 12 Feb 2013, 06:56

36. _Bone_ (Posts: 2155; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

Just curious, how much does the Note 10.1's pen feature cost? Actually that's one thing I always admired, to utilize the touchscreen with proper pen tech.

posted on 13 Feb 2013, 10:42

43. theokan (Posts: 4; Member since: 11 Feb 2013)

The Galaxy Note 10.1 is also Wacom and works great on Android, only downside is that it can't be used on a PC or Mac, so you can’t take advantage of the Wacom tech for any work and development that’s done on the computer.

Right now Wacom sort of owns a monopoly so they get to price their tech based on how badly people need them. Touch upgrade on the 24HD costs $1000 extra, while PC/Mac connectivity is worth much more than on phone/ tablet OS because of the profession industries that require Wacom as a mandatory tool.

The Surface Pro will compete with the Wacom Cintiq 12WX, they are very similar except Surface Pro is a full PC whereas Cintiq 12WX is just an input device. If Surface Pro costs any less I don’t think Wacom would have allowed Microsoft to use their tech. They can’t have a cheaper product borrowing their own technology competing with themselves. The Galaxy Note 10.1 and Note 2, on the other hand, don’t compete with Wacom tablets because they run on Android and can’t be used with industry software on PC or Mac, hence you can enjoy a really high quality penabled feature at less than $500.

If you don’t absolutely need to run on a PC, the Note 10.1 with the Wacom digitizer is an amazing value.

posted on 15 Feb 2013, 09:25 1

47. iami67 (Posts: 321; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)

This is a silly comment. A lot of people who have a van would def be into buying an Suv because they want to upgrade. Granted the suv isnt a lot more expensive and does everything the same.

The surgace pro would be a lot better at a more affordable price.

posted on 12 Feb 2013, 18:12

39. ahmed_ali_yossef2010 (Posts: 164; Member since: 26 Jul 2012)

there is ipad 4 with the same price why didn't any one say you'd better buy an ultrabook

posted on 12 Feb 2013, 20:40

40. nnaatthhaannx2 (Posts: 820; Member since: 19 Oct 2011)

I'd like to share my opinion:

Desktop - Windows (Mac Pro is outdated, I don't need another iMac screen, Mac mini just sucks)

Laptop - Macbook Pro (that retina display and the overall build quality is fantastic)

Full-sized tablet: iPad (Nexus 10 is just like a landscape N7... it just doesn't work right)

Small tablet- Android (This is the tablet size that actually works well on Android)

Phone - Android. We all know it.

posted on 16 Feb 2013, 15:10 1

48. ralexand56 (Posts: 3; Member since: 16 Feb 2013)

I would rather replace that laptop and tablet with the surface pro which has the added advantage of a excellent digitizer pen. No way you're going to get a ipad and a decent laptop with the surface pro specs for less than $1000.

posted on 20 Apr 2013, 13:31

54. JimmyMackey (Posts: 5; Member since: 26 Dec 2012)

Granted there are some comparisons that render your point valid, you have to give up some features that I rather like, such as the touch surface, smaller size and full Windows capability in a tablet-like device. I want something more versatile than my iPad, but just as powerful, so I can use it for both my work I do at DISH and entertainment. Now I use my iPad to watch my TV shows by using DISH Anywhere and my DISH Hopper DVR at home. I love it because I can watch TV while I’m on the train, through the internet and get caught up on TV watching when I usually don’t have time at home.

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 09:08 12

2. valapsp (Posts: 562; Member since: 12 Aug 2011)

Now waiting for PhoneArena's Surface Pro giveaway....

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 09:08 6

3. ajac09 (Posts: 1482; Member since: 30 Sep 2009)

but how well does it play crysis? lol

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 09:14 5

4. T00muchF00D (Posts: 98; Member since: 27 Nov 2011)

I bought one here in Orlando

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 09:14 3

5. ultimatebatman (Posts: 52; Member since: 04 Dec 2012)

I'm not sure why Phone arena is reviewing what is essentially a full PC that detaches from it's keyboard. It's not even fair to compare it side by side with tablets that are 1/2 the price.

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 09:18 3

6. darac (Posts: 2156; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)

So almost one kilogram of weight isn't a disadvantage for a tablet?
It isn't even worth a mention?

That's brilliant, John

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 10:39 11

15. g2a5b0e (Posts: 3823; Member since: 08 Jun 2012)

Calling the Surface Pro just a tablet is akin to calling the Galaxy Note 2 just a phone. It's so much more, man. That critique doesn't work for a device that has as much in common with an ultrabook as it does with a tablet.

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 17:59 1

26. papss (unregistered)

Agreed.. Is it a tablet darac? Wow

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 10:08 1

8. androidfurever (banned) (Posts: 48; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

Well, it's no Nexus 10 which is superior in every way.

posted on 16 Feb 2013, 16:19 1

51. papss (unregistered)

Yeah no... You are insane to even write that garbage..

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 10:12 2

9. feres13 (Posts: 307; Member since: 23 Dec 2011)

Here's my opinion : First, given it's price this is closer to an ultrabook than a tablet

For an ultrabook : it doesn't have a great keyboard, the trackpad of the macbook air is alot better, the air has better I/O and a bigger screen for the same price, not to mention os x can run both windows 8 and os x, making it more flexible, it also has half battery life of the air, and isn't confortable to use on a lap, and is underpowered for me since you can't upgrade anything before or after the purchase (4Gb of ram is a big NO), also in the air you can adjust screen orientation while on the surface you're limited to what the kickstand offers, and all the weight is on the top while the keyboard is paper thin.

For a tablet : It has a TERRIBLE battery life, thick, heavy, inconfortable to use in portrait and the ipad shows more in either orientation, the ipad has 300000 apps MADE for it, designed for it that work perfectly, the ipad has also more accessories, and the multimedia ecosystem in far better on the iPad, also the ipad has a better screen and 4G LTE capability.

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 12:02 7

20. ImQ009 (Posts: 41; Member since: 02 Dec 2012)

You say the iPad has more apps and more accessories.
We all know this isn't true. Don't forget it has a real x86 CPU and USB port.

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 13:21 5

23. Mobile-X-Pert (Posts: 565; Member since: 20 Dec 2010)

Dude, you can attach any keyboard you want and mouse to the MS Surface.

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 14:25 3

24. freebee269 (Posts: 539; Member since: 10 Aug 2012)

you know what the cool thing about your opinion is? it still sold out in stores and online with microsoft having 1 million ready to sell the first day. that means your opinion isnt shared by alot of people. i still wonder why you feel the need to comment on most surface articles to try to bash the surface. do you get paid by apple to do it? it seems like it. one thing i've learned from our other convo on another surface article, you think your opinion is in the majority, the first weeks sales say it isnt.

posted on 12 Feb 2013, 01:15 2

31. theokan (Posts: 4; Member since: 11 Feb 2013)

The way you compare it to an ultrabook separately from a tablet is a form of double standard. The strength of a hybrid is that it combines features from both sides. The iPad doesn't even have a keyboard to be terrible at, and an ultrabook in portrait mode makes even less sense. With the Surface pro, it can transform between the two depending on what works better at a certain task without having to disrupt your workflow by switching devices, or worrying that if both devices can support the same file type.

You get to choose from a collection of 20+ years of legacy software development, the iPad store is still an infant in comparison. As far as accessory support, there are really only two kinds; those that support USB and those that don’t. That pretty much separates the best from the worst.

posted on 12 Feb 2013, 14:04 1

38. Gatorgreat1 (Posts: 1; Member since: 12 Feb 2013)

I just left the apple store and the 11 inch mac book air has a best battery life of 5 hours. Just thought you should know the Pro is actually the same battery life since the demo units were running a loop in the background when the tests were performed.

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PhoneArena rating:
Display10.6 inches, 1920 x 1080 pixels (208 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera1 megapixel
Dual-core, 1700 MHz, Intel Core i5-3317U processor
Size10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53 inches
(275 x 173 x 13 mm)
32.00 oz  (907 g)

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