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Microsoft Surface Pro Review

Microsoft Surface Pro

Posted: , by John V.



Comparatively, Windows 8 is a relatively new platform on the scene, but still, it makes us cringe in agony to know that its native camera app is devoid of any useful features or manual settings. Essentially, the majority of the interface is dominated by the viewfinder – with a few icons on-screen to change cameras and modes. Sadly, it's clearly the furthest thing from appeasing camera aficionados.

Camera interface - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
Camera interface - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
Camera interface - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
Camera interface - Microsoft Surface Pro Review

Camera interface

Looking down the list, there's no kidding that nearly every aspect of the Surface Pro has been improved over the Surface RT, however, that's not the case with the camera. Instead, it's the same old less than 1.0-megapixel camera in the rear, which doesn't feature auto-focus or an LED flash – things we perceive to be common amongst all devices nowadays. After snapping several photos, we're soon reacquainted with the same terrible quality from before. Sure, it's nice to have a camera in hand for those unpredictable moments, but there's no valid argument using the Surface Pro's camera. Not only is its quality muddy in appearance and lacks any sort of definition, but it doesn't even try to handle dynamic range, which results in images being either under or over exposed depending on the lighting condition. Just forget about it, seriously.

Nothing screams “high-definition” like 720p videos that look like they were taken by an old school flip phone, right? Call us crazy, but it's mind boggling to even fathom that the Microsoft Surface Pro can shoot videos in up to 720p resolution after looking over some of the videos we recorded. Seriously, there's nothing pretty to say, as its super soft toned visuals make it seem as though we're wearing out of focus reading glasses. And depending on the lighting situation, its recording speed can go anywhere between 14 to 29 frames per second. Be afraid people, very afraid for this one!

Microsoft Surface Pro Sample Video:

Microsoft Surface Pro Nighttime Sample Video:


Just like with Windows RT, the Photos Hub with Windows 8 doesn't offer anything out of the ordinary with its feature set, but rather, it's a basic picture viewer that offers us the ability to crop and rotate images – and nothing more! As for sharing, there isn't a native option strange to say, and instead, accessing the “Charms” section of the Windows 8 interface will present us some of the apps that can handle the sharing process. So yeah, it's maddening with its minimal set of features.

The Photos Hub of Windows 8 - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Photos Hub of Windows 8 - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Photos Hub of Windows 8 - Microsoft Surface Pro Review

The Photos Hub of Windows 8

We know what you're thinking, this is Windows 8, so how can the music player be different from the usual Windows Media Player from yesterday? Well, the new Music Hub for Windows 8 is deliciously sweet looking, as it incorporates the Modern UI styling of the platform into the music player – and also offers synchronization with our XBOX Music account. All in all, it's one of the better looking music player UIs out there on any platform. With its speakers discretely hidden behind the gap of the tablet's chassis, it doesn't produce anything spectacular with its output. Instead, its weak and mute tones make it notoriously difficult to hear in noisy environments.

The new Music Hub - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The new Music Hub - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The new Music Hub - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The new Music Hub - Microsoft Surface Pro Review

The new Music Hub

Having laptop components in tow, it doesn't really surprise us that the Surface Pro handles high definition videos with no issues at all. In addition, it supports various video codecs out of the box too (DivX, H.264, MPEG-4, and Xvid). And with sharper looking 10.6-inch 1080p PLS display, it's simply a joy to watch videos, as our eyes gaze in awe to the display's vibrant output and luscious detail.

The Microsoft Surface Pro handles high definition videos with no issues - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Microsoft Surface Pro handles high definition videos with no issues - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Microsoft Surface Pro handles high definition videos with no issues - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Microsoft Surface Pro handles high definition videos with no issues - Microsoft Surface Pro Review

The Microsoft Surface Pro handles high definition videos with no issues

By now, most of us are accustomed to seeing microHDMI ports for easy video-out functionality with smartphones and many tablets, but the Surface Pro opts to rely on a mini DisplayPort instead. Certainly, it's nice to know that video-out functionality is available with it – though, part of the battle is trying to acquire the proper cable.


In our review of Windows RT, we found that Microsoft brought forth some new apps to the updated experience, which are found here as well in the Windows 8 experience. For starters, you have Bing Maps on board, which is something that Windows users of the past aren't used to seeing or experiencing. However, it's on the Surface Pro, but it's rather mundane and limited with its functionality. In fact, it doesn't even offer voice guided turn by turn directions or 3D views. Quite honestly, you're better off using the web browser to check out Google Maps.

Bing Maps - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
Bing Maps - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
Bing Maps - Microsoft Surface Pro Review

Bing Maps

Earlier in the review, we briefly talked about the Fresh Paint app that's preloaded with the Surface Pro, which works in conjunction with the included pressure sensitive stylus. Naturally, it's a neat tool for drawing and whatnot, especially when it can recognize firm and light presses, but it's still nowhere close to the functionality level seen with Samsung's S-Pen related apps. To tell you the truth, we were expecting to see the stylus being used in a number of apps, but sadly that's not the case. Rather, we find its usefulness elsewhere in Microsoft OneNote – and that's about it!

The Fresh Paint app - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Fresh Paint app - Microsoft Surface Pro Review

The Fresh Paint app

Exposed to a fully capable operating system, you'd think that the Surface Pro would be armed with some quality productivity suite, however, you'll be shocked that it doesn't boast a full version of Microsoft Office. Instead, we're given only a 30-day trial of the software, where upon its completion, we can purchase a license to buy it. Sure, we're bummed by the realization, but if you know your options, there are a myriad of alternatives. Specifically, we can go with the cloud services route with Google Drive, and for those who prefer something locally, there are things like OpenOffice that'll get the job done for free.

The Microsoft Surface Pro doesn't boast a full version of Microsoft Office - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Microsoft Surface Pro doesn't boast a full version of Microsoft Office - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Microsoft Surface Pro doesn't boast a full version of Microsoft Office - Microsoft Surface Pro Review
The Microsoft Surface Pro doesn't boast a full version of Microsoft Office - Microsoft Surface Pro Review

The Microsoft Surface Pro doesn't boast a full version of Microsoft Office

Touch navigation is emphasized with the new Windows 8 experience, obviously, but when going back to some legacy software in the desktop, we find ourselves tempted to fall back with the usual gestures. Even though we have to remind ourselves about resorting back to the tedious processes of yesterday, the touchscreen is accurate enough to register all of our presses and gestures – though, the stylus does come in handy with navigation with legacy software.

Before we close things out with the Surface Pro's software, we have to reiterate that it's a pleasure to know that Windows 8 is the real deal – in the fact that it's a fully equipped platform that doesn't compromise with the software support. However, as we dive deeper to some of the currently available apps in the Windows 8 Store, it's still lagging behind with some quality ones fit for the touch experience. Furthermore, many of the popular apps we're familiar using on a daily basis, like Instagram or Foursquare, have yet to make an appearance in app form for Windows 8.

  • 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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