Microsoft Surface Pro– More than a Tablet

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© 2013 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from Christian Computing Magazine 

Microsoft started shipping their much-awaited Surface Pro this week.  It is a touchscreen tablet that many think is targeted against Apple’s iPad.  I’ve been working on the Pro version of the Surface and it is more than a tablet– it’s as powerful and capable as a notebook computer!

First Impressions
As an iPad and MacBook Air user I was curious to see what the Surface was like.  Could it compete with the iPad?

Unpacking the device was a lot like unpacking an Apple MacBook notebook computer.  It seemed clear that Microsoft was competing with the Apple user experience; not Dell or HP.  Even the Microsoft Store experience was very similar to the Apple Store experience, albeit with a smaller crowd inside.

The cost for the ‘consumer’ version (Surface RT) was less than an Apple iPad:

  • 64gb iPad:  $699
  • 64gb Surface RT:  $599

The cost for the Pro version was a little more than an iPad, but you can do much more with the Pro version:

  • 128gb iPad:  $799
  • 128gb Surface Pro:  $999

The Surface Pro is more like a notebook computer than a tablet, though it also has tablet features like the touchscreen and smaller form factor.

Form Factor
The Surface Pro is between the size of an iPad and MacBook Air 11″, and weighs about the same as the MacBook Air 11″.  It’s screen is about an inch larger than the iPad and an inch smaller than the MacBook Air 11″.

The touchscreen is nice and as responsive as the iPad, but it also comes with a digital pen for use in writing, drawing, acting as a mouse-like device, etc.  Nice.

The Surface– both versions– comes with a kickstand built into the back of the case that is nice.  This gives it much better stability than the iPad when touching the screen for typing, launching apps, etc.

The Surface has ports!  That’s something iPad users have been asking for, but have had to do without.  It has a microSDXC card slot that can accommodate a 64gb card, a mini display port, and a USB port!

Specs
The Surface Pro has an Intel i5 processor with 4gb RAM; the RT version has a NVIDIA T30 processor with 2gb RAM.

The Surface Pro comes preloaded with Windows 8 Pro, giving you the full strength of that OS.  (I’ve said that Windows 8 Pro is as solid as Windows 7 Pro, but that I didn’t like not having the Start Button.  I’ve also said that not having the Start Button may make sense on a tablet, but not on a desktop or notebook computer.)  Windows 8 Pro on a tablet is a nice experience.

The Pro version has an HD display with 1920×1080 resolution and two (front and rear facing) 720p HD cameras.

Microsoft did something else nice to pull notebook users towards the Surface:  they integrated a QWERTY keyboard into the inside cover!  Typing on it feels good and normal.  It also has an integrated touchpad with two buttons.

Experience
I began my testing of the Surface Pro cautiously, wondering where I would find roadblocks in its capabilities.  Initially I tried using it as I do the iPad, and found no problems there.

Then I decided to begin using it more like I would a notebook computer.  I began doing all of the engineering steps we do to a notebook when setting it up for a client.  That included installing full apps, like Microsoft Office 2013.  Everything worked well– as good as any notebook computer I’ve worked with.

Something worth mentioning is how nice it is to have access to the filing system via Windows Explorer.  I would LOVE to be able to do something similar on the iPad.

Then I decided to take the final plunge and add it to our Active Directory domain, making it a full network ‘citizen’.  Again, it worked flawlessly– as well as any notebook computer I’ve used.

Running Microsoft Office and other apps is like doing the same on any other notebook computer with the added flexibility of having the tablet touchscreen functionality.

Awesome Mouse!
I should mention that I also bought an accessory while at the Microsoft Store: the Wedge Touch Mouse.  It is terrific!  Almost as nice as Apple’s Magic Mouse!

Conclusions
The Microsoft Surface Pro is a solid tablet that also performs well as a notebook.  For someone who wants a small form factor for travel and prefers Windows, it is a solid contender.  And at a price that is significantly less than most notebooks with similar specs and quality, it seems to be a clear winner.

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