Last month I reviewed Microsoft's Surface RT tablet, and came away generally impressed. The form factor and attention to detail were both much better than expected from Microsoft. The integration of the touch/type covers into the design was very well executed in my opinion. That being said, Surface RT seemed to me like a great start but not the perfect product. I would love to see a Cortex A15 based version with some minor tweaks. We'll likely get that next year, but before then there's one more Surface tablet that we'll meet: the Surface Pro.

Surface RT is Microsoft's Windows RT (Windows on ARM) launch vehicle, while Surface Pro is based on Intel x86 hardware. Despite the funny wording in today's blog post, Surface Pro uses an Ivy Bridge based Core i5 (ULV) processor with Intel HD 4000 graphics. Contrary to what I assumed initially, Surface Pro will launch with a 17W Ivy Bridge CPU - so this is the same chip you'll find in modern Ultrabooks. Without a doubt we'll see a Haswell version sometime next year, but not at launch. I wondered if we might see Microsoft use Intel's upcoming 10W Ivy Bridge, but at this point that seems unlikely.

Surface Pro keeps the same display size, but increases tablet thickness by 43% over the RT version. Weight is also up by half a pound. Screen resolution goes up as well, at 1920 x 1080. Memory capacity also increases to 4GB, and Surface Pro comes with much more NAND on-board. With a 7-series chipset you get SATA support, so my money is on Surface Pro having a full blown SSD inside instead of something eMMC based.

Microsoft Surface Comparison
  Surface RT Surface Pro Apple iPad 4
Dimensions 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37" 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53" 9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37"
Display 10.6-inch 1366 x 768 PLS 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080 PLS? 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 IPS
Weight 1.5 lbs 2.0 lbs 1.44 lbs
Processor NVIDIA Tegra 3

Core i5 with HD4000 Graphics (Ivy Bridge)

Apple A6X

Connectivity WiFi WiFi WiFi , Optional 4G LTE
Memory 2GB 4GB 1GB
Storage 32GB or 64GB 64GB or 128GB 16GB—64GB
Battery 31.5 Wh 42.0 Wh 42.5Wh
Starting Price $499 $899 $499

Battery capacity goes up to 42Wh, an increase of 33%, putting it about on par with the 3rd and 4th generation iPads. Charger size also goes up to 48W compared to 24W with the RT version. Update: Microsoft announced via its Surface Twitter account that the Pro version would offer roughly half the battery life of Surface RT. Without S0ix support, Surface Pro should look a lot like a standard Ultrabook when it comes to battery life. If you want the best of both worlds, Haswell will be what you'll need to wait for.

The big news is we now have pricing for Surface Pro: $899 for the 64GB model and $999 for the 128GB model, both available in January 2013. Both versions come with a Surface pen, but neither includes a touch or type cover. Microsoft's Surface Pro pricing is clearly higher than any other ARM based tablet, but I'd look at it more as an Ultrabook/MacBook Air alternative. I'll reserve final judgement for when I get my hands on a review sample, but I'm pretty interested to see how the Pro does in our tests. This could end up being one of the better Ultrabooks. I do wish Microsoft had thrown in a touch or type cover into the bundle though, that would make it a real alternative to a standard Ultrabook without having to pay for anything else. It is entirely possible that Microsoft is banking on notebook users bringing a more traditional keyboard and mouse for work though.

The other big omission is the lack of Thunderbolt support. I don't know what it is with Microsoft's crusade against Thunderbolt (the port is no longer on Acer's W700 either), but I think that's a big mistake. Surface Pro would be a great platform for Thunderbolt in my opinion.

For full specs check out the Surface Pro on Microsoft's site.



View All Comments

  • EngSD - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I dont understand the price comments - in Eurpoe the price of ultrabooks are well in excess of 1000 euros - this looks like it will be around 750 euros. About 200 euro more than an iPAD and for this you are getting real horse power, capable of high end multi tasking, total compatability with all PC programs, fast start up and come out of sleep mode, larger drive options, etc - a real computer as opposed to ARM based gadgets / tablets. You cant expect to get all this for the price of current ARM tablets - Android or Apple - you get what you pay for!! Reply
  • Galcobar - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    One thing to keep in mind is the price comparisons between Europe and North America aren't usually apples-to-apples because the taxes are different.

    European prices as listed typically include the value-added tax, while North American list prices exclude the sales tax(es), which vary across state, provincial and national borders.

    If the tablet is sold in my neck of the woods at C$899 (it should since the US and Canadian dollars are at par, but Canadians usually get stuck with an additional premium), the provincial and federal sales taxes would push it to over C$1000, or $1140 with the keyboard cover.
  • NXTwoThou - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    "including 5W USB for accessory charging" That's kind of sweet, so you don't use up the usb port on your tablet. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    What in blazes is wrong with these people? The intel i5 chip is about the same size as the apple A6, if not smaller. Aside from some NAND, there is literally nothing to justify the $900 price tag vs the $500 of the ipad. So where is this $400 coming from? Reply
  • vkn - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Are you for real? A porche is the same size as a corolla mostly smaller. Why is one thousands of dollars more than the other?
    You can't honestly he comparing the price based on respective chip sizes.
  • melgross - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    This isn't a, I assume you meant, Porsche. It's just another tablet. Reply
  • vkn - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Yes. That's what I meant..
    My objection was mostly to his comparison of i5 and a6 CPUs. As far as compute power, I think the comparison is valid at least relatively speaking.
    Its definitely not just another tablet. It is more like a computer using a tablet form factor. It may not work well at all as a tablet alone without the keyboard.
  • Dribble - Monday, December 3, 2012 - link

    It might have a porche engine, but it's pulling a truck. It's got to run full blown windows. The arm tablets use much more efficient OS, so while they cpu's are slower the difference won't be anything like what it should be. Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    ... Seriously? Apple A6 vs. Intel Ivy Bridge i5 = no difference, and this should cost the same as an iPad?

    I think the question is what are *you* smoking?
  • kmmatney - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Why does it need an i5? Wouldn't an i3 be more than enough horsepower? Reply

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