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

  • gadjade - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Thanks, so will be waiting for a Haswell Ultrabook then as I'm more worried about the battery life than the innards.

    I really hope next year's Ultrabooks will have a double or fractional increase in battery life.
  • PubFiction - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I am surprised the price is pretty good.

    But who cares about thunderbolt really, nothing accepts it yet, who knows if or when many things will seems to take like 5 years before companies really start using new ports honestly.

    BTW the $100 upgrade to 128 gb is much more reasonable than most tablets which only get you a max of 32gb for your $100 increase.
  • Origin64 - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    What I don't get is everyone's crusade /for/ Thunderbolt. Or HDMI for that matter. As long as DL-DVI, optical digital audio and USB3 work, all those new standards are, imho, completely obsolete.

    I'm still waiting for cheap tablets that can compile x86...Guess I'll have to wait a few more years.
  • kyuu - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Optical TOSLINK only supports up to Dolby Digital 5.1, AFAIK. DL-DVI on a portable device is completely impractical.

    Not that I care much about Thunderbolt. Its only real compelling use case is the niche realm of external GPU docks for mobile devices.
  • SignalPST - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    anyone know if the 1080p screen is confirmed to be an IPS? Reply
  • TerminalVelocity - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    For the listed price, this equipment should include a GPS. My employer would probably buy these by the armload except for that omission, and bluetooth externals are not an option due to the complexity and additional points of failure they add. If an OEM can replicate this with similar or better battery life + an integrated GPS unit, count me in. Reply
  • unclewoja - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    This is perfect for me. I have an aging accounting package at work, but upgrading is just too costly for me at the moment. My accounting package doesn't have barcode capability so orders and stock takes are a pain and I have to go back and forth between the warehouse and office with bits of paper doing double entry.

    An add on module for barcode scanning costs $4,500 + $500 p.a for "support". A new accounting package + hardware + implementation and data migration is $20,000+

    This allows me to do any ordering/stock taking anywhere in the factory directly into my accounting software as well as printing and emailing from said software and gives me more functionality than a new accounting package in terms of portability. This is an absolute BARGAIN for my needs and situation. I also have other business colleagues who are also getting one for the same reason. Not only does it give us what we're needing in our businesses, but when it's home time, it's more than capable as a tablet or PC for most light duty tasks.

    This may not be the runaway success that the iPAD was, but it will not fail and I don't see that this is aimed squarely at the consumers in the traditional tablet market.

    If my experiences with Surface are great, then in all probability, my next phone would be a WP8 phone and W8 upgrades at work so keep a consistent OS across all devices which is EXACTLY what Microsoft want. They don't want a fragmented OS experience like Apple and quite frankly, neither do I.
  • lmcd - Saturday, December 1, 2012 - link

    ...isn't very impressive. I'd prefer the Samsung Chromebook loaded up with OpenSuse 12.x KDE or Linux Mint Cinnamon (for GTK+ integration), and all the parts in the screen plus the traditional big battery in the keyboard dock. Adding a bonus SSD in the keyboard dock (and eMMC storage in the tablet form factor) would also make a ton of sense. Ideally a 1600x900 panel.

    Price based on Chromebook: should be around $600-700.

    As an alternative, a Nexus 10 with previously mentioned operating systems, a kickstand and a surface-like keyboard would similarly be preferable.

    This setup should come out to around $700.


    Or make PNaCl a reality, add more languages, and start supporting packages from other operating systems.
  • lmcd - Saturday, December 1, 2012 - link

    Sorry for off-topic. Reply
  • Sahrin - Sunday, December 2, 2012 - link

    >I don't know what it is with Microsoft's crusade against Thunderbolt

    Uh, they don't want to support locking customers in to an additional, needless upgrade cycle? I don't think I've ever seen you write something so irrational, Anand.

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