Technology Review: Microsoft Surface Pro

Originally published by Entertainment.ie, Wednesday 29th May, 2013. To read the original, please click here.

Microsoft Surface Pro

Microsoft Surface Pro

Marketed as a tablet that also acts as a beefy, trusty laptop, Microsoft’s latest attempt to capitalize on the tablet market with the Microsoft Surface Pro may prove more successful than the tablet based PCs that Microsoft first launched over a decade ago in 2001/2002. The Surface Pro’s hybrid of a speedy, efficient, well- integrated tablet with a powerful PC containing an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and either 64 GB or 128 GB of SSD (solid- state drive) attempts to make up for the ground that Microsoft lost in recent years to Apple and Google, both in terms of hardware and web applications. Add to all of this a detachable keypad cover- Touch or Type sensitive- and a folding kickstand, and you get the sense that while Microsoft have designed a tablet- PC, it’s really reaching for the Ultrabook market without explicitly saying so.

The first and most notable observation is the weight and size of the Surface Pro; it’s much heavier than, say, the iPad and much heavier than the MacBook Air and other similar light- weighted laptops. Sure, this does raise questions about just how compact and mobile such a device really is; that said, once you remind yourself that you are carrying a hybrid machine- a tablet PC- it becomes less of an issue given the sheer range of functions that you have at your disposal.

The second most obvious observation is the shape of the tablet- it’s much more rectangular, much wider than its chief competitors. Featuring a 16:9 ratio widescreen, it’s perfect for watching films without those annoying black borders that one always sees on screens and this is where the target market for the Surface Pro begins really to blur; one can easily imagine business people making great use of the screen ratio and the rear back panel, which acts as an upright kickstand, angled at 22 degrees, on flights. However, it will also appeal to pedantic film buffs, such as yours truly, who insist on watching a film in the correct ratio and grumble about watching films in the cinema where half the film is projected onto the ceiling. The Surface Pro is, quite simply, the best device on which to watch films, made all the better by the excellent Net Flix app, which is built in to the device. Some other pre- installed apps include SkyDrive, Mail, Maps, Weather, Photos, and most effectively Bing apps for News, Sport, Travel and Finance. The Surface Pro shines most with the Bing apps, which emphasize the value of both the Surface Pro’s design and content.

Another pre- installed app is, of course, Skype, which accounts largely for why the kickstand angles the device at 22 degrees; the ideal angle for web cams. The cameras embedded in the device make it ideal to take profile pic photos and conduct web chats via Skype: a 720p HD webcam is featured on the front of the device, above the 10-point multi-touch screen and a Windows Start button falls below it. The rear of the device also features a camera.

Another fantastic feature is the digitized pen, which can be used for capturing your handwriting and for annotating documents in OneNote. It also has the added bonus of allowing you to sign forms and documents on PDF files, making the return of signed documents much faster and easier. It can also be used with Power Point, adding that extra bit of flair to presentations, as well as a mouse.

So what are the drawbacks of the Microsoft Surface Pro?

Well, let’s start with the exterior of the device:

USB Ports: The Surface Pro features just one single USB 3.0 port, which is found at the left edge of the device beneath a rocker switch for volume control, and an audio jack for headphones. There is, however, another USB port in the battery charger for charging exterior devices, such as a phone.

Battery Life: At average usage, the battery life for the device is about 5 hours, though this does decrease quite rapidly if the device is put through its paces with downloading, streaming, etc. So if you’re on the move, whatever you do, don’t forget the charger.

Ethernet Port/SD Slot/SIM slot: A compromise for the power and versatility of the Surface Pro is that there is neither a RJ45 Ethernet port nor an onboard SD card slot nor a SIM slot for a 3G or 4G mobile connections. That said, there is an exterior HDMI connector supplied.

Microsoft Office: Unfortunately, Microsoft Office doesn’t come pre- installed on the system, which is a shame given the price tag attached to the device. Hopefully, in successive versions, Microsoft will pre- install the basic Office package and focus their sales efforts exclusively on 365 subscriptions.

The Verdict: Though it seems pricey, the Surface Pro is definitely worth every red cent. True, there are many improvements that could be made that may well find themselves in later generations of the tablet- PC and loyal Apple iPad devotees will be slow to follow Microsoft with this stellar device. All that said, the Surface Pro is a solid, trusty, versatile device that will no doubt be the bread and butter for the work and personal lives of business people, designers and those who just love top-notch devices.

Price: €879 for the 64GB device, €979 for the 128GB device

Manufacturer’s specifications
• Intel i5 1.7 GHz processor
• 4GB RAM
• Intel graphics
• Detachable keyboard
• USB3
• Mini DisplayPort
• Screen: 10.6in
• Dimensions: 27.4×17.3×1.3cm
• Weight: 0.9kg

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