The Surface Pro is one of the most ambitious products I’ve reviewed. It’s trying to do a lot — ultimately, a little bit too much. But, even if it doesn’t sell well, I expect that Surface Pro is going to be remembered as the product that showed us how keyboard/mouse, multi-touch, and pen computing can work together in smart and useful ways. And, either Microsoft will fill the gaps in version 2.0 or other products will run with the triple-play UI.
Last night around 8 central time the first reviews of the Surface with Windows 8 Pro (Surface Pro) were published online.
For those that haven’t been following, the Surface Pro is the second Surface device; following the ARM based Surface for Windows RT (Surface RT). The Surfaces are the first computing hardware devices made by Microsoft. Like its sibling, the Surface Pro is a 10.6 inch slate made from a magnesium composite called VaporMg. Unlike the Surface RT, the Pro runs on an Intel Core i5 chip (which requires a fan), has touch input for all ten fingers, and comes loaded with USB 3.0 and a Display port. Microsoft made some design tweaks to both the camera and magnetic plug; they also moved the expansion memory slot.
So as with the Surface RT, this post is not a personal review of the device but an overview of the reviews released so far.
One thing I noticed with the Pro reviews is that they are the reverse of the reviews for the Surface RT. Where the RT was castigated for the use of Windows RT (with its lack of backward software compatibility) and ARM (specifically Tegra 3), the Pro was praised. For many writers the idea of the “No compromises” of Windows 8 were a reality with the Pro.
A large part of many reviews were on the desktop and desktop applications. Some like Engadget’s Tim Stevens complained about the lack of touch friendliness of the Desktop. Other like Peter Bright had issues with the screen resolution; while the new Metro environment scaled well, the desktop needed tweaking to be usable.
Weight was an issue for most; the Pro 2lbs seemed to be an issue for many. However the fan was not. Another facet of the reviews was how Windows 8 blended the use of touch, mouse, and stylus. Jason Hiner of Tech Republic praised the Surface demo unit he was using. The Verge’s David Pierce praised the Pro’s stylus (which makes me wonder if Microsoft cut down on the latency many styli have around digital ink).
Reading through the different reviews it was apparent that each writer was bringing a different perspective about what Windows is and what a tablet should be. For example Peter Bright’s review was mostly negative but it seemed mainly because the Surface Pro wasn’t a laptop or a tablet with a keyboard dock.
The other is much bigger: the Surface Pro comes with a Wacom-made, capacitive and pressure-sensitive stylus that is an awesomely useful companion to the device. It’s fantastic for drawing apps or Fruit Ninja — the pixel-dense display gives you accurate control anyway, and the pen makes it even better
David Pierce Microsoft Surface Pro review
The other thing was many were trying to peg the Pro as either an Ultrabook or a tablet; and with many finding it not fitting in either category well judged it a failure of shorts. That seemed to be the conclusion of Hiner and Stern.
Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley were interesting cases because in Thurrott’s case the Pro despite all its flaws, was the device closest to the idea of Windows 8. Foley was the opposite (and is one of the few to like the smaller RT). Ed Bott probably had the most balanced, but I think that was because he was concentrating on who would be attracted to the device in the first place.
One thing I think the Surface highlights is Microsoft’s commitment to building Windows 8. It is a testament to the Hardware team that despite it flaws many reviewers walked away impressed with the Surface Pro.
My opinion is that in many ways the Surface, both RT and Pro, have been the standard bearers for Windows 8. Both are compelling devices in the way the platform has needed; devices that people may not need but they want. The battery time and screen are issues, but much like a sports care you want anyway.
Below are links to the first reviews and hopefully serve as a good survey of opinion.
Tim Stevens Microsoft Surface Pro review
Paul Thurrott Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro Review