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2/11/2013
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Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask

Is Surface Pro right for you? Consider these points as you decide whether a laptop-tablet hybrid makes sense.

Surface Pro is finally available. Surface RT and Windows 8-based Ultrabooks have been around for months, but the former can't run legacy apps and the latter have largely failed to maximize Microsoft's new operating system. Pro, in contrast, is the most thoroughly focused attempt yet to optimize cutting-edge hardware for arguably the most radical Windows refresh ever. The device is intended to set the standard for laptop-tablet hybrids, and to many Microsoft devotees, it has been the option worth waiting for.

Does Surface Pro live up to the hype? It depends. So far, the consensus is that your mileage will vary depending on your priorities; though both a laptop and a tablet, the Surface Pro is also an exercise in calculated compromise.

The same was true for the iPad, of course, and if the Pro's combination of tablet mobility and laptop power is liberating enough, users could grow to forgive its mediocre battery life and limited storage space. Surface GM Panos Panay explained during an "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit that though engineering considerations necessitated many compromises, the device can surmount most challenges via accessories.

[ Are PC sales up or down? Learn why that's not such an easy question to answer; see PC Shipment Numbers: A Tale Of Two Spins. ]

Is the tablet's user experience compelling enough to justify jumping through these extra hoops? Here are seven questions to help you decide if Surface Pro is the Windows tablet you've been waiting for.

1. What Are Your Storage Needs?

Surface Pro's storage capacity came under fire when it was revealed that Windows 8 eats up around 45 GB of the device's SSD. Given that Pro comes in only 64-GB and 128-GB varieties, this could be a problem for laptop users accustomed to filling up bigger drives.

That said, the 128-GB MacBook Air isn't much better, offering only 92 GB of useable space. Angry mobs haven't formed in Cupertino, Calif., so though the Surface Pro's capacity might look meager on paper, the MacBook Air's success suggests it might not matter in practice. Plus, Surface Pro users can free up additional space by copying the recovery partition to a USB drive and then deleting it from the SSD.

Speaking of USB, the Surface Pro offers two USB 3.0 ports, one on the device itself and one on the power cord. It also has a microSDXC card slot. If it sounds like a hassle to use these avenues to boost storage capacity, Surface Pro might not be the tablet for you. If they sound like a minor trifle compared to the device's benefits, you probably won't have a problem.

There's also the cloud to consider. If you're already a SkyDrive user or plan to use it heavily after upgrading to Office 365, you'll probably be able to manage the Surface Pro's resources.

2. Do You Need All-Day Battery Life?

Reviews suggest Surface Pro's battery life normally tops out around 4.5 hours -- not bad for a laptop, but not great if you're used to tablets that run all day. The device can be plugged in, of course, and it's novel and useful that the cord includes a USB jack. Still, many users will resent having to seek out a power outlet at least once per day.

If you like the Surface Pro but are worried about battery life, the concern might be fleeting: Panay slyly hinted during his Reddit chat that an external power option is forthcoming.

3. Are You Aware Of Hidden Costs?

Surface Pro distinguishes itself from the iPad, Android devices and even Surface RT by offering a true laptop experience: legacy application support, an i5 Intel processer, etc. To get that experience, though, a Type Cover keyboard is non-negotiable. Plan to add $130 to the cost of the tablet, which is $900 for the 64-GB version and $1,000 for the 128-GB option. Microsoft's thinner Touch Cover is an option as well, though it's less suited to heavy typing.

For many, Microsoft Office will be another expense; while Surface RT included a somewhat diluted version of Office pre-installed, Surface Pro makes users buy the software.

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kburrows
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kburrows,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2013 | 3:31:59 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask
So, how do you backup the recovery partition to a USB drive without having to buy a partitioning program?
Don108
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Don108,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2013 | 6:22:13 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask
Your comparison with Apple products is inconsistent at best and deceptive at worst. You compare the Surface Pro to either the iPad or Macbook Air, depending upon what you think will make the Surface look better. You say that nobody is complaining about the Air's storage limitations. However the Air has never been marketed as a replacement, only an addition to a user's other hardware.

You describe the kickstand, but don't bother to mention that the kickstand only works in landscape mode, making working in portrait mode challenging at best. One of the benefits of working with a tablet is being able to switch orientation, and the Surface makes this impractical.

You don't mention that other tablets have twice the battery life of the Surface Pro. You talk about the units "laptop mode" and don't mention that when using Office, the screen is so small that the ribbon will swallow up an unacceptably large amount of available visual space.

Everything about the Surface Pro indicates that it's going to be JAZ: Just Another Zune.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2013 | 6:54:19 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask
Don108, thanks for your message. You bring up good points about the kickstand and the use cases it does or doesn't support. I think the article's second item addresses the battery issue: "not great if you're used to tablets that run all day," etc. As for the shifting comparisons between the Macbook Air and iPad, they're not intended to "make the Surface look better" so much as to emphasize that the Surface Pro occupies a nebulous space between existing market segments. That is, if you come from a tablet mindset, Surface Pro will have certain compromises, and if you come from a laptop mindset, Surface Pro will have another, different set of compromises. The question is whether the device's unique features and capabilities adequately compensate for these shortcomings.

Michael Endler, InformationWeek Associate Editor
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2013 | 7:02:15 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask
Use the built-in tool in Win8 to do it. Here's a link to the official Microsoft doc.

"http://www.microsoft.com/Surfa..."
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2013 | 7:08:48 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask
The whole storage thing is completely overblown. At least Surface has more options for storage than other devices in its class. USB, SDXC, SkyDrive, whatever. There are many options.

Lack of 3G/4G cellular access is fast becoming a moot point as well since you can tether to a mobile phone - under the right plan.

Tech envy is a valid concern... and in this case may give one pause due to the cost. Haswell chip and other improvements sure to be forthcoming.

For instance, the device has an option slot (aka docking) that will soon become usable.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2013 | 7:13:01 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask
And..... that's the point. One cannot logically compare Surface Apples to Apples (so to speak) directly against either a laptop or a tablet. It provides capabilities that neither of the pure forms possess. Compromises notwithstanding.
WinWorm
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WinWorm,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2013 | 7:14:23 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask

Remember, it was designed to have the recovery files there for a reason. To make a recovery easy.
If the recovery files are some where else, there is a risk those files could get lost or not work.
Even though, I don't own Win 8 Pro Surface, yet, I am sure they use a similar approach to other Win op. sys.
It would probably be something like this.
Either the recovery folder is in plain view, like "WindowsImageBackup" or it is on a hidden partition.
If Hidden, you can verify by viewing the drive, by using windows "Disk Management "utility.
Assign a drive letter to hidden drive, so you can access it normally, in the regular Windows explorer.
There may be a couple of hidden partitions, but the largest one will have the recovery partition.
You could copy this over to external drive, and delete folder or the now unhidden partition.

Another way is make a brand new recovery image file, and then delete original.
The other included program in Win 7 and 8 is called "Windows 7 File Recovery"
This utility can make a system image of the operating system/programs/personal files at a particular time date.
You should be able to put the recovery image files in a usb mem stick or external hard drive.
By the way, I use "Windows 7 File Recovery" once a month on my Win 8 Pro PC- works like a charm!
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2013 | 8:24:25 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask
Surface / Win8 has a builtin procedure to move the Recovery partition and/or Delete it. I posted earlier but the site monitors flagged it for review (due to being a URL). Here it is again,

microsoft.com/Surface/en-US/su...
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
2/11/2013 | 9:24:00 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask
You also have to buy Office for the desktop in order to use Office for RT. So there is no difference.
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