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2/11/2013
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Jeff Bertolucci
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Microsoft Surface Pro: Right For You?

Microsoft's business-friendly Windows 8 tablet-laptop hybrid isn't perfect. From battery life to weight considerations, we break down whether Surface Pro will suit your needs.
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Microsoft's Surface with Windows 8 Pro is here, and it's a curious beast. Both multitouch tablet and full-fledged Windows 8 laptop, the Surface Pro screamed NO COMPROMISES. But as with most hybrid devices, there are compromises aplenty.

Unlike its ARM-based sibling, Surface with Windows RT, Surface Pro runs legacy Windows programs -- the same office and home apps that work with pre-Windows 8 versions of the OS (with some exceptions). The business-oriented Surface Pro also runs Windows Store apps written for Microsoft's new tile-packed Modern UI.

The Surface Pro is hard to categorize. Is it a laptop, tablet or both? Does it offer the best of both worlds, or is it a wishy-washy compromise that's bound to disappoint?

Early reviews have been tepid at best. Critics have dinged the Surface Pro's less-than-stellar battery life and other shortcomings, such as the viewing-angle limitations of its integrated kickstand. On the plus side, reviewers have praised the Surface Pro's solid build and its crisp high-definition display.

A recurring question is whether the Surface Pro, which costs over $1,000 (fully equipped with keyboard/cover), is too expensive. One factor working in its favor is that the device is targeted at business users, who are less price-sensitive than consumers. Microsoft has positioned the Surface RT ($499 and up) to duke it out in the end user market with bruising competitors such as the Apple iPad, Google Nexus 10 and Amazon Kindle Fire 8.9.

Initial sales of the Surface RT have been lackluster. UBS AG analyst Paul Thill last month estimated that Microsoft sold 1 million Surface RT tablets in the holiday quarter of 2012, a 50% reduction from Thill's original estimate of 2 million. And research firm IDC estimated that Microsoft shipped just under 900,000 Surface RT slates in Q4 2012.

Why the lackluster sales? Price, again, may be to blame.

"In the long run, consumers may grow to believe that high-end computing tablets with desktop operating systems are worth a higher premium than other tablets, but until then [average selling prices] on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices need to come down to drive higher volumes," said IDC mobile device analyst Ryan Reith, in a statement.

This doesn't mean the Surface Pro will receive the same lukewarm response from customers, although its high price is reason for concern. Here are 10 ways to know if the Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro is right for you.

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Stephane Parent
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Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2013 | 1:17:10 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Right For You?
Well, I've now had my Surface Windows 8 Pro for a week. Some of my additional findings
* Skype worked flawlessly, much better than my 2-year old Win7 laptop.
* I'm starting to get used to the Win8 NetFlix app. (It's probably too early to say I like it.) NetFlix really makes the Surface Pro shine. (BTW, I'm really enjoying House of Cards.)
* I found it hard to get more than 3 hours of power. I've started tweaking the power settings, including dimming the screen a bit. We'll see if I can get closer to the rated 4.5
* So far, I haven't used the unit for iTunes consumption. I did use it for ordering content. The problem is I have an Apple TV box on my 42" LED TV and I have an iPhone. The former is better to view purchased TV shows or movies and the latter is better to listen to music.
* I gave up using the stylus as a pointing device and got myself a Bluetooth Mouse. Much better! I might even consider a Bluetooth keyboard.
* I'm looking forward to more applications being ported to a Microsoft Store app. It gets annoying switching between both modes. (I was not impressed when the Google Drive Viewer put me into a browser window.)

The bottom line for me is that I use the device in places and times where I normallly would have relied on paper. That, to me, is the biggest impact.

jimfrost01
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jimfrost01,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/19/2013 | 1:25:37 AM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Right For You?
I really want to like this thing. The hardware is great, and while Win8 seems like it's only halfway there for tablets it's still a big step forward and it's certainly Good Enough. Maybe it's a little heavy for a tablet, maybe the battery life is a little shorter than I would like, but all told I think it's a pretty decent effort and I could work with it.

But $1000+ once you add in the mandatory-if-you-plan-to-do-real-work (and vastly overpriced) keyboard? When I can buy a similar ultrabook for hundreds less and get more of everything except for the digitizer? Eesh.

In my opinion Windows' problem on tablets has been price more than anything else all along. Back in 2002 I was all ready to go out and buy one until it turned out that it was nearly twice as much as the equivalent laptop. I didn't believe I should have to pay a large premium for less hardware then, and I still don't believe it now.

The differential is only a little better today than it was then, but one thing is much different: Today, there are a bunch of tablets I can buy for half that much money and they have a lot of designed-for-touch software.

I think you've got to really want this to pay that much money when you could pretty near pull off both a Win8 laptop and an iPad for the same money. I would be very surprised if it sells all that well after the initial pop.
Stephane Parent
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Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Strategist
2/13/2013 | 3:01:56 AM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Right For You?
Mine came in this afternoon. I got the obligatory 128 GB with the type cover. (I ordered the VGA adapter but wound up with the one for the RT. Duh...)

I haven't put it through extensive tests but some of my preliminary findings.
* The unit came with just enough power to make it through the install. I found the magnetic power cord a bit annoying: because the connection is at an angle, the cord end needs to be just so to attach. Same thing with the stylus.
* The stylus is very neat when using something like OneNote. (Especially neat in portrait mode.) I do find it less reliable as a pointing device. (My first press doesn't always work.)
* I wanted to see about using it as a tablet while toting the type cover. I put the type cover backwards and everything was fine. When I took it off and put it back the right way I got an Oops from Windows saying it had to restart.
* Boot up is pretty fast. Of course, some of the kudos go to Windows 8, not necessarily the SurfPro.
* My 50-year old eyes have a hard time reading some of the fine fonts displayed on the screen. I'll probably have to bump up Windows font size. (Don't even think of suggesting I put the resolution down!)
* The type cover keyboard is OK. It reminds me of my netbook's keyboard: fewer keys and cramped for a touch-typist.
* I installed the Kobo app. It makes for a nice e-reader but I have trouble controlling anything but page turning.

I'm still looking forward to trying out Netflix, Skype and iTunes. After that, I'm going to put it through its paces for work stuff. Got to do the fun stuff first! :)
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
2/12/2013 | 8:53:59 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Right For You?
I have yet to see a Microsoft Surface or Surface pro in the wild, but a Twitter friend saw one being used at an airport this weekend. Any early adopters care to comment on what we may have left out on our considerations list?

Laurianne McLaughlin
InformationWeek
bwdolphan
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bwdolphan,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/12/2013 | 8:34:23 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Right For You?
Love the idea that I can have it all in one device.

Hate that I'm told what I display on my home screen. Maybe the tiles are a nice idea - for some - but are only one way to manage a home screen, not the one and only. Where's the flexibility in that?
ANON1238069211759
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ANON1238069211759,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/12/2013 | 6:06:54 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Right For You?
Zing!
Leo Regulus
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Leo Regulus,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/12/2013 | 5:38:10 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Right For You?
Information Week only had one important New Year's Resolution this year. '"No Slide Show Articles with out a prominent 'View-as-one-page' link." How's that working out for you so far?
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