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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.
4. How Will You Use The Display?

At 208 ppi, the Surface Pro's 1080 x 1920-pixel HD screen is vibrant and beautiful. No, the resolution isn't quite as dense as the iPad's 264 ppi Retina offering, but few users will perceive a difference at normal viewing distances. It's also much better than the Surface RT's 1366 x 768-pixel offering.

In its tablet role, Surface Pro will no doubt make good use of this screen, which should be great for Web surfing, viewing photos, watching movies, reading reports and other consumption-oriented activities. Tradeoffs emerge when the device is in its laptop mode, however; the 10.6-inch screen is certainly big enough for document creation, spreadsheets and the like, but users accustomed to 15-inch and even 13-inch laptops might find the display real estate a little cramped. Relying on the screen for intense applications such as video editing, meanwhile, is probably going to be tough for all but the most eagle-eyed of users.

Even so, the device can output to a bigger monitor at up to 2550 x 1440-pixel resolution. The capability exemplifies the workarounds Panay described to his Reddit audience, and for many the solution will be perfectly acceptable. Others, though, might see the fix as basically stripping a mobile device of its mobility.

Gaming is another consideration. The device will run most video games without trouble, but if you're a fan of demanding titles that tax graphics cards, Surface Pro might disappoint you.

5. What Are Your Ergonomic And Size Preferences?

Like Surface RT, the Surface Pro includes a kickstand to prop up the screen. To some, this feature enhances media viewing and makes it simple to convert the tablet to its laptop configuration. For others, it's an aggravating design choice that doesn't allow the screen to be tilted. Even worse, the Pro is difficult to balance on one's lap, making it impractical to type on anything but a flat surface.

To connoisseurs of all things svelte, the Pro's dimensions might also be a deterrent, though fans of robust build quality will probably have the opposite reaction. At 13.5-mm thick and two pounds in weight, it's ultraportable but still noticeably thicker and heavier than either an iPad or Surface RT.

6. Are You Prone to Tech Envy?

Surface Pro might claim best-in-class status at the moment, but it will soon have to contend with a slew of new Windows 8 devices. Indeed, Tami Reller, CFO of Microsoft's Windows division, has been actively promoting them, even hinting that additional Surface models might materialize. If you're on the fence about Pro and can afford to delay a purchase, forthcoming models might be a better fit for your needs.

Buyer's remorse is always a risk with technology, of course, but with Intel's Haswell chips due later this year, would-be Surface-owners might have additional incentive to wait. The new processers are expected to offer better performance while consuming less energy, improvements that should encourage OEMs to pursue even thinner and more innovative designs. With this flexibility, the compromises that Panay said were necessary today might be easily avoided in six or eight months.

7. Will You Have Wi-Fi Access When You Need It?

Surface Pro can only connect to Wi-Fi networks. For laptop users, this limitation is par for the course. To tablet power users with 4G data plans, however, such shackles are anathema. That Microsoft is encouraging cloud usage only complicates this question, as a mobile user who can't find a trustworthy network won't be able to access his or her SkyDrive repository. If you're going to use Surface Pro primarily in your home or office, Wi-Fi access probably won't dictate your experience. If you like to set up shop wherever you roam, you might need to take your tablet search elsewhere.

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