Hands-On Review: Microsoft Surface Pro, Pros and Cons

aNewDomain.net—When it was first released, I spent some time with the Microsoft Surface RT and concluded that Microsoft shouldn’t offer customers the paid option choice of the TouchPad keyboard. It should be included in the price.

After all, what separates the Microsoft Surface from the Apple iPad and most other tablets was its ability to quickly transform from a tablet to an ultrabook, or netbook, with just a click of the magnetic keyboard.  That’s what Surface users are going to want, after all.

A tablet-ready way to do real work in Microsoft Office Suite. For that you need to a keyboard, plain and simple. The TouchCover fell far too short. The TouchPad keyboard is key. But my review doesn’t stop there.  Now, Microsoft has released the Surface Pro. I took a look to see if it matched any of the other qualms I had about this device. Here’s my review.

Surface Pro with Magnetic Stylus

The Microsoft Surface Pro, released on February 9, 2013, is essentially two operating systems on a single device. Clever, but does it work?

Back to the issue of typing — a key one on a productivity device like the Surface or, now, the Surface Pro — typing on the Microsoft Surface Pro keyboard is rock solid. That’s good news, though it’s still, unfortunately, an option not included in the system’s base price.

I know it’s controversial and not for everyone, but I like Windows 8. I find its performance on the Microsoft Surface Pro to be seamless and the dual operating system performance quite nimble. I ran apps in the ModernUI side while typing this article, in fact A quick swipe and I check the weather, the Yahoo email client —  or I make a decisive move on Chess By Post.

Unquestionably, the Surface tablet runs more smoothly than other hybrid tablets I’ve tried. But there are caveats.

One is screensize. I’ve been typing on a 10.1-inch netbook for years. Just a move up to an 11.6-inch would make such a difference.

Also, disturbingly, the tablet I reviewed ran hot. Just a bit of use — nothing strenuous — and feel the heat in the center just below the camera. It was almost hot to the touch where my fingertips rested while I was reading. That makes me worry about the thickness of circuit boards. I am awaiting Microsoft’s comment on this.

Apps-wise, I found enough in the Microsoft App Store to match my needs.  Where I didn’t find apps I wanted, I found it easy to install 64-bit apps on the desktop side. Microsoft will only improve this over time — or it will pay app developers to do so, as it has in the past. No worries there.

My biggest gripe with the Surface Pro is, essentially, that it’s a disposable device. It’s a closed system. Microsoft prevents you from opening it up for any reason — to upgrade the memory, storage or even the battery. No wonder the crew at iFixit, an organization that does professional teardowns of new gadgetry, gave it its lowest rating of one on a scale of 10. According to iFixIt, an experienced tech pro needed more than an hour to remove the rear cover. And it was impossible to reseal it.

Bottom line:  Microsoft has delivered an acceptable piece of hardware built around an operating system made just for it. Office users — provided they shell out $100 plus for the additional keyboard — will find it useful. As just a tablet and excluding those comments though, the Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro wouldn’t be high on my list — not my first or second choice. And as a replacement for my current Windows system, it would be my last.

It’ll be interesting to watch how and whether Microsoft listens to Windows veterans like me as it upgrades these tablets for the workplace.

Pricing starts at $899.

Image credit: Dino Londis for aNewDomain.net

Dino Londis
Based in New York, Dino Londis is an IT veteran, an alum of The National Lampoon and a senior technologist at aNewDomain.net. Contact him at [email protected]
Dino Londis
Dino Londis
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