Monday, January 21, 2013

Surface pro: more than a tablet

Microsoft's own Surface RT has been out for a while? No one questions whether the Surface RT is a tablet. It's priced like a high-end tablet, it's thin and light, and it has competitive battery life. But since that Windows RT tablet uses Nvidia's ARM-based Tegra 3 CPU, it can't run desktop programs. (See our review on page 48.)

Buyers may view the Surface Pro as just a pricey tablet as well. At the prices Microsoft is charging, shoppers who are not paying attention to its PC-like specs will likely ignore it.

Serious PC users who recognize the Surface Pro as a thinly disguised PC may grab one; they might also buy the Type Cover, or maybe a Bluetooth keyboard. Corporations may view it with interest too, as Microsoft has integrated enterprise-management capability. They'll be able to install all their software on it as well, since it's a full Windows 8 PC under the hood.

Pro vs. RT

If you're trying to decide between the Surface Pro and Surface RT you should be aware of the benefits and disadvantages of each Windows platform. Since the Surface Pro isn't out yet, for the sake of comparison we looked at several other tablets running Windows 8 Pro.

Battery life: In this respect, Windows 8 Pro tablets compete with Ultrabooks more than they do other tablets. Our testing of the Samsung Series 7 Slate, for example, yielded more than 5.5 hours of battery life--and that's with an Intel Core i5 CPU rather than the more energy-frugal Atom chips used in many Windows 8 tablets.

Size and weight: Here the two platforms are a mixed bag, depending on the device model. At 1.9 pounds, the Samsung Series 7 Slate weighs almost half a pound more than the 1.5-pound Surface RT. According to a blog post by Panos Panay, general manager of Microsoft Surface, the Surface Pro will weigh less than 2 pounds too.


The Dell Latitude 10, in contrast, is a Windows 8 Pro tablet listed at 1.47 pounds. The difference is that the Samsung and the Surface Pro use a traditional PC architecture, while the Atom CPU in the Dell is an SoC (system on chip) that merges more functionality into less space.

Legacy software: This is where the balance shifts away from RT tablets. Windows 8 Pro behaves the same on a desktop, laptop, or tablet, and all of the Windows software you rely on will work on a Windows 8 Pro tablet.

Windows RT can run only apps developed for the Windows RT Modern interface. The volume and quality of available apps is underwhelming but growing rapidly. That won't do you any good, however, if you rely on an industry-specific application that runs only in the full Windows operating system. The difference, again, is that Windows RT is strictly for ARM-based processors, while Windows 8 Pro works with x86 processors.

Advanced features: Another area where Windows RT is no match for Windows 8 Pro is in more-advanced features and capabilities. A Windows 8 Pro tablet, for example, can join a Windows network domain, and be managed and monitored just like any other Windows computer.

An x86-architecture tablet running Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Enterprise can encrypt data via BitLocker. A Windows 8 Enterprise tablet also opens up another realm of possibilities, including various Microsoft technologies that are not available for Windows 8 Pro--never mind RT.

Which One Wins?

If money is a factor, or if you want a tablet only to augment your Windows PC, the Surface RT or another Windows RT tablet makes sense. But if you want to run traditional software, or if you need a more robust device, a Windows 8 Pro tablet like the Surface Pro will serve you better.

In the end, what may kill the Surface Pro is its Surface name. It looks to be an impressive little Windows 8 PC. But if potential buyers see it as just a high-priced tablet, Microsoft could end up with a lot of excess inventory.

Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition)
Case, Loyd, Tony Bradley, and Melissa J. Perenson. "Surface pro: more than a tablet: although pricing for the Surface Pro seems high, the tablet has Ultrabook-level specs and differs significantly from its RT sibling." PC World Feb. 2013: 13+. Computer Database. Web. 21 Jan. 2013.
Document URL

Gale Document Number: GALE|A315221942

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