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Surface Pro is full of compromises

Microsoft's Surface RT hasn't exactly set the consumer tablet market ablaze since it was introduced late last year. According to IDC, Microsoft only shipped about 900,000 Surface RT tablets for Q4 2012 compared to 22.9 million for the iPad.
 
Despite a slow start with Surface RT, Microsoft is hoping for more success with its Surface Pro. Packing in a third generation Core i5 processor instead of the more limiting ARM-based processor its more svelte sibling, the Surface Pro can handle the vast Windows app library without breaking a sweat.
 
Even though Surface Pro isn't due to launch until February 9, reviews for the tablet went live tonight. Not surprisingly, reviewers loved the tablet's screen and its speedy Core i5 processor, but blasted the horrid battery life that puts it at the bottom of the pack.

 
Screen
The Surface Pro’s 10.6”, 1080p screen is a definite upgrade from the 1366x768 screen on the Surface RT. The reviewers seemed to be thoroughly impressed with its quality.
 
David Pierce/The Verge: The 10.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 panel on the Pro is gorgeous, maybe the best laptop screen I've ever seen. Blacks are deep and whites are bright (my MacBook Air's display looks comparatively yellowish now), and colors are both accurate and vibrant. Since it's 1080p, it also holds up to closer pixel-level scrutiny when you're holding the device nearer to your face in tablet mode.
 
But while the screen looks good, actual usability is a compromise between two extremes.
 
Tim Stevens/Engadget: By default, the tablet is set to scale text to 150 percent its original size, making most (but not all) menus and buttons huge and reasonably finger-friendly. That's great when you're actually using your fingers, but it results in a lot of wasted space on the display when you're using a mouse. More troublingly, it made the text and icons in many apps appear rather blurry…
 
When running apps at 100 percent, the visuals are much cleaner, and those who want maximum screen real estate will be happiest here -- but in this view scrollbars and other on-screen controls are tricky to hit accurately with a finger. Interacting with the desktop without a mouse suddenly becomes a chore.
 
Performance
The Surface Pro packs in a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317u processor, 4GB of RAM, Intel integrated graphics, and an SSD (64GB or 128GB). Compared to the ARM processor used in the Surface RT, the Core i5 simply blazes along in performance.
 
Joanna Stern/ABC News: The Surface Pro does a nice job running lots of apps simultaneously. Powered by a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and the 64GB solid-state drive, the Pro is just as capable and fast as most laptops. Programs load quickly and, in contrast to the Surface RT, there's none of that lag or stuttering when switching apps or swiping them in from the left. It also resumes from sleep in seconds and boots in under 10 seconds.
 
David Pierce/The Verge: In general, it runs remarkably smoothly. I consistently switch around between a dozen different apps, some streaming music or movies, and the Surface Pro never stumbled once in normal use — I was actually shocked at how quickly it would resume playing House of Cards on Netflix when I alt-tabbed my way back to the app. Where the Surface RT took forever to load anything, and stumbled its way through any kind of intensive task, the Pro simply flies.

 
 
Battery Life
When it comes to battery life, this is where the Surface Pro seemed to take the most criticism. The Surface Pro racked in anywhere from one-third to one-half the battery life of its Surface RT counterpart.
 
Michael Prospero/Laptop Magazine: Microsoft estimated that the battery life of the Surface Pro would be about half that of the Surface RT, and sadly, they were correct. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), the Pro lasted 4 hours and 37 minutes. That's about three hours less than the Surface RT (7:43), and about two-and-a-half hours less than the tablet average of 7:10.
 
Tim Stevens/Engadget: On our standard Windows battery rundown test, in which we fix the display brightness and loop a video endlessly to exhaustion, the Surface Pro scored just three hours and 46 minutes, despite having a 42.5Wh battery -- a third larger than the 31.5Wh pack in the Surface RT. That's just more than a third of the nine hours and 36 minutes the Surface RT scored, well lower than the similarly specced W700 (which managed seven hours) and short of every touch-friendly Windows 8 device we've yet tested.
 
CNET: If only the Surface Pro had excellent battery life. It doesn't. In our video-playback battery drain test, the Surface Pro lasted 4 hours and 31 minutes, regardless of whether the Type Cover was connected or not. That's not far off from some other high-powered 11- and 10-inch ultraportables, but it's a big step down the 6-hour mark on many ultrabooks. The Acer Iconia W700 lasted more than 7 hours despite having a similar processor.
Conclusion
By all accounts, the Surface Pro is a significant [second] step for Microsoft in the realm of tablet/convertible PCs. Performance is respectable, the screen is gorgeous (although legibility/usability could use some work), build quality/design is top notch, and it offers a decent allotment of ports/connectivity options. The overall weight/size, awkward typing positioning while on your lap, and the battery life will be big concerns, however, for many users. In summary, perhaps David Pierce of The Verge said it best:

Even a well-executed Surface still doesn't work for me, and I'd bet it doesn't work for most other people either. It's really tough to use on anything but a desk, and the wide, 16:9 aspect ratio pretty severely limits its usefulness as a tablet anyway. It's too big, too fat, and too reliant on its power cable to be a competitive tablet, and it's too immutable to do everything a laptop needs to do. In its quest to be both, the Surface is really neither. It's supposed to be freeing, but it just feels limiting.
 
We eagerly await Surface Pro2


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By Pirks on 2/6/2013 3:51:56 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
why the greatest software company in the world couldn't give us a clear desktop OS upgrade designed for desktops, and a clear OS designed for mobile devices
OK I'll state the obvious for you and Tony - MS has put full desktop OS in there because full desktop CPU with mobile-like battery consumption called Haswell is upon us very soon, hence for MS it was the easiest and lest expensive approach to put full Windows on a tablet - it's because Haswell powered Surface 2 will be thinner, lighter and much more energy efficient than current Surface Pro. Why bother writing huge amount of code from scratch if you can just put your full desktop OS on a slate, with the new touch interface and API of course (Metro and RT API). This brings the benefits of unification - app developers now don't have to write separate apps for desktop and mobile like they have to with OS X and iOS. They can write one and then just adjust it to different resolutions whenever necessary.

This is a huge architectural improvement compared to current state of business in software development. MS is the leader in bridging desktop, tablet and phone, no one has anything close now, even Apple.

You're not software engineer, you're just another slowpoke like Tony, hence you don't understand MS's motivation.

The other reason is the existence of WP8 which could be lifted to ARM tablets later if necessary which will bring hundreds of thousand of WP8 apps to the tablets, MS may choose this route for 7" Windows ARM tablets in the future.

But MS is betting heavily on Haswell and judging how thoroughly Clover Trail pwned any other ARM chip perormance AND battery wise, I think they made the right bet.

If Clover Trail bombed, then I'd agree with you and Tony, but for you you two remain deluded slowpoookes yeaaa :P


By Reclaimer77 on 2/6/2013 4:08:21 PM , Rating: 2
You're talking concept, I'm talking execution.


By Pirks on 2/6/2013 4:26:28 PM , Rating: 2
Good execution for MS meant to deliver their answer to iPad as fast as possible and they succeeded, otherwise if they were listening to you they would invest lots of time and money in useless mobile OS of their own which has no apps like RT. Good thing they decided to execute not your way. Bringing desktop Windows to Haswell (and to IVB for now till Haswell is not here) was the only option that could work for them, because no matter how well they execute, they would lose mobile market if they waited two more years and brought a nice Windows RT without desktop support/compatibility to the market in 2016 like you suggested.


By Nortel on 2/6/2013 8:51:25 PM , Rating: 2
What is your definition of succeeded? Surface sales were miserable and now with the surface pro not even available for sale we have talk of a surface pro 2. "This is agreat starting point for MS", yea right, and who are the idiots who are going to be the early adopters of this when they know version 2 is just on the horizon?

As for answering the ipad, surface RT's only feature is the snap on keyboard case. When people start realizing they aren't writing novels on their tablets and have to lug around the extra weight of a keyboard, the enthusiasm will wane.


By Pirks on 2/6/2013 9:08:14 PM , Rating: 2
Succeeded means they delivered new unified touch/desktop OS fast enough to avoid losing their market.

Who are the idiots who are going to be the early adopters? I dunno, maybe ask people who bought iPad when iPad 2 was on horizon?

No one is carrying around extra weight if they don't want to, so top lying. I carry my Surface without keyboard usually because I don't type a lot on it and when I do (like in this forum now) I use portrait orientation and my thumbs which is for me just as convenient as a snap-on keyboard, except it's a bit slower 'cause only my thumbs are used.


By retrospooty on 2/6/2013 5:14:56 PM , Rating: 2
"You're talking concept, I'm talking execution."

Hey, just be glad he's talking in complete sentences and not yelling that your a "liar and a troll". LOL, that alone is a rarity for Pirks.

=)


By Pirks on 2/6/2013 5:36:37 PM , Rating: 2
ya he's a slowpoke today instead of a liar and troll, glad this made you happy retro


By Tony Swash on 2/6/2013 7:33:44 PM , Rating: 1
I am not convinced by your argument which boils down to 'it sucks now but once we get some upgraded hardware that's not yet released but will be soon it will be great'

I certainly think that we can all agree that there is a clear difference in design philosophy between Microsoft and Apple and Google/Android.

Microsoft says: one unitary OS on all computing devices, one OS for both mobile touch devices and old style PCs

Apple says: One OS optimised for touch devices and another different OS optimised for PCs and make it easy for them to talk to each.

Google says something similar to Apple (except it doesn't seem to want to push apps optimised for different sizes of touch devices and thus many Android tablet apps are blown up phone apps)

So far the Apple/Google approach of specialist a OS for touch is storming the market and now we will see if Microsoft's unitary OS approach will allow it to gain significant traction in the market.

The problem I have is that I cannot see what problem consumers are having that Windows 8 on touch devices solves. What's the attraction of Windows 8 for consumers (or indeed enterprises) in using Windows 8 tablets and in using Surface Pro in particular?


By Pirks on 2/6/2013 8:17:27 PM , Rating: 2
Attraction is in one universal device you can use for everything. Snap on keyboard and it's a notebook for lots of text typing/entering numbers/accounting/science calculations/etc, snap it into dock with ports/monitor/keyboard and it's your office workhorse, detach keyboard and use it on a couch for family entertainment to play some touch games, watch Hulu on it or what not. Why buy laptop, desktop and notebook when one 11" or maybe 12" Surface 2 with Haswell inside can replace them all?


By Pirks on 2/6/2013 8:24:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
it sucks now but once we get some upgraded hardware that's not yet released but will be soon it will be great
It worked for Apple which released nice OS on a very crappy hardware in 2007 (the first iPhone) and then 5 years later on a MUCH, MUCH better hardware this OS finally blossomed into something everyone loves, but why?

BECAUSE THE iOS HARDWARE IS ORDERS OF MAGNIUTDE BETTER NOW THAN IN 2007!

So, if it worked for Apple, why wouldn't it work for MS?


By Tony Swash on 2/7/2013 5:54:26 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
It worked for Apple which released nice OS on a very crappy hardware in 2007 (the first iPhone) and then 5 years later on a MUCH, MUCH better hardware this OS finally blossomed into something everyone loves, but why?

BECAUSE THE iOS HARDWARE IS ORDERS OF MAGNIUTDE BETTER NOW THAN IN 2007!


The iPhone V1 did not suck and was a huge hit with people queuing up for days to get it and it received gushing adulation. Arguing about whether all that was deserved or not is moot, the point being that the iPhone was not tepidly received in a huge existing smart phone market and then only got really popular later when it's hardware improved. It didn't happen like that. Probably the biggest post launch kick it got was from the App Store which was a software innovation.

quote:
Attraction is in one universal device you can use for everything.


This is a key point, and I think you exactly express Microsoft's public argument for Surface. Is it right? Obviously only time will tell, either the thing will sell in large numbers and be very popular or it won't.

The problem I see with it is that in seeking to to do too many things it does few well, that it's a compromise too far. I tend to think good product design is about paring things down to the essentials and then making those essentials work very well. The Surface looks to me like a laptop that doesn't work well on your lap, a touch tablet that can drop you suddenly into an interface not optimised for touch, a tablet with a non-touch optimised version of Office and mobile device that works best plugged into the power socket sitting on a desk.

I can't see what popular question it answers, why tens of million of people are going to be saying 'I must get one of them because finally I can .....'


By Pirks on 2/7/2013 12:14:48 PM , Rating: 2
I must get one of them because finally I can have one universal device instead of many specialized ones.

quote:
either the thing will sell in large numbers and be very popular or it won't
Right. Just like Mac that never became very popular. Right? RIGHT?? :))) Hehe you are so easy to pwn Tony.

Have a nice day anyway, talk to you later.


By theokan on 2/12/2013 11:26:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:


quote:
Attraction is in one universal device you can use for everything.

This is a key point, and I think you exactly express Microsoft's public argument for Surface. Is it right? Obviously only time will tell, either the thing will sell in large numbers and be very popular or it won't.


It could happen today, it could happen in 50 years, or it could happen in 100 years, but all tablets will eventually be powerful enough to run full desktop programs, it is the natural progression of technology. That is the future that our great great grandsons will be living in. Android and iOS only exist today because we're not there yet, we're living in the infancy where most tablets can only run 99c light programs known as 'Apps', explain that one to your future grand kids 50 years from now and they'd sure have a good laugh.

quote:
I can't see what popular question it answers, why tens of million of people are going to be saying 'I must get one of them because finally I can .....'


If Apple releases iPad6 that can run full desktop Mac programs, wouldn't people be extremely excited about that?

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