Microsoft announced last month on its Windows 8 blog that the pricing of the Surface Pro, based on Intel’s Core i5 chip, was subject to change and would be between $600 and $1000. There weren’t any hardware specs available and nothing was mentioned about how things would be set out. As more details spilled from Redmond, so the hype engine revved up and loads of people across the internet got excited. So, get ready for an awesome, awe-inspiring…..! Wait, what the hell is this? I’m confused, is this for real? Did somebody move my cheese, am I being punk’d?
Firstly, the Surface Pro is not an iPad competitor. Its a touch-based high-end Windows 8 tablet that, while doing a lot of tablet-ey things, is nothing like what we’ve been used to. The display is a 10.6″ glossy affair with a capacitive touch controller. Resolution is capped at 1080p and its well-suited for watching HD video and some fine artwork using the accompanying stylus. Surface Pro may have some effect on the high-end graphics tablet market, but I don’t see it making too many inroads in that segment apart from use by professionals on the move that appreciate the time saved by using such an all-in-one device.
So, that’s okay, but what about the hardware? Its powered by a dual-core Intel Core i5 chip of unknown speed and specification, there’s 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 native support, a MicroSD card slot, two 720p cameras (front and back), stereo speakers, a USB 3.0 port and mini-Displayport out for connecting to an external monitor or TV.
Well call me a skeptic, but this is really not the kind of product I’d imagined. There’s no 3G connectivity, so its lack of wireless internet options will be hampered in any country in the world that doesn’t have as many free wireless hotspots as America does. What’s this, Displayport? I realise its a nicer and smaller connector with better standards compliance3, but wouldn’t mini-HDMI be better suited, considering HDMI is the default connection standard for HDTVs? For a modern tablet running a full-sized desktop OS, there’s one too many compromises here.
I didn’t mention the storage mediums either. So, you would assume there are hard drive options, right? Well no, there’s only a 64GB and 128GB model using mSATA SSDs (with, respectively, 30GB and around 90GB of free storage). The sad part is that those are the only options available. The 64GB model retails for $899 and the 128GB model goes as high as $999. I personally expected surface to be much better-configured, but it looks like that was a pipe dream. The gulf between the Surface RT and the Surface Pro is huge and if Microsoft’s ballgame is to just hope that other brands will fill in that gap, its going to be a while before the idea of Windows 8 tablets really take off.
I’m more looking forward to tablets using AMD’s APU. Games will run better on that platform, battery life will be just as good. Other brands who will make cheaper versions of this design will undoubtably feature HDMI in some form, as well as 3G which will no doubt be the main selling point for a tablet that features an OS that only really comes alive with stable internet access.
Google and Apple, you have nothing to fear, yet. To Microsoft, I urge them to lower their prices and stop trying to beat Apple’s profit margins – that’s something only Apple can do. Oh, by the way, both prices exclude the Touch or Type keyboards.
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