Microsoft gave select journalists at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show a preview of its upcoming Surface tablet with Windows Pro, and according to reports, the device—unlike the Surface with Windows RT that preceded it—may actually be what Microsoft officials have been promising: a game-changer.
Microsoft surprised the tech world in June 2012 with the introduction of its own tablet running a limited version of Windows 8 and the promise of a 2013 version running Windows Pro. Windows RT launched Oct. 26, 2012, and the next model was to follow three months behind it—which puts us into next week.
"It's almost here," David Pogue, who was treated to a supervised hour in a Las Vegas hotel room with the tablet, wrote in The New York Times Jan. 10.
Of the Surface RT, Pogue lamented, "It can't run any of the 4 million standard Windows programs. Instead, it requires a new type of app, a more limited, full-screen, iPaddish sort of app, available only from Microsoft's online store. And there aren't many of those apps, although the situation is slowly improving."
But the Surface with Windows Pro, which is thicker, heavier, has a better screen, a homeless stylus users are likely to lose, an impressive Intel Core i5 processor and a larger price point—$900, versus the $500 of the RT—is something else.
"You're looking at an entirely new kind of machine, one with new possibilities," wrote Pogue. "It's a touch-screen tablet, of iPaddish proportions, that runs desktop software: Photoshop, Quicken, the full Microsoft Office, iTunes (and Apple's online movie and music stores). Desktop software on a half-inch-thick tablet. That's a first."
PC World's Jon Phillips was impressed by the Surface Props' HD display—which is 1920 by 1080 pixels, compared with the Surface RT's 1366 by 768 mode—as well as its speed and overall power.
"When attached to an external monitor, the Surface Pro really does become a full PC—and in this mode, the tablet itself can function as a drawing pad for full-fledged graphics applications, thanks to its included pen," wrote Phillips.
He also played a shooter game, Bulletstorm, and had a good experience, though not a "butter smooth" one, and expects it's just a matter of time before these devices' pens, which attach to the magnetic power adapter port instead of slipping into a compartment on the device, "are lost en masse."
Techradar's Mary Branscombe was also impressed.
Noting that the venting on the Surface Pro is effective, working to dissipate heat and prevent hotspots from forming, she wrote, "Surface Pro certainly doesn't feel like a laptop crammed into the body of a tablet—although it gives you the power of one."
She noted that Microsoft moved the location of the microSD slot from the less convenient spot under the kickstand of the Surface RT to the right side of the Surface Pro, beside its video connector port. She was also a fan of the 10.6-inch display, writing that it "looks beautiful, with true deep blacks and vivid, saturated" colors and of the pen's comfortable feel, tactile eraser and even magnetic connection. If the pen can't slip inside the body of the tablet, she allowed, the magnetic solution is an "elegant alternative."
These impressions, again, are first ones based on limited encounters. But until Microsoft launches the Surface Pro in the next week or two and people, with time, decide otherwise, "it looks as if the Surface Pro is, conceptually and practically, a home run," wrote Pogue. "For thousands of people, it will be an ideal mobile companion."