Bobby Jimenez is a Cloud computing strategist, problem solver, functional innovator, super geek, eats, drinks and sleeps technology. Connect with Bobby on Twitter @bobbyjimenez or via his website http://bobbyjimenez.com.
June 3rd marks the Singapore release of Microsoft Surface Pro – this milestone completes the family of Windows Surface devices in general availability since the release of the Windows Surface RT last April 5th.
So what is a Surface Pro? My micro summary: It’s a PC in tablet form.
Surface Pro is a full featured Windows 8 powered PC enclosed in a sleek dark titanium ‘VaporMG’ tablet casing, weighs 2lbs, 10.81in x 6.81in size and less than an inch thick (0.53in).
There are two versions of the Pro, one with 64GB storage, a retail price of S$1198 and the other with 128GB retailing at S$1328. Since I mentioned the size of the storage, I need to point out that Windows 8 and the programs pre-installed on the device will use over 30GB of space (35GB on my test unit). If you are planning to replace your laptop with Surface Pro, do take note of how much disk space your programs, files and emails are taking up in order to guide you on which Surface Pro to choose.
Under the hood or beneath the surface (I’ve been dying to use that pun) is a fast third generation Intel i5 1.7GHz processor with a maximum speed of 2.6GHz – a dual core CPU with each core executing two threads simultaneously (aka HyperThreading). In other words, Windows recognise the chip as a four core processor – for the non-techies out there, that garbled message means it’s like having four processors in one. The surface has 4GB of RAM and the hard disk drive (despite the seemingly small storage size), is a fast SSD drive – if you compare that to most laptop hard drives, an SSD is about 10x faster. To put that into context, my test unit booted up in under 10 seconds. Quite impressive actually. The graphics card is an Intel HD 4000 capable of displaying decent 3D graphics – great news for gamers out there.
The Surface Pro comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth but not with 3G or 4G capability. The lack of built-in 3G or 4G may disappoint heavy mobile users but not a deal breaker for me: I’m happy with the occasional tethering with my phone for internet when I’m out and about and no access to a public Wi-Fi connection.
The front and rear cameras are 720p HD LifeCams, great for Skype and creating YouTube clips. The camera resolution 1280×720 is ok for taking photos but does not pose a major competition to the high megapixels of most camera phones in the market today.
At the surface (of the Surface) is a 10.6” ClearType Full HD Display that boasts one of the darkest blacks I’ve seen on a screen. If you’re wondering why a geek like me gets excited about this detail, of all the computer screens I’ve stared at in my professional life – finding true blacks in a screen is harder than finding Nemo. The 10 point multi touch screen is responsive and is great for flicking through pages and pages of documents. But the true marvel is when you start using the Surface Pro’s pen.
The pen responds to different pressures you apply when drawing in Microsoft Paint and it has a soft tip at the top that acts as a pencil eraser. Handwriting recognition is possible when used with Microsoft Office OneNote. Although bear in mind that unlike the Surface RT, the Surface Pro is not bundled with Microsoft Office so you will have to buy it separately. I hope that Microsoft reconsider bundling Microsoft Office with the Surface Pro – According to an independent study conducted by Morgan Stanley Research: “61 percent of prospective tablet purchasers indicated that Office was the most important software feature vs. 44 percent for current tablet owners—which suggests there may be pent up demand for a tablet offering with a prepackaged Office bundle.”
Talking about non-included items, the keyboard covers: one called Type (buttons are bouncy like traditional keyboards) priced at S$183 and the other called Touch (thin and not bouncy) at S$168 are separate accessories to be purchased. The screen adapters that allow you to plug the surface to an external monitor or projector are also optional. Perhaps the non-bundling of accessories are designed to keep the base price of the Surface Pro competitive however, it will be nice to have at least a basic tablet cover bundled with Surface in future. It’s just sensible to have a cover to protect the screen.
Battery life is around four hours based on typical usage (editing documents and surfing the internet) but probably less than two hours when playing a graphic intensive game like Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Four hours may seem poor compared to other tablets but then again not many tablets out there can run Call of Duty: Black Ops II!
Let’s take a look the specifications in more detail:
OS, Windows 8 Professional
Exterior,”10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53in, 2lbs, VaporMg casing, Dark Titanium colour, Volume and Power buttons”
Storage, 64GB or 128GB
Display, “10.6 inches ClearType Full HD Display, 1920×1080 pixels, 16:9 (widescreen), 10-point multi-touch”
Pen Input, Pen input and Pen (included with purchase)
“CPU, Graphics & RAM”, “3rd Gen Intel Core i5 Processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4GB RAM—Dual Channel Memory”
Wireless, “Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy technology”
Battery, 42 W-h
Cameras and A/V, “Two 720p HD LifeCams, front- and rear-facing with True Colour, Microphone,Stereo speakers”
Ports, “Single, Full-size USB 3.0, microSDXC card slot, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, Cover port”
Sensors, “Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass”
Power Supply, 48W power supply (including 5W USB for accessory charging)
Warranty, 1-year limited hardware warranty
Apps (included), “Windows Mail and Messaging; SkyDrive; Internet Explorer 10; Bing; Xbox Music, Video and Games.”
The USB port is excellent for plugging in devices like an external hard drive, a USB sensor for your Xbox controller when playing games, or an external mouse. The micro-SDXC card slot allows disk storage expansion for saving files and a great way to simply plug-in your digital camera’s memory card when viewing pictures. The mini display port coupled with the optional VGA adapter (S$58) is great for desktop use, you can choose between having 2 displays spread across the Surface Pro screen and an external monitor or cloning your desktop to the external monitor or a projector.
The Surface Pro is a unique tablet with cool looks, features and functionality. It may not possess the battery life of other tablets out there, and no built-in 3G or 4G capability, however having a Tablet/PC hybrid that can accommodate your favorite Windows programs either for work or for home use, a tablet device that lets you plug in PC accessories plus more and has a built in pen for scribbling and drawing all packed in a conveniently small form factor and weight is undeniably a sweet trade off. Windows Surface Pro, welcome to Singapore.
For more information on Windows Surface, visit the official website.