Microsoft’s Surface Pro goes on sale in Australia today. Early February the device went on sale in the US and Canada, while Surface RT was released all the way back in October 2012. All that aside, there has been some who have waited patiently for the Surface Pro to arrive. Today is your day.
I’ve been testing the Surface Pro in Australia for a few days now and have some initial impressions to share ahead of a more extensive review (coming soon).
There’s some significant changes to the hardware in the Surface Pro when compared with the RT. One of the most noticible is the higher screen resolution, it’s 1920×1080 compared to just 1366×768. The extra resolution has it’s pros and cons, but generally results in a better experience.
Make no mistake about it, the Pro is designed for those that need to still run legacy aps. Personally I fall into that camp. There’s Photoshop amongst many other Creative Suite apps, together with Visual Studio and the application I’m using right now, Windows Live Writer.
To run these productivity apps, we were always going to need a higher resolution than the RT offered, remembering that the display is just 10.6”. This means the screen looks gorgeous, but make things are small. I was pleasantly surprised at how accurate touches were given the touch points or menu items and interface elements are much smaller than the tip of your finger.
Probably one of my biggest complaints is the angle of the kickstand. While it’s impressive that the stand could be integrated in the device without adding extra bulk like most iPad cases, the fixed angle is an issue. I’m a tall guys and find that often I’m sitting in a very un-ergonomic way to see the screen properly. Have no doubt that we’ll see this fixed in Surface 2.
The difference between RT and Pro in terms of performance are stark. As expected the Core i5 3317U processor smashes the ARM processor in the RT. Everything from start screen responsiveness, to application launching is significantly improved. With Metro Apps being a lot lighter in terms of performance requirements the ARM proc does ok, but for performance demanding apps like Visual Studio and Photoshop, the i5 power shines.
There is one key difference in the power management between the two. ARM doesn’t support user-controlled power levels, whereas the Intel proc does. This gives you the choice on how to manage the battery, that said I found the Battery Saver mode capable of most tasks.
Another thing to consider is the difference in how the two Surfaces deal with sleep. On RT, sleep and resume is almost instantaneous and while is sleeps, the connection stays alive. With the Pro there is a delay of a few seconds from when you wake the device, to when you get to interact with it. The Pro also shuts off connectivity to preserve that precious battery life.
The good news is that the device is silent, even when the cores are being taxed, the cooling vents around the device back, achieves it’s goals.
This is one area I need to spend more time on before delivering the full results. My experience so far has been around 5.5hrs of casual use. Expectations is that it will deliver around half of the RT, so while Microsoft claim it’s a ‘no compromises’ device, that’s not true when it comes to battery life.
I expect to be able to kill the device in 2-3 hours with intensive work and a reasonable screen brightness. This is in the ballpark of what you’d achieve with an Ultrabook pushed to the limits.
When I first read the Pro was shipping with a pen, I really couldn’t have cared less. Pen’s on mobile devices have typically been a pretty poor experience and often get lost. Microsoft designers did something really smart with the pen. The magnetic power connector on the right side also double as a pen holder.
There’s also pressure sensitivity supported and a hover state allows you to interact without making contact with the display (not sure why anyone would do this). One trick you can try when in a paint app is to turn the pen around and use the ‘eraser end’ and it actually works like an eraser.
While I’m not an artist, I can absolutely see that this is an important feature. Other users that should pay attention to the pen are business types that like to annotate presentations and document corrections.
Price & Availability
Surface Pro is now on sale, available through Microsoft’s online store, as well as JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman. The 64GB model starts at $999 and the 128GB starts at $1,099. The type and touch covers are an additional cost, as is Microsoft Office which you can get with the Surface Pro for a reduced price of $99.
There’s lots more to come in the full review, but when asked on twitter what the general feeling is I have this to say. I think it’s very clear who the audiences of the Surface Pro vs Surface RT are. If you rely on legacy apps, you need the desktop and you need the Pro. If you don’t then get the RT.
..also the charger on the Surface Pro has a USB port.