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GADGET WATCH: Microsoft Surface Pro

The Surface is Microsoft’s attempt to blend the line between laptop and tablet, and so far the device has received a lukewarm response.

Most reviewers have been waiting for the Surface Pro, which the company has billed as a more professional device. After all, it’s running the full Windows 8 software, and has support for full Windows applications.

So can the Surface Pro add some competition to the hybrid tablet-laptop sector? Let’s take a look.

Hardware and features

The Microsoft Surface Pro features a 10.6 inch screen, with 10-point multi-touch and a resolution of 1920x1080. Powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, and 4GB of RAM, the device comes with flash memory although support is included for MicroSD, microSD and microSDHC cards.

The device comes with the detachable keyboard Microsoft loves to promote, along with a USB port, Mini DisplayPort and a headphone jack. The device also features a front and rear camera. Dimension-wise, the gadget measures 10.8 inches wide, and weighs 903 grams.

What’s the consensus?

Engadget noted the hardware – although the device looks similar to the normal Surface, the Pro actually features some sort of additional plating. As a result, the device features a thicker body and a slightly different placement for ports. However, the publication said that given Microsoft is marketing the Pro as a fully-fledged laptop replacement, it’s a bit disappointing the device only has a single UB port.

“When stacked up against that company, this guy naturally comes up a bit short, with the biggest problems being the single USB port and, in our eye, the lack of a full-sized SD card reader for ingesting photos,” it says.

However, it complimented the inclusion of a 1,920 x 1080 display, saying the 10.6 inch screen makes the resolution look great. However, as a result, some desktop apps actually struggled.

“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.”

Over at The Verge, the publication noted the device simply feels different, more than a half-pound heavier than the entry-level Surface. And that’s a problem.

“It's absolutely unusable in one hand, tiresome to hold while standing, and big enough that you'll notice it in your bag. Of course, that's only when compared to a tablet — a two-pound laptop is pretty fantastic, and that may be a more fair comparison anyway.”

It also argued the Surface sits awkwardly between the laptop and tablet categories, saying it was simply unusable in a common position like typing on your lap.

“I'd spend forever getting the device balanced, only to have it tip over as soon as I touched the screen or tapped on the Type Cover. I don't know if a more flexible kickstand would solve the problem or not, but as it is you're pretty limited in the ways you can use the Surface Pro.”

Software-wise, however, the publication said the device worked extremely quickly, and although it got a little warm at times it never became unusable.

At ZDNet, the publication said the inclusion of pen support was a plus, and specifically praised the processing power, saying it gave an “ultrabook-level performance”.

Battery life, however, is another question.

“With estimated rundown times ranging from a paltry 1.5 hours (under continuous load with the screen at 100% brightness) to 6.7h (idling with 25% brightness), it's clear that the Surface Pro is short on battery life.”

“Under real-world conditions, with the system alternating between periods of load, idling and sleep, you might expect the battery to last somewhere between 4 and 5 hours, if you keep the screen brightness down.”

The entry-level Surface, with less processing power, delivers a better battery result.

Who’s it for?

The Surface Pro is a well-built device, but it’s stuck between being a full laptop or a tablet, never actually exceeding in either category. If you’re a die-hard Microsoft fan, then the Surface will give you what you’re looking for. But there are some drawbacks here, and so wary users might be better off with a more bang-for-your-buck ultrabook.

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