The Surface Pro’s battery life was comparable with other ultraportables, lasting around five hours on a full charge. It’s paltry compared to tablets like the iPad, which typically get around ten hours of usable battery life, but the difference is understandable given the Pro’s size and horsepower.
Ultimately, I was impressed at what I was able to do with the Surface Pro. It’s particularly impressive that it’s lighter than Apple’s 11-inch MacBook Air, which at 2.4 pounds is one of the lightest ultraportables around. This is where the Surface’s dual identity comes in handy: It may be hefty for a tablet, but it’s a featherweight dream when compared to other ultraportables.
I’ve been hesitant to recommend any tablet as a PC replacement so far, but the Surface Pro’s ability to offer the best of a complete PC while also dabbing in tablet territory could make it the only computing device some may need.
The bad: Even more awkward as a tablet
I’m no fan of big tablets, and the Surface Pro is by far the biggest tablet I’ve come across yet. It’s far too heavy to hold one-handed (even for short periods), and its wide screen makes it awkward to balance as well. In a time when we have small tablets like the iPad Mini weighing in at .68 pounds and roughly the size of a paperback, the Surface Pro feels like a dictionary.
But I suppose that’s the price you pay for including the hardware necessary to make it a functional Windows 8 ultraportable as well. I was disappointed in the Surface RT because it felt mostly like a tablet. But because the Surface Pro feels more like an ultraportable, its tablet deficiencies seem less egregious. Eventually, I got used to holding it on my lap or knee for casual web browsing.
When it comes to its size, the Surface Pro sits in a space all by itself right now: It’s lighter than other ultraportables, but far heavier than other tablets. That makes it easy fodder for gadget geeks who want the Surface to fail, but I see it more as a sign that Microsoft is actually daring to be different than the crowd.
I didn’t spend much time with the Surface Pro’s stylus pen, mostly because there wasn’t much of a compelling reason to use it. It’s helpful for doodling in image editing apps, but I’ll never get used to taking handwritten notes on glass screens (sorry Galaxy Note fans). It was particularly useful for navigating Windows apps that weren’t optimized for touchscreens, though I don’t think that was Microsoft’s intent.
Windows 8 apps aren’t exactly helping the Surface Pro’s tablet standing either. Microsoft has managed to get a decent selection of Windows 8 apps, but there’s nothing that feels truly groundbreaking or inspired. I spent most of my time with the Surface Pro inside of the desktop environment running older Windows apps.
Microsoft also has some work to do when it comes to the Surface Pro’s stability. It would occasionally get stuck in portrait mode, and on several occasions, the Surface failed to recognize the touch and type keyboards. Rebooting fixed most of the issues I ran into, but I also had a few blue screen crashes when repeatedly plugging and unplugging the keyboards. (At least Windows 8’s blue screen of death has a frowny face. Upgrade!)
The verdict: This is the Surface you’ve been waiting for
For all of its failures as a pure tablet, the Surface Pro is a compelling offering as an ultraportable/tablet hybrid. The Surface RT gave us a mere glimpse at the future of computing, but the Surface Pro’s combination of power and flexibility brings it right to your fingertips.
It may not be for everyone, but it’s worth serious consideration if you’re looking at Windows 8 ultrabooks. I have a feeling we’ll look back at the Surface Pro as the first time Microsoft’s Surface dream was more reality than hype.
For once, the future seems bright for Microsoft.
Copyright 2013, VentureBeat