Home Reviews Mobile Devices Windows 8 Pro Surfaces in Australia at last

The highly anticipated Windows 8 Pro version of the Surface tablet is here at last.

So what is good about this tablet?

Primarily that Microsoft have provided a ‘reference’ design by which we can judge all other comers so any comparison can be based on ‘it is either Surface like or not’.

Personally I like the solid magnesium casing, the fold-out stand and the snap on magnetic covers/keyboards. I also very much like the fact that it uses all my Windows software and fits into my corporate and home network accessing printers, homegroup and more with ease.

Let’s look at what is under the bonnet.

OS

Windows 8   Pro (upgradeable to Windows 8.1 when it arrives)

Exterior

10.81 x   6.81 x 0.53” 
  Less than 2 lbs.
  VaporMg casing
  Dark Titanium color
  Volume and power buttons

Storage

64 GB or 128   GB

Display

10.6"   ClearType Full HD Display, 1920x1080 pixels, 16:9 (widescreen)
10-point   multitouch

Pen Input

Pen input   and pen (included)

CPU

3rd Generation   Intel Core i5 Processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000
  4 GB of RAM (not expandable)

Wireless

Wi-Fi  802.11 N, Bluetooth 4.0 low-energy

Battery

42 W-h   (we expect real life times of 4 to 6 hours) and charger

Cameras   and A/V

Front and   rear 720p HD web cams, Microphone,  Stereo   speakers

Ports

Full-size   USB 3.0, microSDXC slot, Headset jack,   Mini DisplayPort 

Sensors

Ambient   light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass

Apps   (included)

Windows   Mail and Messaging; SkyDrive; Internet Explorer 10; Bing; Xbox Music, Video  and Games.

In short it is an Intel i5 based tablet with above average performance and pen input that will please designers and those wanting finer touch control.

What’s not?

The price reflects the premium quality and specifications so it is more a matter of if you want this you pay the price.

64GB version                   $999
128GB version                 $1099
Type cover (keys)            $149.99
Touch Cover                    $139.99*

* The vast majority will buy the Touch cover as it adds less bulk to the unit but the Type cover with actual keys (instead of a membrane) is more useable.

It would have been amazing if it came with a version of Office like the Surface RT does. But then Office 365 is available for $119 per year rental and you can install it on up to 5 PC’s so no big issue there.

As this is a powerful PC in its own right it will inevitably replace notebooks and home PC’s and my only other niggle is that one USB port is inconvenient if you want to connect a keyboard, mouse, printer, Ethernet cable, phone etc., but you can buy a powered USB 3.0 hub for a few dollars so its no big issue.

The mini DisplayPort is capable of driving an HDMI screen (monitor or TV) with the right adaptor (no pass through sound though) – again a few more dollars.

It would have been nice to have 3G or 4G capability but if you want that you will buy another product.

Opinion

I used the term ‘highly anticipated’ because it has been coming for so long that other manufacturers have beaten Microsoft to market with a variety of excellent Windows 8 tablets and hybrids (especially the folding and sliding tablets like the Sony and Asus Tachi). Consumers are not limited for choice and I am really looking forward to the next 4th generation Intel Core processors (called Haswell) that are designed for tablet and mobility. It’s a shame the Surface uses 3rd generation but that’s all that is avaialble right now.

It is a good quality product, perfectly suited for corporate users and a lot more suited to being a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) use in the work place than iOS or Android. It is rugged enough to become a road warrior’s staple machine.

But ironically Windows is actually all about healthy competition so my advice is you won't go wrong with a Surface Pro but you may be surprised just how much choice you have right now, and later in the year, when the new 4th generation Intel processors arrive. And dont be put off by tablets using an Intel Atom or AMD processor. In real world tests they perform very well for video replay, Office applications and could save you a lot of money over a Core based tablet. 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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