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I have been using a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Windows 8.1 tablet since mid-December as my primary/only computing device. It reaffirms the widely held opinion that it is currently the ultimate in Windows tablet design, form and function.

First let’s get over the furphy that this device’s competition is an iPad Air or a Samsung 10.1 Note.

1.    iOS and Android do not do what Windows 8.1 does – equally true is the vice versa proposition especially in the ‘app’ space

2.The choice of tablet should be about what is can do for the user – more on that later

3.    The Intel i5 4300U 1.9/2.5 GHz x64 processor is 800% faster (appox) than the Apple A7 x64 processor. The A7 is a good mobile processor – it is not a desktop processor that can handle heavy lifting

4.    Mobile apps are not programs – they are lightweight, single task, that don’t place an undue load on the processor.

To be clear the Surface 2 Pro is a fully fledged, full fat Windows computer in an Ultrabook design tablet format.

So if you want to use Microsoft Office, Adobe, MYOB or any programs you use in business buy a Windows tablet or ultrabook – the Surface is a premium product at a commensurate price.



What I like

The 1920x1080 HD screen is superb. I watched many movies and read a few e-books and it is competitive with the apparently higher resolution iPad Retina or Samsung Note 3. HD resolution is enough for a tablet.

I am impressed with battery life - 10 hours is wonderful for an 800% more powerful device.

The type keyboard/cover is competent – a long way ahead of any third party keyboard for Apple and Samsung that use the calculator style, chicklet keys. The backlit keyboard is useful.

USB 3.0 is excellent and coupled with a low cost hub allows external connection of printers – even HD screens up to 100”. With a docking station it becomes a true desktop replacement.

The USB charger port on the power pack is handy

Bluetooth 4.0 is robust and connects well and quickly to multiple devices

The Surface Pen is useful for OneNote and other freehand drawing

I like the ease of mixing touch and mouse – I use Classic Shell for desktop compatibility and am increasingly using Windows Metro for more tasks.

What I don’t like – minor

No insert key – the smaller keyboard has lost a few functional keys

The power adaptor connector is not easy to fit – there is no reassuring magnetic click when docking it.

The faux suede (purple) type keyboard/cover is showing advanced signs of wear underneath and on the edges – but warranty will cover that

It is heavier and thicker than and iPad and Note but that reflects the 800% power increase

Speaker volume is not loud enough – you will need Bluetooth speakers or headphones for a more immersive movie or music experience.

It is always on and will run the battery down in a week of non-use. I took to choosing shutdown instead of closing the cover. Note this is the same with all tablets

I would have preferred a mini-HDMI video port instead of the mini-DisplayPort but I do understand the reasons – multiple monitor support - and a HDMI adaptor is not expensive.

Summary

You get seamless integration with Microsoft's productivity suite: Office, SkyDrive, Skype, the cooperate compatibility of Windows, etc. It's amazing how everything comes together, and how the little things (like printing) make life so much easier.

Don’t compare this to an iPad, or even a MacBook Air - this in a league of its own.

If you meet the ownership criteria you won’t regret this purchase.

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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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