So what is the Pro benchmark? Around $900 buys you: an Intel core i5 1.7Ghz quad core processor and graphics; 4GB ram; can have 64 or 128GB of SSD (not lower cost flash memory) storage (but typically the OS and programs will chew up about 30GB of that); has a 10.6” 1920 x 1080 HD 16:9 screen; 10 point multi-touch; Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 4.0; USB 3.0 port; microSDXC card slot; Mini Display Port (HP standard - why not mini HDMI?); a headphone jack; microphone; front and rear 720p cameras (assume 2MP); and a Wacom Pen - all in a 903g package.
Most importantly it is full Windows 8 Pro operating system – not the Surface Windows RT version (around $600) that valiantly tried to enter the iPad/Android arena.
Like the Surface RT it has the same robust VaporMg casing (4.2mm thicker), a clever inbuilt stand and uses the same magnetic clip on keyboards (touch only at $140 and keypad type at $150) – the biggest difference is that it does not include MS Office Home and Student RT version for free. I have not seen the product in the flesh so this is not a review – just observations.
1. Pro battery life is reported as four hours. Great for a net/notebook but too short for a tablet (RT is widely reported as 7-8 hours). The i5 processor "power to battery trade-off" has to be expected – it is many, many times more powerful than the ARM based RT, iPad etc. MS hinted at releasing a new keyboard that will have an additional battery to extend its working life and that is an acceptable option.
2. Using the i5 was a smart move for MS – it shows that real computing power can be packed in a tablet form and conveniently leaves the emerging Atom system on a chip (this new chip has not been released yet - current Windows offerings are using Z2760 series so performance will only get better) to the OEM partners. Atom tablets are reported as having 8-9 hours battery life.
3. MS only included one USB port and no 4G – leaving lots of design room for the OEMs to add more and better connectivity and features like docking stations, Ethernet connection, more USB etc.
4. MS did no favours on pricing – its premium price allows OEMs lots of scope to add more value at less cost.
5. Perrormance benchmarks put this on par with the Intel Ultrabook design which leaves RT, iPad and Android way, way, way, way, way (at least 5x) behind. The inspired but costly choice of SSD means that data transfers are in the order of 400/200Mbps read/write – iPad is about 20Mbps.
But as I have argued comparisons are odious – The Pro is not designed as an iPad killer. It was designed to give greater portability to business road warriors and it does it brilliantly. A better comparison would be the Pro and a Mac based tablet (no I am not starting a rumour - we will never see this).
The final word is Windows 8. You can use it in Metro mode (which is fully touch optimised) or Desktop mode (which is not and you will need to use the Stylus or mouse/keyboard).
Other Win 8 tablets are emerging (apologies for the inconsistent data layout and no use of tables – HTML can be a problem sometimes)
Asus Vivo Smart. 10.1” 1366x768, Atom Z2760 1.8GHz, 2GB, 64GB, 580g, 9.5hr battery, $599
Asus Vivo Tab 810, 11.6” 1366x768, 2G, 64GB, Atom Z2760, 10.5 hours or 19 hours with dock, 665g.
Asus also had their Slate series (Windows 7 but updateable)
Asus Tachi 11.6 dual screen, i5 (option i7), 128GB, $1288/$1565
Acer Iconia W700, i5 1.7GHz, 128GB, 11.6” 1920x1080, 1.04Kg starting at $1000
Acer Icona 510 and 511 (3G) Atom Z2760 1.8GHz, 10.1” 1366x768, 64GB – interesting twist keyboard/dock. Starting at $699
Dell Latitude 10 Enterprise Atom Z2760 1.8GHZ, 10.1, 2GB. 64GB, $799
*Dell Convertible XPS 12 i5 or i7, 4-8GB, 128-256GB SSD, 12.5”1920x1080, $1599 to $1999
Gigabyte S1082, Celeron 1.1GHz, 10.1” 1366x768, 320/500GB HDD or 64-128GB SSD (old model) $685
Gigabyte S1185 i5 (options), 64-256GB SSD, 11.6” 1920x1080, up to 8GB ram, 1Kg, around $1,000.
HP Envy 11.6”, Atom Z2760, 2GB, 64GB $999
*Lenovo Think Pad Twist i3/i5/i7, 12.5”, >8GB. 320/500GB HDD or 128GB SSD $829
Lenovo Think Pad 2 Atom Z2760, 10.1” 1366x768, 2GB, 32/64GB, 570g around $800
*Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13.3” 1600x900, i3, 1.5Kg (11.6” Model as well) from $700-1200
Lenovo Helix i7, 11.6” 1920x1080, 825g, 10hr with dock, 256GB SSD, 4/8GB
*Toshiba Satellite U925t =, i5, 12.5”, $1200+
Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T i5, 11.6”1920x1080,, 857g, 8 hours, $1199
*Sony VAIO Duo 11, i7, 11.6”, 1.3Kg around $2000 depending on specs
* Ultrabook convertible style
If you want a light weight, entertainment biased tablet then iPad or Galaxy is the best. If you want to run Windows 8 line of business programs then you are becoming spoilt for choice with more models and styles coming soon as stocks of non-touch net/note/ultrabooks are sold.