Microsoft Surface Pro review

The full-fat Windows 8 tablet - now at a lower price

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And inside the case of the Surface Pro, everything is different from the Surface RT, starting with the Intel Core i5-3317U CPU and integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000, which make it a real, powerful PC. Then it adds 4GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of storage.

Windows 8 takes up space on the SSD, cutting the available storage down to just 29GB and 89GB, respectively. You can get more space by archiving the recovery partition onto a USB stick and adding a 64GB microSD card (the largest on the market today).

Microsoft Surface Pro review

But to put things in proportion, with Windows 8, the default Windows Store apps and Office 365 Home and Business downloaded and installed, and before archiving the recovery partition, we had 28.6GB of space free on our Surface Pro's SSD.

There are only a handful of ports and sockets on the Surface Pro, but again they're different fro Surface RT; on the left is a full-size USB 3 port, the volume switch and the headphone jack.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

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On the right are the microSD card slot (more convenient than hiding it under the kickstand), the magnetic power port (which we'll come back to later) and the mini DisplayPort connector. That's there because Microsoft expects business users to want to connect to monitors and projectors, but you can get cables that connect to your HDMI TV as well.

The other big difference is the screen. Turn it off and it's so black that it's almost impossible to tell where the bezel ends and the screen starts; it's even blacker than the Surface RT screen.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

That's important, because the screen is never going to be blacker than when it's off - and most LCDs are more of a dark grey than a true black when they're off. Because there is no air gap between the layers of the screen - even with both touch and pen layers in there - the Surface Pro screen has true blacks. And very little glare.

Turn it on and you get rich, vivid, accurate and not over-saturated colours, and crisp, bright white. Other screens look slightly grey, yellow or pink next to the Surface Pro's gorgeous screen. The 1920 x 1080 resolution is higher than the Surface RT and shines when you're watching videos or looking at photos.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

It also makes Windows applications and web pages look utterly tiny, so the default settings crank the DPI up to 150% (oddly, setting the Surface Pro to UK settings knocked that down to 125%).

This makes documents and web pages readable but makes window titles and scrollbars look a little oversized by comparison, so you may want to experiment with tweaking this to a custom DPI setting. Normally we'd say "that's a Windows problem" but given that Microsoft developed Windows 8 and Surface Pro side by side, it would be nice to have seen this look less strange on the showcase Windows 8 device.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

It's the only drawback on one of the most beautiful screens we've seen on a PC this year, though.

The top of the case has nothing but the power button. The design here is slightly different from the Surface RT and may account for the fact that Surface Pro doesn't have the same phenomenal Wi-Fi detection. It found only 10 of the 13 wireless access points the Surface RT found in exactly the same position in the office.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

There's no 3G or LTE option, but you can use your phone, a mini hotspot such as a MiFi or plug in a USB broadband dongle to get online if you need to. After all (we're going to keep saying this), it's a PC.

Even though this is an Intel Core i5 PC with vents and fans, it's not hot or noisy thanks to the efficient cooling. After running all day the case is barely warm to the touch and we could seldom hear the fan over other office noise, even with demanding games running.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

The line of vents runs around the edge of the top half of the tablet, lining up beautifully with the kickstand (the vents stop where the kickstand starts). The line of the vent also makes it easier to feel where the kickstand is so you can open it without looking (there's still a small groove on the left to use if you have no fingernails, and the kickstand still opens and snaps shut with a satisfying expensive-car-door sound).

As on the Surface RT, the Surface Pro's kickstand puts the screen at a great angle for watching movies when you put it down on a table, or for typing or doing a video chat - the angle puts the camera at eye level with your face in view so you don't have to keep looking up.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

What about for using Surface Pro as a laptop? Because the Surface Pro is thicker than the original Surface RT, the sides are bevelled at a different angle and the kickstand sits at a slightly different angle as well. It also has two tiny projecting feet at the bottom of the kickstand (each 2 inches wide) and we found the combination made the Surface Pro a little more stable when perched on a knee or lap.

How stable it is depends on how you sit and how long your legs are; if you can get your legs flat and they're long enough for the kickstand to perch on your knee, the Surface Pro is perfectly stable and you can type and tap the screen firmly without it over-balancing. If you prop your feet up, or you're tall, there's no problem.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

If you're short and the keyboard and kickstand don't fit on your lap or the chair is the wrong height so your knees aren't at the correct ergonomic angle that keeps them level, you have to sit at an odd angle or risk the Surface Pro tipping backwards or forwards from time to time.

The extra weight of the Surface Pro may also help here; it's very well balanced and doesn't tip as easily as the Surface RT (in particular it's less prone to tipping forward when you move your legs).

Microsoft Surface Pro review

A normal notebook wouldn't have that problem - but then you wouldn't be able to rip the keyboard off a normal notebook to turn it into a tablet.

The thicker, sturdier keyboard on a convertible such as the Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro or the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix means these balance on your knee like a laptop - but they're also thicker and heavier than a Type or Touch Cover.

Tech Specs

Product TypeTablet PC
Flash Memory Capacity64 GB
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ModelHD 4000
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeNo
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Backlight TechnologyLED
Product FamilySurface Pro
Front Camera/WebcamYes
Operating System PlatformWindows
Operating SystemWindows 8 Pro
Brand NameMicrosoft
Form FactorSlate
Processor TypeCore i5
Screen Size26.9 cm (10.6")
Screen Resolution1920 x 1080
Standard Memory4 GB
Weight (Approximate)907.2 g
Memory Card ReaderYes
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Display Screen TechnologyClearType
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Country of OriginChina
Height13.5 mm
Width274.6 mm
Depth173 mm
Screen ModeFull HD
ManufacturerMicrosoft Corporation
Product NameSurface Pro Tablet PC
Product LineSurface Pro
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part Number9SR00001
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

Powerful. PC.

A laptop in tablet form, Surface Pro brings together the best of Microsoft in one awesome new PC.

Managed. Safety.

The security and manageability that you expect from Microsoft. BitLocker encrypts your hard drive's data, helping to keep your stuff safe. Install apps and connect with accessories and printers, just like you always have. Join a corporate domain for full access to your work network.

Package Contents
  • Surface Pro Tablet PC
  • AC Adapter