Internet browser

The Surface Pro runs Windows 8 Pro, so you get the full version of Internet Explorer 10, which is a true modern browser with excellent hardware acceleration (for JavaScript as well as images) and all the usual IE plugins and add-ons, such as Flash and Silverlight.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

Plus you get the touch-optimised full-screen Windows 8 version of IE 10, which runs only Flash and then only for white-listed sites.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

Both share searchable browser history and bookmarks that are automatically synced to any other Windows 8 or Windows RT system where you log in with the same Microsoft account, and you can pin sites to the Start menu or the desktop task bar.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

In short, this is Windows 8, and that means you can run Chrome or Firefox or Opera as your browser if you prefer.

You can have multiple browsers installed; the only limitation is that you can only use one full-screen Windows 8 style browser at once; if you make Chrome or Firefox your default browser, you can't run the full-screen version of IE 10.

The Core i5, speedy SSD and fast Wi-Fi mean IE 10 performs well; in fact the browser benchmarks we ran were faster than on the similar Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro.

The 1920 x 1080 screen means you'll want to view most websites at the default 150% to keep the text from being too tiny to read, but the vibrant, accurate colours, dark black and bright white make every web page a pleasure to read.

Turn the screen sideways to see websites in portrait - like a magazine - and swipe with your fingers to get smooth, responsive scrolling.


Microsoft Surface Pro review

Multimedia on Windows 8 means the Xbox music and video stores and the Xbox music and video apps.

Or Spotify,, Windows Media Player, iTunes, Vimeo, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, 4OD or whatever Windows Store app or favourite entertainment is, because again, this is Windows 8. If you want Windows Media Center, you can buy it online for US$9.99/£6.99/AU$9.99.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

Xbox music includes free streaming for a year when you're online (eventually this will include ads) and it has a good catalogue of music, even compared to services such as Spotify.

Pay for the Xbox Music Pass and you can download music, sync it to a Windows Phone (and, in time, iOS and Android phones) or get your own music matched on other PCs you use.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

The Xbox Music app remains a little primitive, but the Smart DJ feature is a great way of getting the kind of music you like - and possibly new music in your favourite style.

If you do use Xbox music, the volume buttons on the side of the Surface Pro don't just turn the sound up or down; as soon as you press them a mini player pops up where you can pause or change tracks without going back to the app. These are about a third of the way down the side of the case, and are easy to find with your fingers but don't get in the way when you're holding the Surface Pro in both hands.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

Whatever music you listen to, the sound from the speakers on the side is far better than you'd expect from something this thin.

There's not much bass, full volume on unusually quiet tracks can still be a little low and you'll notice a little distortion on louder tracks at full blast. But you can hear your music from across the room or enjoy a movie soundtrack at decent quality.


Microsoft Surface Pro review

Xbox video is similarly convenient; you can subscribe to a TV series or rent a movie for 24 hours. And if you have an Xbox, you can send video straight to the Xbox screen to watch.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

Alternatively, stump up for a DisplayPort adaptor.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

Video is where the 1080p Surface Pro screen really shines.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

The truly black blacks and vivid colours give it excellent contrast, even in the darkest areas of a picture, and HD video plays back smoothly and fluidly with superb, crisp detail.

Microsoft Surface Pro review


Want to read e-books? Use the Kindle app, or the Nook app, or Kobo or Freda or Blio or any of the other e-reader apps in the Windows Store, where you can also find several good comic readers as well as Audible and other audio book players.

Avoid the books in the Windows Store though; they're mostly either expensive copes of books you could get free from Gutenberg or badly OCRed pirated copies of books we're surprised Microsoft allows in the store at all.

Apps and games

In terms of apps, again, since this is Windows 8, you can install and run any desktop software or game that runs on Windows - or Windows RT.

The Windows Store and the Xbox Games app enable you to explore the categories of apps and games that run on the Surface Pro.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

The Games app also enables you to see Xbox Live achievements and friends, or start a game you already have on your Xbox. This uses the SmartGlass app, which turns your Surface Pro into a way to control your Xbox. This is great for browsing the web on a screen everyone can see without struggling to use an Xbox controller to run the browser.

Virtually every app that's available on the for the Surface RT is available on Surface Pro, and they all run faster too.

Microsoft Surface Pro review

The CPU is fast enough for decent gaming - and of course you can connect your favourite gaming keyboard or controller - but the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 Mobile is the limiting factor.

Even so, you can play Portal 2, Diablo III, League of Legends, Civilization V, World of Warcraft and other current PC games at high quality, full 1920 x 1080 resolution and close to maximum detail settings; at worst you'll see the occasional dropped frame.

And casual gaming - including the more demanding games in the Windows Store that can struggle on Windows RT systems - are smooth and fluid.