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Blog: Microsoft Surface Pro. Who cares?

Allan Swann
February 12, 2013

Saturday saw the Microsoft Surface Pro launch, the company’s supposed first ‘proper’ Windows 8 tablet, with retailers already claiming it is selling out (although even this claim may be a bit dodgy).

Unlike the original Surface, which I was interested in, and even a bit excited about, the Surface Pro leaves me absolutely cold.

The original Surface (bear with me here folks), ran on an ARM processor (similar to other tablets and smartphones) and used a modified version of Windows 8 called Windows RT (don’t ask why it’s called that) and managed to creak out 8 hours of battery (see our 3-star review here). The new Surface Pro seems like a cruel joke.

It’s being called the first ‘proper’ Microsoft tablet (sorry Windows RT) because it runs the full Windows 8 operating system, and, unlike Windows RT this can do everything a desktop PC can do (Windows RT is limited to app specifically written for that platform, and is incompatible with proper Windows software).

It is also drawing a fanboy following because it has a proper Intel i5 processor in it and a 1920×1080 screen (strange as I consider this poor vs a Google Nexus 10’s 2560×1600). It also ‘boasts’ 64GB and 128GB of storage (but once Windows has had its space gobble, these figures shrink to around 40 and 80GB).

The Surface Pro is a waste of time.  Why? Because a 4 hour battery life (under only moderate usage!) on a tablet is a joke in the modern world.

I was a huge tablet skeptic for the longest time (I only bought my first, the iPad 3, in April last year) ‘ but I think after a year of use I finally ‘get it’. I won’t go into all my reasons why I now love it ‘ but the key ones are: always on, portability, a high res screen and 10+ hours of battery. These cancel out the other compromises made in the hardware.

My old Dell Latitude (circa 2009) laptop at home is now only used for Microsoft Office (and rarely), Photoshop and backing up files. Nothing else. It is too heavy, too noisy, its screen is (now) rubbish, and its battery doesn’t last longer than 4 hours. Sound familiar?

It used to come with me on business trips (and would involve lugging a heavy bag and cables) ‘ now the iPad slips into my satchel alongside a notepad and a camera. Job done.

I just don’t think Microsoft seems to really ‘get’ what a tablet is ‘ it is a portable device first and foremost.

The tablet standard has been set ‘ 10 hours battery life.

People aren’t screaming out for a high powered tablet that will run commercial software such as Photoshop and Word. They will do that on their working tools – desktops or laptops – with a keyboard and mouse far more efficiently than on any tablet.

The tradeoff between performance and battery life isn’t important on a desktop ‘ they don’t run on batteries. Tablets do. An Intel i5 processor is overkill for tablet applications (and your battery), but by the same token is a seriously weak processor for any other form of computing device. It is the worst of both worlds.

Somewhat ironically, I have a Microsoft Bluetooth micro keyboard (foldable) I use with my iPad ‘ it runs Google Docs perfectly, and I can get most of my work done. It is ‘good enough’ for basic tasks – which is all most people use their computers for outside of work.

Microsoft should’ve spent more time making the original Surface better (think: better screen and battery, no Windows RT) rather than wasting their time on this silly product. It’s basically an underpowered, low battery, low res screen, tiny hard-drive piece of nonsense tech that costs a fortune.

Microsoft, instead of forcing everyone to use Windows 8, should’ve put their excellent smartphone OS, Windows Phone 8, on a tablet with some bells and whistles ‘ just as Apple, Google and everyone else has done.

As it stands, I don’t particularly rate Windows 8 even on a laptop or desktop, but that’s an argument for another day.

Half the reason tablets have taken off is because people want a computer that ‘just works’ ‘ not the messy joke of an experience Windows has become.

Tablets are casual devices, supplementary computing devices ‘ for reading, email, mucking about and web browsing (with a splash of work). Laptops are left as the work machines. One day the two shall merge, but it won’t be by turning a tablet back into a laptop.

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