The Microsoft Surface Pro Windows 8 tablet is a big deal. If you're a techie you've been following the 3 months of buzz around Microsoft's second computer, and it looked like the one to beat them all. In those past 3 months we've seen several other hot Windows 8 tablets that may have taken some of the luster off Surface Pro, but we still think it's an import product and a compelling product for road warriors who need the serious computing power that Windows 8 Intel Atom tablets lack. And yes, you can run your Windows 7 apps on Surface Pro, it's not limited to Windows 8 Live Tile apps like the RT model.
The Surface Pro looks nearly identical to the Windows RT-based Surface RT that launched with Windows 8 in the fall of 2012. It's a little bit thicker at 0.53" and heavier at 2 pounds vs. 1.5 pounds for RT. Some ports are in different locations, but both share the same quality build, vapor Mg dark metal casing, rear kickstand and compatibility with the Touch and Type covers. Surface Pro runs on the usual Ultrabook Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz CPU with 4 gigs of dual channel DDR3 RAM and a 64 or 128 gig SSD. It has dual band Marvell WiFi (that means no WiDi), Bluetooth 4.0 LE and two distinctly average 720p webcams. The price starts at $899 for the 64 gig model and $999 for the 128 gig model.
Surface Pro has a ClearType 10.6" full HD 1920 x 1080 display with wide viewing angles and 10 points of multi-touch. It's clad in Gorilla Glass 2 and has a Wacom active digitizer with digital pen. The pen is a good size and is nearly identical to the one included with the Samsung Series 7 Slate. It has an eraser (flat-topped rather than the usual rounded top that we prefer) and a side button. The button is actually magnetic so it can clip onto the magnetic charging port on the tablet's side. No, the pen doesn't require charging, it's just a way of securing the pen to the tablet since there's no silo or garage. Inking works wonderfully and we had great results with Microsoft Journal and OneNote 2013. Graphics apps that support the more modern Windows pen API offer up to 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity and the eraser works as an eraser by default. This includes Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 6, ArtRage 3.5 and Fresh Paint. But those of you who require pressure sensitivity in apps that use the older WinTab driver architecture like Photoshop and Corel Painter 12 are out of luck for now. As is almost always the case with Windows Tablet PCs (unfortunately) the tablet doesn't ship with WinTab drivers pre-installed. Worse yet, at this point Wacom doesn't have an updated driver on their site for download.
Though Surface Pro looks like a mobile OS tablet and is the same approximate size as the Surface RT, iPad and Nexus 10 Android tablet, it's every bit a full Windows 8 64 bit computer running Windows 8 Pro. Anything an Ultrabook can do, Surface Pro can do, which is quite an engineering feat given its small size and limited real estate for cooling. The tablet's back is always warm (think of a warm roll that came out of the oven not long ago) but not burning hot. Even when doing demanding tasks like HD video editing or playing 3D games, it doesn't get burning hot. The display actually gets a bit warm, which you'll notice since it's a touch screen. When doing productivity tasks and playing video the fans are nearly silent. But stress it with Skyrim and Civ V and you'll hear it blowing like any laptop doing the same task. The tablet has an interesting vent system: rather than conspicuous large vents, a thin strip runs around the tablet's side for ventilation. That makes it nearly impossible to block significant areas of the ventilation system. The stereo speakers also fire from this area, but alas like the Surface RT, they're anemic.
The MS Surface Pro has a single USB 3.0 port, 3.5mm combo audio, mini DisplayPort (MS sells adapters to convert this to VGA or HDMI) and an SDXC microSD card slot.