[Tablet] Surface Pro ~Ultimate Tablet?~

Summary: I know this is digital trading card game blog (at least so what I claim), but for the past couple years I have been using multiple tablets for different purposes including the digital card game.  Obviously, if it is just for the purpose of playing digital card game like Shadow Era, Infinity Wars etc., you are totally ok with iPad, Nexus 10 or perhaps Intel Atom processor based Windows 8 tablet.  I am still on my trail to find an ideal tablet system for me with previous machines that I had include Xoom, iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy 10.1, Asus transformer Infinity, Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, and Samsung Ativ Smart PC.  My next stop is “Surface Pro” and I would like to talk about this a bit here, as some of the online posts seem to be a bit off or just too biased in one way.  Clearly, this will not cover any TCG, so if you have spare time and nothing else to do, or actually interested in tablets, click to read further otherwise, don’t waste you time. 🙂

What is Surface Pro?

It’s a hybrid of tablet and ultra book.  It does have a form factor of tablet but price and its internal is that of ultra book i.e. a real PC computer that is ultra portable.  You can find an official spec here.

OS

The operating system is a real windows i.e. you can run pretty much any Windows Program as long as the hardware has enough power.  This include Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, to Steam.  But this is not Android nor IOS so it won’t run neither iPAD nor Android specific games; however, for the shear number of games available, Windows Platform is unbeatable.  This includes Shadow Era, and Infinity Wars,

How powerful?

This is a real ultraportable computer so comparing against Android or iPad may perhaps be not apple to apple comparison, but if you look at Anandtech’s browser benchmark test result (here), you can basically see even the fastest tablet on the market (iPad 4) is slower by factor of 5.

Though there is supposed plan for Microsoft office release for iOS and Android platform, I highly doubt it will include application like OneNote at least for awhile.  Obviously with Surface Pro being just a regular Windows System, this is not a problem.

Perks

So if you treat this even as a laptop/ultrabook, you still have some advantage or perks.  These include pen capability, high resolution display, and light weight (as a ultra book).

The pen capability is something many people confuses and say “but I can do it with iPad if I buy a stylus.”  The technology used in iPad or most of android tablet except Galaxy Note 10.1 are what’s called captive touch screen so it will never be able to replicate the precision of the real pen and paper writing that “inductive” technology based devices potentially can.  The easiest way to test this is couple things.  One is palm rejection.  When you rest your plan on your regular tablet, your device picks it up as a input and interfere with your writing.  Some people may able to get by with this by learning new way to write without resting your palm.  But true way to see the difference is to write as small as you normally would.  With captive technology, you just cannot do it.  In any event, Surface Pro include this feature, which is great addition for some people like student, artist etc.

Challenges

So I made it sound as if Surface Pro is better than ultra book and tablet, but is it true?  Well for several features they are true. But clearly, Microsoft had to make a decision/compromise in other areas.  So let’s take a look at these.

Price

64GB starts at $899.  If you buy a keyboard it’s another $130 or so.  Thus $1000+ is what you will be paying for.  Clearly, this is far more expensive for just a regular tablet.  But again, anyone say this is just a tablet and compares to it is not understanding the power and design.  This is a PC.  So when you consider that, the price is not too expensive nor cheap.  The best comparison would be Macbook Air as it has comparable hardware specification.  It starts at $999 for 64GB, so the price is also very compatible.

Compared to Macbook Air 11 inch model, Surface Pro have several additional features including:

  1. Pen input
  2. Touch Screen
  3. Full HD display
  4. Weight – 0.38 lbs lighter (when keyboard is detached).
  5. Compatible battery life

But it does lack Thunderbolt port instead it has MiniDisplay Port.  If you don’t know the difference, you most likely won’t benefit from having Thunderbolt anyways.

So basically, the price wise when you consider this is a PC not a tablet, I think it’s reasonable and should not be considered as a negative.

Weight

Again, if you consider the device as ultra book, this is in fact one of the lightest ultra book out there.  However, people likely to buy this device with a hope you can use it as computer as well as a tablet so with that in mind, the weight is the weakest link of the device.  2 lbs is just too heavy to hold in one hand comfortably.  I learned my lesson when I had a Xoom or more recently Ativ Smart PC.  These are well under 2 lbs but heavier than 1.5 lbs.  Once it goes above 1.5 lbs, I think it just simply becomes tough to hold in one hand.

So in order for this device to be able to claim itself as a “true” tablet, I believe it has to be below 1.5 lbs.  There is no device on horizon that meets this criteria and still runs true Windows with its power.  The closest is Lenovo Helix (which costs $1500 and up) but even it weights 1.8 lbs; therefore, you won’t likely be able to hold it in one hand i.e. 1.8 vs. 2.0 difference is unlikely significance as neither is good enough for tablet in weight department.

Battery Life

Compared to Macbook Air 11 inch version, Surface Pro should be similar with estimated run time of 4-6 hours vs. 5 hours on Macbook Air.  This is again not acceptable if you are looking for tablet that runs full day, which most tablet now a days run ~10 hours.

Realistically, many people would have some sort of power plug somewhere without 10 complete hours of lack of power access; however, I do appreciate the 10 hours battery life on my tablet.

Lenovo Helix claims it will get 10 hours.  How?  Well they will have a keyboard with battery.  This is a concept mainly pushed by ASUS transformer lines.  Recent developer interview on Reddit suggested Microsoft is working on battery pack containing keyboard for Surface Pro.  So if this turns out to be true, I think many people may be satisfied regarding to battery life issue.

Not so lap friendly

The last challenge is the fact Surface Pro has kick stand like Surface RT but it only provides one angle to work with i.e. not so friendly for actual use on your lap when keyboard is attached.

Here I can only hope when Microsoft released battery containing keyboard, it will also address this issue because technically they can fix this if they so desire.

Conclusion

Surface Pro is releasing in US tomorrow, and it is a super ultra book i.e. lighter than most ultra book.  Perhaps, one may be able to use it as short time tablet as long as it is not the main mode.  The major downside and the feature really preventing it from being real tablet is its weight.  Though other issues like battery life and not so lap friendly are there, these may potentially be alleviated by semi-confirmed upcoming accessory.

Personally, if you can afford this device and looking for a tablet like machine but can do real work, I think this is the machine to use.  But if you can do everything without compromise on regular tablet, just get a tablet because they are cheaper, lighter and have longer battery life.

 

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