Apple 2.0

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Microsoft's Surface Pro: The reviews are in

February 6, 2013: 7:12 AM ET

Verdicts range from "magnificent, a classic" to "hefty and costly and power-hungry"

381844865599FORTUNE -- Apple's (AAPL) iPad is currently the most popular tablet computer in the enterprise, according to a Forrester Research survey released earlier this week. But what these workers -- Microsoft's (MSFT) target audience -- really wanted was a tablet that runs Windows.

Enter the Microsoft's Surface Pro. It's scheduled to be released Saturday. The first reviews came in overnight.

Walt Mossberg, Wall Street Journal: Surface Pro: Hefty Tablet Is a Laptop Lightweight. "I like the original Surface and see it as a tablet with the extra benefit of some Microsoft Office programs. However, I am less enamored with the Surface Pro. It's too hefty and costly and power-hungry to best the leading tablet, Apple's full-size iPad. It is also too difficult to use in your lap. It's something of a tweener — a compromised tablet and a compromised laptop... In my tough battery tests, where I set the screen to 75 percent brightness, turn off power-saving features, leave the Wi-Fi on and play locally stored videos until the machine dies, the Surface Pro did pathetically. It lasted just under four hours between charges — less than half the stamina of the iPad on the same test and three hours less than the Surface RT."

Joe Wilcox, BetaNews: First impressions review. "Surface Pro is magnificent. A classic. It's the Windows experience you longed for but were denied. The tablet is a reference design for what -- and what not -- Microsoft OEM partners should achieve. The device is the past and future, pure personal computer and post-PC. Simply put: Surface Pro is jack of all trades, both master of many, and (gulp) none. Capabilities astound, yet quirks abound. But even they are endearing, giving Windows 8 Pro personality and dimension. For the past five days, I've had the privilege of using Surface Pro, which goes on sale February 9, as my primary PC... Unquestionably, Surface Pro isn't for everyone. But it could be for you."

David Pogue, New York Times: It's a Tablet. No, It's a PC. Surface Pro Is Both. "In the end, the Surface Pro isn't for everyone, it isn't all it seemed at first, and it isn't all it could be. Even so, there's a lot to admire in Microsoft's accomplishment. The Surface Pro is an important idea, almost a new category, and it will be the right machine for a lot of people. It strikes a spot on the size/weight/speed/software spectrum that no machine has ever struck. You can use this thing on a restaurant table without looking obnoxious (much). You can hold it in one hand to read a Kindle book while you're standing in line. And wow, is it happy on an airplane tray table. Lean back all you want, pal. I'm getting work done."

David Pierce, The Verge: The first real computer to come out of Redmond. "Who is this for? Even a well-executed Surface still doesn't work for me, and I'd bet it doesn't work for most other people either. It's really tough to use on anything but a desk, and the wide, 16:9 aspect ratio pretty severely limits its usefulness as a tablet anyway. It's too big, too fat, and too reliant on its power cable to be a competitive tablet, and it's too immutable to do everything a laptop needs to do. In its quest to be both, the Surface is really neither. It's supposed to be freeing, but it just feels limiting."

John Biggs, TechCrunch. The Microsoft Surface Pro Proves That The PC Is Back"I come bearing glad tidings. After decades of OEM malaise, a constant parroting of the speeds and feeds mantra, and an aesthetic that was formulated in the back room of a dingy Staples office supply store, the PC is really back. In short, the Surface Pro is so good that it could drive Windows 8 adoption with enough force to make people reconsider Microsoft's odd new OS. Microsoft bet the farm on a new paradigm and it needs a champion. Surface Pro is the right hardware for the job. I haven't been a Surface apologist and, although I've seen Windows 8 as more of a success than a failure, no hardware has truly made me see the value of the platform until this model Surface."

Scott Stein, CNET: Smart almost-laptop nearly gets it right. "The good: The Microsoft Surface Pro fits a full ultrabook experience in a compact 10-inch tablet. Thanks to the ingenious Type and Touch covers, it offers a comfortable interface and typing experience. The clean, crisp design and sharp 1080p screen rise above the competition. The bad: The battery life is disappointing, and more ports would be nice. The 64GB model barely has any free storage. It costs as much as a regular laptop, especially because the cool keyboard cover isn't included by default. The bottom line: The Surface Pro's gutsy design successfully reinvents the Windows 8 laptop by cramming an ultrabook experience into the body of a 10-inch tablet. Those wanting to go all-in on the tablet experience won't regret buying the Surface Pro, but we're holding out for a future, more polished generation of the device."

Tim Stevens, Engadget: Microsoft Surface Pro Review: "We're still completely enraptured by the idea of a full-featured device that can properly straddle the disparate domains of lean-forward productivity and lean-back idleness. Sadly, we're still searching for the perfect device and OS combo that not only manages both tasks, but excels at them. The Surface Pro comes about as close as we've yet experienced, but it's still compromised at both angles of attack. When trying to be productive, we wished we had a proper laptop and, when relaxing on the couch, we wished we had a more finger-friendly desktop interface -- though more native Windows 8 apps might solve the problem by keeping us from having to even go there. That it offers compatibility with the massive back-catalog of Windows apps gives this a strong leg up over the earlier Surface RT, but the thickness, heft and battery life are big marks against. We're confident Microsoft will keep refining Windows 8 to make the OS as a whole more seamlessly tablet-friendly, and we look forward to testing the dozens of touch-friendly hybrid and convertible devices due this year, but sadly Microsoft's second tablet doesn't have us reaching for our credit cards. Not quite yet."

Anand Lal Shimpi, AnandTech: Microsoft Surface Pro Review. "This is the first tablet that can truly replace your tablet, notebook and desktop if you want. No compromises, no new apps, and no waiting for Flash to die and HTML5 to take over. Surface RT was Microsoft's first attempt at a convergence device, but Surface Pro really is the first tablet that truly attempts to replace a PC and not just augment it. All of this of course comes at a price... The 64GB model retails for $899, while the 128GB model is $999. Compared to similar capacity iPads, you're looking at a $200 premium. Although to really get full use out of Surface Pro you need either the $119 Touch Cover or $129 Type Cover, so adjust those prices accordingly."

Joanna Stern, ABC News: A Tablet/Laptop Hybrid With Compromises. "As a tablet, the Surface Pro is not as strong as its competitors. It's larger, the battery life can't compete and still lacks critical apps. As a laptop it's hampered by its smaller screen size, lack of a good mouse option and the fact that it doesn't really sit on your lap. Putting the two together results in a breed that's simply not as compelling as separate tablets and laptops. The Surface Pro is a good choice for a niche mobile user, one who is willing to pay $1,000 for the power and robustness of a full Windows computer in a small and very compelling form factor. Many people, however, will likely prefer to get a tablet and buy a separate Windows laptop, so they don't have to make another compromise."

Ed Bott, ZD Net. Is the brilliant, quirky, flawed Surface Pro right for you? "The ideal buyer of this device, I suspect, is someone who works in a large office and is continually bouncing between meeting rooms, with ready access to Wi-Fi and power outlets. The Surface Pro absolutely shines in that scenario, and it works for occasional trips outside the office as well: an hour or two in a coffee shop, a short flight to a customer meeting, a few hours on the couch in the evening with one eye on the big screen and the other on Twitter. It helps, too, if the person using this device is well connected to Microsoft products and cloud services and is already familiar with Windows 8 and eager to switch to a touchscreen device. In short, this is a great product for anyone who's already committed to a Microsoft-centric work environment. It isn't likely to inspire many iPad owners to switch, unless those Apple tablets are in the hands of someone who has been eagerly awaiting an excuse to execute the iTunes ecosystem."

Kyle Wagner, Gizmodo: Too Much Future? "Should you buy this? If it fits your professional needs, you'll at least want to consider it. Same goes if you have enough scratch to take a flyer on a secondary computer (that also happens to represent the future of computing). For anyone else, the Surface Pro probably isn't worth it. The Surface Pro is ultimately the best answer to questions a lot of people haven't bothered asking yet. That's different from being extraneous—it's more like being the girl who shows up 30 minutes early to every party—but it still means the Pro isn't for everyone. For a lot of you, a thick, superpowered tablet isn't necessary, and a laptop-like (and laptop-priced) machine that makes it harder to bang out emails, IMs, and tweets while on the couch or in bed is nothing you're interested in."

Harry McCracken, TIME: Review: Microsoft Surface Pro, the Surface That's More PC Than Tablet. "I'm not arguing that Surface with Windows 8 Pro is a machine without a market. If you equip it with an external display, keyboard and mouse, it becomes a serviceable desktop PC, and if you stick to Windows 8 apps, it may be the best Windows 8 tablet so far. If I were shopping for an Ultrabook and my budget allowed, I'd consider it. But used with the applications I tried, Surface Pro doesn't prove that one computing device can do everything well. Instead, it makes clear that there's no such thing as no-compromise computing. That's not the lesson Microsoft intended, but it's a useful one nonetheless — for consumers, for the industry and maybe even for Microsoft."

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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