imageLet me start by saying that I own a Surface RT and I love it. It’s not perfect but it’s remarkable for what it’s capable of and carrying it around instead of a laptop is a game changer for me. But in the back of my head I couldn’t help but to think I was throwing away money that I could have used towards a Surface Pro. I’m an admitted early adopter and Microsoft fan boy so on some level I needed a Surface RT. But it is what it is.

So, do I plan to buy a Surface Pro? No. Do I plan to recommend it to other? Sadly, no. And it’s not pricing that’s leading me to this conclusion (but we all now they priced it on the mid-to-high level and not the low end). The real problem is that it’s missing some key features that other Windows 8 tablets will have.

Let’s just look at the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 or the HP Envy x2. I’m picking these because they’re both convertibles, like the Surface. So they’re strength is that they are tablets that have detachable keyboards for heavy use. Many of the specs line up between all three tablets, but there are significant differences. To begin with, the Surface is lacking the new Clovertrail processor. What’s that mean to you? The Lenovo is slated for a 10 hour battery life, instant on and 25 days of connected standby. The Surface Pro is noted as half the battery life of the Surface RT (which is 8-10 hours depending on use, so divided by two and yeah, it’s half the battery life).  OK that in and of itself is a big deal. Anything else it has that the Surface is missing? How about GPS? That’s nice to have. And let’s add NFC to the mix. Again, it’s one of those things that ought to be there. And it’s cheaper and the Lenovo is sporting AT&T connectivity. The Lenovo also has an optional pen with palm rejection and there’s a dock that expands USB ports, adds an HDMI port and powers it on.  The Envy is rated for 7+ hours of battery and has Beats audio. It’s heavier with the keyboard but also has a pen option. Similar to the Surface it’s missing GPS and NFC. However you can order it now for $850 (ships December 17) and it comes with a free Nook and that price includes the keyboard. Meanwhile the Lenovo starts at $699 according to J&R and on Lenovo’s site the keyboard is slated to ship December 5 (which is a good hint as to availability). To be fair, the HD screen on the Surface is higher, but wasn’t Microsoft just telling us that the resolution of the Surface RT (which is the same as the Lenovo and Envy) shouldn’t be based on pixel count?

There’s more Clovertrail tablets out there and about to hit. That’s the beauty of Windows 8. And they’ll come with more accessories. I could have thrown more into the mix like the Samsung Ativ which you can buy now for $700 from AT&T.  Bottom line is that this market is widening rapidly and that means that the delayed Surface Pro has a fight on its hands.

I love the build of my Surface RT. It feels super premium. But I don’t see the value in the Surface Pro when it’s missing this many features, which may not be a big deal individually but in the aggregate I feel they’re a deal breaker.

Does that mean the Surface Pro is a failure? No. It’s not going to be about sales. It’s more about selling a new line of products. And it will make headlines and it will make noise and it will bring attention to this line of tablets. Microsoft can’t take out its partners. It wants to show them how to market and innovate and make noise. And that’s why the sales price is where it is. Microsoft is also learning a lesson in how hardware and software meet and they have to learn about supply chains and see how their partners deal with it so they can see how to streamline it. 

I’ve been here long enough. Tell me how wrong I am in the comments.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Looks to me like these OEMs are throwing in some bells and whistles to keep you from asking serious questions like; how about RAM and hard drive size. And while I am perfectly comfortable with the resolution on my Surface RT, many would not be. Sure the Lenovo is offering AT&T connectivity, but that’s an option. As is the stylus.

    At the end of the day, its good to have choices. Now the real trick will be to go into a retail store and actually see more than one of these Win 8 Pro tablet convertibles to compare. Thought Microsoft was holding the Surface Pro back to give their OEMs a head start. That didn’t work out too well.

  2. You are correct Richard. Also, I’m waiting for the surface pro because the microsoft brand makes me feel comfortable. I bought an Asus Zenbook 6 months ago, and it was incredibly slow. I didn’t know how it could be so slow with the specs listed. Then I found out that half of the zenbooks were made with a cheaper processor which was way underpowered. I went through 3 zenbooks till i finally struck the gold with a fast one. Ridiculous.

    • My mother and sister in law purchased the ASUS Vivo at AT&T when they upgraded to the Lumia 920. While I did like the ASUS Transformer, the VIVO is not as nice. A little harder to dock and undock and seems slow.

      And while I like my Surface, I am still a tad wary about Windows RT. Yeah, it’s only been a month but I don’t even look at the Store much anymore because the killer program/app just hasn’t shown up.

  3. So, let me ask a question. If these two aforementioned tablets have Full Windows 8, to me, 64GB of storage won’t cut it. Can applications be installed on the MicroSD card in this case?

  4. Cant say I agree with the premise that Atom tablets are better than the Surface Pro because of a few added features which though nice to have are hardly going to stop anyone getting good use out of the Pro. GPS, NFC, 3G are probably features you can compensate with by using your smartphone, so not ideal but doable.

    It all comes down to your intended usage; reviews of the Atom tablet have shown its insufficient for those who do heavy inking and drawing so for those people the added features are unlikely to make an Atom tablet a better buy. The Surface Pro also lends itself more readily to using high resolution external screens, USB 3 devices and other memory intensive programs.

    There is also the appeal of the device itself, with the touch and type covers giving PC performance in a compact body. The only real problem is obviously the battery life but that is not really a new problem so its something people can adapt to. Not ideal but still workable.

    Having said that, I am more the casual user type so I have ordered a Vivo Tab which I will pick up tomorrow and that will serve as my secondary PC till next year and Haswell chips are available. With that powering the Surface 2 and hopefully some hardware refinements I’m sure MS will be setting the bar again for the best Windows PC/tablet available. And if an OEM comes up with something better, all the better for us consumers!

    @Brian: get an SDXC card, create a VHD and use that to install your programs. Sorted.

  5. To be fair, anything from HP claiming ‘beats audio’ is a sham. I have an Envy 17 (*gasp* an MS product in Chris’s house?!) w/Beats and its crap. Don’t claim that it is a feature.

    Ever.

    • So earlier we saw the term microsoft enthusiast, here we see a MS contrarian. Nothing MS or OEM partners release will ever be worth it. Every thing is all crap. Meanwhile, you have what, seven or eight grand worth of iStuff at your home? Carry on.

      • The ‘beats audio’ is supposed to make your laptop sound good. It even has a mini ‘subwoofer’ on the Envy 17. It does nothing. It just sounds bad. My MacBook Air has better audio. And yeah, about $7k in Apple hardware across 4 people who use it every day and we’ve never had a single issue with any of it. But I also have about $4000 in Microsoft OEM hardware still, which I’ve had to troubleshoot or rebuild a few times on all of them. Especially the Sony Vaio and HP Envy 17.
        I was a huge Microsoft Enthusiast until I realized I was spending just as much time maintaining my various computers as I was using them – not to mention the phones.
        Best thing I ever did was switch to Apple.

      • I told myself I wouldn’t do this, but to hell with it.

        I flatly refuse to believe that equipment that share the same processors, RAM, power supply etc, are drastically different from one another. In whatever sense of the word. Maybe that comes from maintaining a Mac/PC dual server environment (125 Mac’s and 110 PC) for so many years. Maybe it’s all the time spent with Linux. Maybe its all the troubleshooting I’ve personally done. Maybe it’s all the time spent with TekServe, Dell and HP support.

        Simply put, It’s as I’ve always thought about you. You’re an evangelist of the stuff you believe in, until you don’t believe it anymore. I never thought you weren’t tech savvy, I never thought you were a dumb person. I just think you throw your blinders on in the direction that you throw your money and your comments clearly show that. Think about it, you wouldn’t spend 4 grand on equipment you didn’t believe in right? That’s the “Microsoft Enthusiast” phase. Flipside: 7 grand spent elusively on iProducts. And this is coming from a person who, if I remember correctly, travels frequently. (Think about it, a x64 transforming tablet could very well take the place of your iPad and MBA for very literally a fraction of the price. However, you would spend more time saying that something is going to limit you in a Windows setting.)

        This is all the reason why I just said carry on. Any reasonable person knows you responses already, any reasonable person knows that your anecdotal information is dated (after all, why would you stay current with devices you’ve left behind). Lol, any reasonable person knows that you’re going to tell me you tried Windows 8 and it all still sucks to you. It’s fine now. It doesn’t move me. I normally reserve these comments for Simmons but at least in his case, I know he’s being ridiculous. In addition to that, he’s partial to a well thought opinion (should he have the time to read/respond). In your case, you’re simply beyond reproach.

        And for the record. I don’t hate Macs. I actually love Mountain Lion. As I said earlier in life, I can’t justify buying a MBP but, like damn near any other custom made laptop, I love the tech. I told everyone before that the iPad 3 was a reach and I suppose 7 months later, people realized why. I still recommend people to get iPad 2’s over iPad Mini’s. I still recommend MBA’s over most other ultrabooks (depends on the person and OS).

        So, like I said, carry on.

      • Your point is lost on me..

        I’ve been building and maintaining computers for 20+ years. I’ve used almost every Operating system on the planet. I’ve done troubleshooting on everything from a cell phone to an enterprise-level data center, and thousands of client PCs, VMs, and remote servers. NAS, SAN, ESX, etc… I’ve worked on HP, Dell, etc.. I’m currently working on windows in my job. I use Windows Server 2003, 2008 (R2 usually), and have used 2012. I’ve done linux/unix admin work, have done Nortel/Cisco/Juniper networking administration and more. I have about 40 devices on my home network at any given point in time, and they’re running everything from Windows, OS X, and iOS to Android and Linux.

        In the end, I’m a big fan of technology. It doesn’t have to be from Cupertino. If it’s a cool piece of tech, I’ll usually buy it if I can fit it into my daily life. I just bagged myself a Wii U last week, and have been having a blast with that. I also have two PS3s, two 3DSs, a regular Wii, PS Vita and more.. like I said, fan of technology.

        The reason I am a big fan of the way Apple does things is two-fold.

        First, the software. You yourself say you love Mountain Lion. It’s an awesome OS. Much better, IMO, than Windows 7 (we’ll touch on Windows 8 in a bit). Much better integration with Apple services, and their mobile devices. iOS 6 might not look any different from iOS 4 or 5, but it has fine tuned the iCloud experience and added a few great things that just make the experience seamless from device to device, even when that device is a Macbook. Look at Ramon’s post about integrating your iPhone or Android device into MS’s cloud offering.. it takes multiple pieces of software to accomplish the same that WP devices have natively.. I’m all about simplicity in my personal life, and the Apple approach is much more simple. And yes, I hate Windows 8, so I’m not going to upgrade to that, and for my simplicity requirements to be met, I in turn won’t be getting a WP device.

        Now, Hardware-wise, you kind of contradict yourself….. you say that you refuse to believe that equipment sharing the same processors, RAM and power supplies are drastically different from one another, but then say you would recommend the MBA over most Ultrabooks? Why is that? I think it’s because the overall experience is different. The trackpad on the Macbook is second to none. The displays are great, the battery life is awesome. They feel great, are thin and durable, and carry an amazing warranty and support system.
        And it helps that OS X is optimized to work with a certain set of hardware. Windows has to work with the lowest powered processors to the top of the line beasts. The combinations are almost limitless. Apple controls the hardware, so in turn they can make the software as good as possible.

        And in my personal life, that’s exactly what I look for. Simplicity – optimized for performance and compatibility with other things that I use in my daily life. Which brings me to the iPad.
        It’s slowly becoming a purely mobile entertainment consumption device. I was using it daily for web, games, and other things, but I use it on the road almost exclusively now. Airplanes and hotels have been a joy now that I carry the iPad. I was using it a lot at home too until I got the iPhone 5 and found that the web browsing experience on it was much faster than the iPad 3.

        Anyway, I’ve never said that the things that I do or buy are perfect for everyone, and I’ve always tried to make sure that people know what I’m saying is my personal opinion. In my personal, day to day life, Apple devices will probably be around to stay. Windows 8 is a complete disappointment for me. As much as I liked W7 when it launched is how much I dislike W8 now. I’ve used the Surface, a couple convertibles, and a few iMac-like things running W8. Not one of them even slightly pulled at my ‘cool tech’ strings. If anything, the more expensive ones annoyed me more because of the high resolution and lack of scaling in Windows desktop environments. (WINDOWS SUCKS AT TOUCH)

        I suppose we can agree that you and I see things very differently even if we’ve had similar backgrounds and experiences.. You, for whatever personal reasons, like Windows and Windows Phone. I have very specific reasons why I like Apple stuff. In the end, it doesn’t matter at all except that we can come to this site and share our personal opinions and make long winded replies that get us back to the same point. Apple and Microsoft make competing products. Some buy Apple, some buy Microsoft.
        I have bought more Apple than Microsoft as of late, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

      • I like Mountain Lion for what is, not for what it isn’t. I don’t look at an OS and bitch about how something looks or how you do a task in relation to another OS. That’s HOW how I was able to like then love Mountain Lion and that’s specifically why I like Windows 8.

        Consumer based cloud storage synching got better across all Desktop and Mobile OS’s over the past year, so to single one out for a doing a good job (or even one over than the other) is kind of tongue-in-cheek. Especially considering that the idea is to help people become more OS agnostic with their files anyway. But whatever. I could go into the whole Apple simplicity thing (especially about Bluetooth pairing) but I’d rather not. I’ll just say that every OS has it’s pluses, minuses and feature sheets.

        I will however bite on your Windows 8 experience anecdote. Let’s just skip the fact that the Surface isn’t running Windows 8, nor does it have a high resolution. Which tablets and devices have you used that let you down? How many non-touch Windows 8 machines have you used?

        (side note: can you explain that iPhone 5/ iPad 3 browsing comparison to me?)

        About my “hypocrisy,” I recommend MBA’s to those people who wanted a light, long battery Windows 7 experience. Like people moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8, new interfaces scare people and so, I end up teaching some people how to use ML but mostly, they understand that they don’t have to “miss” anything because they can use Windows still. That’s my point. I didn’t particularly like all the Ultrabooks that came out last year, with the exception of the UX31 so I didn’t find myself recommending those “shells” when there isn’t much of a difference in experience anymore.

        Finally, I like a mixture of devices. I’m going to get a Nexus 4, I own an L920, I’ve bought Nexus 7’s as gifts for people, I dual boot W7 and Ubuntu on my secondary computer and run Windows 8 Pro elusively on the main. Then there’s all the stuff at the job (that’s where all the Apple stuff is now) and the tablets I own. As I’ve told you before, I don’t hate Apple. I believe they price themselves out of some people’s wallets. I think the Surface Pro or some Asus Transformer makes the most amount of sense for me, but that is a purchase a few months down the line, and I would be stupid not to look for what Haswell brings us for MBA, Surface and others.

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