Microsoft Surface Pro review

24 May 2013

Microsoft conjures up a stylish, powerful Windows 8 tablet that remains desirable despite its flaws

Price when reviewed 
799
Buy it now for 
5

Good things come to those who wait, or so the saying goes, and Microsoft has finally brought its premium Windows 8 device – the Surface Pro – to the UK. It’s been available in the US since February, but Microsoft’s 10.6in tablet looks to have been worth waiting for.

Although it appears remarkably similar to its stablemate, the Surface RT, the Surface Pro is a different beast entirely: it swaps Windows RT for Windows 8 Pro, adds the engine of an Ultrabook and tops it all off with a stylus-friendly Full HD touchscreen.

Physically, the Surface Pro is barely distinguishable from its little brother, the Surface RT, and in many ways that’s no bad thing – just like its cheaper sibling, the Pro oozes class from every angle. The metallic grey body feels silky smooth to the touch, and the combination of chamfered sides and rounded edges make for a device that looks every inch the luxury tablet.

Look a little more carefully, however, and subtle differences begin to emerge. The more powerful components have swelled the casing, and the Pro’s 14mm-thick chassis is substantially fatter than that of the Surface RT. Unsurprisingly, it’s heavier, too, weighing in at 908g. That’s not light by the standards of many tablets, but the heft goes hand-in-hand with stunning build quality: no matter how much you twist or squeeze the Surface Pro’s chassis, there’s barely any flex to be found.

The 10.6in screen is stunningly crisp. Colours are rich and saturated, viewing angles are wide, and with a maximum brightness of 446cd/m[sup]2[/sup] and a measured contrast ratio of 910:1, photos and movies look fantastic. Admittedly, colour accuracy isn’t as good as the finest Ultrabook displays we’ve seen, such as the Dell XPS 13, but it’s one of the best screens you'll find on any Windows tablet, and the 208ppi pixel density makes for almost Retina levels of clarity.

Behind the Surface Pro’s stunning screen and classy chassis, there’s a familiar set of the components. The Core i5-3317U processor is one we’ve seen in plenty of Ultrabooks, and with 4GB of RAM and an SSD alongside, the Surface Pro feels spritely by tablet standards. An overall score of 0.63 in our Real World Benchmarks means that it’s not quite up there with the fastest Ultrabooks money can buy, but it’s more than quick enough for most people’s needs. In fact, the only thing we’d wish for is more RAM – as it’s impossible to upgrade any of the Surface Pro’s components, 8GB of RAM would have been a welcome future-proofing measure.

Microsoft Surface Pro

Of course, squeezing Ultrabook components into such a compact chassis does have its downsides. Battery life is the most pressing concern, and here the Surface Pro‘s 42Wh battery struggles a little. Even with the display brightness dimmed down to 75cd/m[sup]2[/sup], and Wi-Fi off, the Surface Pro lasted for 5hrs 52mins in our light-usage battery test. Turn on Wi-Fi, raise the screen brightness and start multitasking, however, and you can expect that figure to dwindle rapidly.

Another downside of the nippy CPU is that the Surface Pro’s slim chassis struggles to stay cool. Indeed, while the sliver-thin cooling vent stretching around the top edge is impressively subtle, the Surface Pro’s fans are less so. Push the processor hard, and the cooling fans spin up with a soft, but audible high-pitched whine, and the metal chassis heats up to match.

Details

Price ex VAT £666
Price inc VAT £799

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 275 x 172 x 14mm (WDH)
Weight 908g

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-3317U
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0

Screen and video

Screen size 10.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 4000
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchscreen
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.0mp

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 52min
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.63
Responsiveness score 0.72
Media score 0.68
Multitasking score 0.48

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 8 Pro 64-bit
OS family Windows 8
Recovery method Recovery partition

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