Microsoft Surface Pro Review Roundup: A Laptop Tablet Hybrid With Compromises

surface proMid-last year, Microsoft surprised everyone by announcing that it will be making its own Windows 8 hardware, under the Surface brand name. The company announced two flagship tablets, one running an ARM version of Windows — called Windows RT — and the second running the full fledged Windows 8 operating System.

The ARM version of the tablet, called Surface RT, released October last year to neutral reviews, most of them complaining about the lack of app selection, and waiting for the Surface Pro, which runs Windows 8. Now that Microsoft’s announced pricing and availability dates for the device, let’s see how the laptop-tablet hybrid with reviewers.

Walt Mossberg for AllThingsD:

t’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.


Some users may not mind the price or bulk of the Surface Pro if it frees them from carrying a tablet for some uses and a laptop for others. But like many products that try to be two things at once, the new Surface Windows 8 Pro does neither as well as those designed for one function.

Tim Stevens for Engadget:

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.

David Pierce for The Verge:

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.

Joanna Stern for ABCNews:

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.

Microsoft’s primary proposition for the Surface Pro was its “no compromise” experience, but these reviews suggest that the device, in an attempt to be both a great laptop and a great tablet, does neither of those tasks well. It’s possible that Microsoft iterates over the Surface Pro and Windows in future versions and irons out some of its issues, but till then there doesn’t seem to be a good example of a device that performs great as both a tablet and a laptop.

What if Microsoft does figure out a way to make a great laptop + tablet hybrid? Would Apple follow suit? After all, it did cave in to market demand for a larger (taller) iPhone, a smaller iPad and probably an even larger iPhone.

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  • viess

    “…and the wide, 16:9 aspect ratio pretty severely limits its usefulness as a tablet anyway” – this is really funny indeed. how aspect ratio can limit usefulness of tablet? :D
    iPad battery life of course is fantastic, but time it takes to charge it is way too long. No details how heavy Surface is nor how long battery operates, just plain emotional disdain. On my opinion only obvious downside is that it has no 3G/LTE built in, other things have to be tested in real productive environment.

    • Zangpakto

      89% on my iPad mini, 2hrs 50m usage and 1day 1hr standby time…

      Yep it seems battery life and charging is an issue… lol…

      Oh and my phone had almost 2 days usage/standby and is a 4s…

      I am always by computer from work, always update apps on laptop and then sync… I never have to charge the iPad just because it needs a charge… I haven’t ever done that since I got mine first week of release…

      A tablet doesn’t require fantastic time, maybe time like say a days worth of use… I mean it is power you need right? And with a lot of power, if a days worth of use is doable then the weight or aspect doesn’t matter…

      Also no 3G/LTE?

      Can I introduce you a little something called tethering? In most places in the world it is free.. Wifi Only is actually a good model considering the market they are targeting… All phones have options for tethering and be honest, why would you pay twice for data if you already have on your phone?

      • Sol

        2 days on a 4S? Moderate usage today and mines at 14% in 13 hours. You must not use yours at all to get 2 days.

      • mabbent

        All three of the iPads I’ve owned have been the cellular data models and have never been activated. Just want the GPS functions, tethering through my works just fine and even that is used little. Wish Apple would add GPS to WiFi only models.

    • Rounak Jain

      I think what he means by that is 16:9 aspect ratio makes the tablet unfit for portrait use.

    • Kail

      completely agree, this reviews are a joke, this guys doesn’t know about user preferences, who cares about they say… me not ;)
      I’ll buy a surface pro, I’m tired of Apple’s and Samsung’s garbage.

    • Pacomacman

      I’m not a fan of the 16:9 aspect ratio either, it’s pointless for anything other than video, which I wouldn’t want to watch on a 10″ screen in the first place. You may as well only have landscape on these devices as web browsing and ereaders look terrible in portrait! Give me 4:3 any day!