Microsoft's x86 Surface Gets a Price Tag, Feature Set

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News Posted: Thu, Nov 29 2012 3:47 PM
Microsoft's Windows RT Surface debuted with the launch of Windows 8, but the company kept its lips sealed on when the x86 version of the tablet, dubbed Surface Pro, would launch or what the price would be. The company has narrowed down the former (January) and given specific details on the latter. At launch, the Surface Pro will start at $899 for the 64GB version and $999 for the 128GB edition.

Included with the increased price tag (Windows RT Surface starts at $499) are a 10.6" 1920x1080 display, a USB 3.0 port (RT Surface uses USB 2.0), a mini Display Port capable of driving a 2560x1440 display, and a digitizer for pen-based input. The Touch / Type Covers will still be a separate accessory. According to Microsoft's Panos Panay, the general manager of Surface, "And all this in a PC that will weigh less than two pounds and be less than 14 millimeters thick." Surface Pro will also feature support for 10 points of touch, up from Surface's five. RAM is up to 4GB from 2GB, the device will use the 64-bit version of Windows, and feature a larger battery (42 Wh, up from 30).

Microsoft's technical specs for the Surface Pro list the thickness at 13.5mm and the weight as 2 lbs. TDP and power restrictions indicate that this will almost certainly be a dual-core device, with HD 4000 graphics. The 1920x1080 10.6" display will have a PPI of 207.8, which is sufficient to push it into Retina-class territory depending on viewing distance.


Surface Pro, with included digital pen

All told, it's a positive set specs, but there are a few caveats to be aware of. After using both Surface and spending time with Samsung's Ativ, I'd caution users that a 2lb tablet can feel like significantly more weight than that thanks to the 16:9 form factor. Try holding a 2lb 16:9 device in one hand, and you end up supporting a substantial amount of weight 11" from your wrist. The good news is that Surface's 10.6" screen may actually help -- larger screens push the far end of the tablet farther away from your hand, and exacerbate the problem.

The make/model of the integrated Core i5 is still a very interesting question. Nothing on Intel's current spec sheets is an automatic shoo-in for a tablet form factor. The lowest-power Ivy Bridge chips have a 17W TDP. That's plenty low for an ultra-portable, but still seems high for a tablet. Based on the way Microsoft has refrained from naming a CPU, we're betting that Intel has done some custom work on a ULV design that pushes IVB's power consumption even lower.


What's clear is that this tablet will be an unambiguous choice for users who are interested in doing Real Work. We're going to flatly recommend the 128GB version over 64GB unless you know you need very little storage; Windows 8's files, recovery partition, and hibernation/pagefile eat nearly 24GB in aggregate. That puts the base cost of a Surface Pro at $999 + $100 for the keyboard.

That may be a bit steep given the state of the economy. At $1100, Surface Pro has some very capable competition from other ultrabook designs. If you plan to be buying a system at this price point in the next few months, what do you see as being more important -- the high-resolution screen and tablet capability, or the ports and generally higher performance of a notebook in the same $1000-$1100 price range?
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3vi1 replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 4:49 PM

$1100?!?!? I know I said it would be more expensive than an iPad, but that's above even my expectations.

Apple customers are already trapped in their walled garden, and people doing Real Work are going to pick a much more powerful laptop for that money any day, or a tablet that's 50% cheaper and can still connect to their cloud-centric back-end systems.

Maybe they're just marketing it to billionaires? "MS Surface x86: The tablet made *by* Steve Ballmer *for* Steve Ballmer."

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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Dave_HH replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 5:45 PM

agreed 3vi1... this thing needs a decimal point move almost.

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RiCoFrost replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 5:50 PM

Come on 3vi1 you can't even remotely compare an Ipad to this thing..... its in ultrabook league

This is a computer that's a tablet...

We get jacked here in AUS on prices for ultrabooks and high powered laptops. $1000-$1500 for anything half descent.

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3vi1 replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 6:42 PM

>> you can't even remotely compare an Ipad to this thing

You're right: At that price, I should probably compare it to two iPads.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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Atticus14 replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 7:36 PM

D.O.A.

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Marco C replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 9:19 PM

Microsoft's problem is the messaging. They've got intelligent people thinking Surface Pro is an iPad competitor, when it's in competition with Ultrabooks.

Someone go find a Core i5-powered machine, with a 64GB SSD, 1920x1080 10.6" screen, that's as thin and portable as the Surface Pro and then tell me the price.

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OSunday replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 9:38 PM

Holy bajeezus that is a high price tag for a tablet, but I guess you have to think of it more as an "ultraportable" like other commenters have mentioned which warrants it a little bit more.

I hadn't looked into the microsoft surface much at all into now, but I definitely fell into the category of thinking it was Windows competitor to the iPad...

But comparing this thing to a laptop, even a slim line in terms of hardware makes this thing a really expensive, unique but low powered laptop?

2GB -4GB of RAM, 64-128GB HD space, double the price for USB 3.0 and an x86 system?

Laptops can have double the Microsoft Surface Pro's specs and still be significantly less expensive

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3vi1 replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 9:48 PM

You're right:. it's in competition with Ultrabooks. So, they're spending $400M in advertising to capture a market where they might sell 14M units next year if everyone else goes out of business. I think I see a problem.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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Dave_HH replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 10:45 PM

That's my problem with it. For this price, why not just get an Ultrabook?

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Marco C replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 11:17 PM

Because it's thinner and lighter, offers 10-point multi-touch, a stylus, detachable / multiple keyboard choices, and a higher-res screen, maybe?

The typical Core i5-powered, premium Ultrabook, with 4GB of RAM, a touch-screen, and a 128GB SSD will run about $1100. Surface is thinner and lighter and will feature a better screen, but there's no reason to choose it over an Ultrabook? I just don't get it.

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Dorkstar replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 8:31 AM

I don't think it's an argument over which is cheaper or which is better.  It's more about your personal preference, and what you decide to use the device for.  I know a lot of sales guys like to use the tablets, because it goes from "my sales slideshow" to my data entry in seconds.  While the ultrabook can do the same, it's just not as sexy, but at least with the ultrabook you have your standard outputs rather than a mini display port and a one usb port, making it a more viable option for people who need additional in/outputs.

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 9:57 AM

I don't think we can 'weigh' the relative merits of it being thinner and lighter than an ultrabook until we see what that does when comparing battery life.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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Agreed, this is more in line with Ultrabooks than with other tablets. I like it, but am pretty locked into Apple gear at the moment. No cost incentive (yet) to re-do it all.

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