Microsoft Responds to Surface Pro Storage and Battery Life Woes

Surface Pro reviews are out, and unfortunately for Microsoft, they're more sobering than spectacular. Two common complaints among the glut of early evaluations is that Surface Pro suffers from poor battery life and that it's expensive, debuting at $899 and up. It's even more pricey if you jump to the 128GB model, which many users may find themselves doing following concerns that Surface Pro is taking up a large amount of storage space for the OS, recovery partition, and pre-installed apps. Are they valid concerns?

Microsoft's Panos Panay, Corporate VP working on Surface, spent some time on Reddit participating in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session and addressed two of those concerns (storage and battery life). Let's start with storage.

Surface Pro

According to Panay, Surface Pro storage woes have been exaggerated, though not by malicious intent. Instead, those who were reporting just 23GB of available storage space on the 64GB model and 83GB on the 128GB were using pre-release models that hadn't been fully optimized.

"We designed Surface Pro (and the allocation of disk space on our systems) to have the power of full Windows 8, the ability to have a simplified and fast upgrade to full Office and the confidence of a recovery image already available on your device," Panay explained. "Beyond the flexibility and confidence this provides, we also include an ability to extend your storage via microSDXC, USB 3.0 and SkyDrive (including 7GB of free storage). Initial reports out regarding available disk space were conservative (eg. 23GB available on 64GB and 83GB available on the 128GB system), however our final production units are coming in with ~6-7GB additional free space."

Panay conceded that the design choice was a "tough one" with a "clear set of tradeoffs," but ultimately decided that a 64GB SKU would still provide enough space for a number of large application installs, such as games, productivity apps, and so forth.


Moving on to battery life, Panay said Microsoft opted for a smaller, thinner battery to keep Surface Pro's size and weight to a minimum. Obviously that means the system's run time suffers, especially compared to other tablets, but when compared to notebooks in its class, things aren't so bad.

"This product is optimized in every way to take advantage of the full third generation Core i5 it runs, yet give the best battery life. If you compare it to say a MacBook Air, you will quickly see that pound for pound in battery size vs battery life, you will find optimizations that puts Surface best in its class," Panay pointed out. "That said we picked a smaller battery to be sure we were able to give you the same performance and to keep it thin. This kept the weight under 2lbs, and still kept it thin enough to take advantage of our great Windows work for inking and give you a great inking experience (like pressure sensitive inking, ability to do kanji, great sketching)."

Microsoft's biggest challenge is educating the public on what Surface Pro is and what it's intended for. Many of the complaints surrounding Surface Pro tend to view the device as a tablet, though in Microsoft's eyes, it's a full-fledged notebook that can function as a tablet when needed.

With that in mind, do you think the storage, battery life, and price complaints have been fair, or does Panay's comments ease any concerns you might have had?