Eye on Microsoft

About this Blog: This is Shane O'Neill's blog about Microsoft's corporate strategy and its various software and services — the good, the bad and the ugly.

Eye on Microsoft

Up Close with the Microsoft Surface Pro (Video)

After using the Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro for work and play for two weeks, CIO.com's Shane O'Neill came to appreciate the device's versatility, despite some flaws. Just don't call it a tablet.

to Hardware |

About a month ago I wrote a blog post that was critical of the Microsoft Surface Pro's ambition to be all things to all people.

In response, readers told me I didn't get it – and that's putting it politely.

Now that I've had my hands on the Surface Pro and its peripherals, available to the public Feb. 9 (pricing information here), I'll concede that some of my criticisms may have been overboard. But not all of them!

I like the Surface Pro hardware more than I thought. The big 10.6-inch HD LCD display is striking and the kickstand is useful, as are the easy-to-snap-in Touch and Type covers/keyboards and the many ports available on the device (USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, MicroSD).

Microsoft Surface Pro

The battery life gives you the typical battery life of a typical laptop (about four hours), but in return for pedestrian battery life, you get to use full-bore versions of Office 2013, Outlook, Photoshop and other Windows legacy software, none of which are available on the Surface Windows RT device. If workers/consumers get the hang of the often-confusing Windows 8 user interface, the Surface Pro has great potential as a business device.

Slideshow: First Look at the Microsoft Surface Pro

I stand by my opinion that Surface Pro should not be called a tablet considering what we've come to expect from the tablet form factor (lightweight, long battery life, apps galore). You probably won't use the Surface Pro to read a book like you would use a Kindle Fire tablet, even though a good Kindle app is actually available in the lackluster Windows App Store. The device is too big and heavy for comfortable reading or for playing games for an extended period.

In fact, I've hardly separated it from the keyboard cover. Once you snap it all together and sit down in front of the Surface Pro, you realize it's just a touch-screen ultrabook (with a removable keyboard) and it feels natural to use it that way.

Microsoft Wedge Touch MouseOn the plus side, moving back and forth between Desktop mode and "TileWorld" is not the irritation I had feared, thanks to the Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse (pictured on the left). The mouse is really comfortable to use in Desktop mode obviously, but also on the tile-based Start screen. The mouse actually moves the tiles around better than your finger, which is not a great reflection on the multi-touch capabilities of the Start screen.

You won't even think use your fingers in Desktop mode as long as you have the mouse handy. I could never get comfortable with the trackpads on both Touch and Type keyboards, so I do recommend using the mouse. If you're a stylus pen user, go for it. I'm just not that into the stylus.

All in all, it's nice to have the options to navigate by touching the screen, using the virtual keyboard, the physical keyboard, the mouse or the stylus pen. I thought it would be anarchy jumping between desktop and tablet modes, apps and a browser, fingers and a mouse, but it isn't.


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