Microsoft's tablet/ultra-book offering, the Microsoft Surface Pro, has only just recently reached the UK and we decided to put one through its paces.
The team was initially impressed. The packaging was minimalist, clean and simple; reflecting Windows 8's new user interface design as well as being easy to open. The hardware and build quality left us with the feeling that the surface was sturdy and dependable.
When the device was started, we were impressed with the quality of the 1080p resolution display, text was crisp and images were sharp and clear. Setting up the device was simple as we were guided through the process by Windows 8 and were quickly faced with the new start screen. We found the new interface fast and responsive but weren't too thrilled by some areas of it. An example of this is PC settings being split between a new settings pane and the Control Panel which could be very confusing at times.
We also felt that the Surface Pro might not have been as comfortable as other devices since it seemed quite weighty when held in the hand, however when resting on its built-in kickstand (an exceptionally useful feature) this is not a large issue. The power supply included with the device is fairly slim and includes a USB power port allowing other devices to be charged from it at the same time. While this is a nice addition we quickly discovered that the power supply can be a chain due to the device's short battery life which would last for approximately 3 or 4 hours.
However while the Surface Pro may not excel in battery life, it does have the advantage of including a pressure sensitive stylus. This allows you to easily interact by writing a document in your own handwriting and lets you see the position of an on-screen cursor before you press the screen.
When we looked for somewhere to store the stylus safely through, we were puzzled when we found that it could only be stored by attaching it to the Surface's charging port. This means that when you are charging the device there is nowhere safe to store the pen, as well as it being relatively easy to knock the pen off it is there. We felt that this would result in the pen quite easily becoming lost and that the Surface Pro would have benefitted greatly from a slot in which to keep it.
As part of our order we also included a Type Cover which conveniently snaps into place underneath the surface when it is sitting on its stand and provides an excellent typing experience for its size, though we do feel that the included mouse track pad could benefit from being larger. The keyboard also disappointed us when we found that neither the keyboard nor the Surface Pro included magnets to allow it to be securely fastened closed.
In general, the Surface Pro works well as a tablet or ultra-book but it frequently felt as if it hadn't quite been finished before its release. Its unique combination of both of these roles though leads to it being a potentially useful option for travelling professionals.