The first part of this review are my pre-conceived notions about the Surface Windows 8 Pro 128 GB (from here on out I will call it the Surface Pro) and Windows 8. These are my opinions based on the plethora of blog posts and reviews about the Surface Pro and Microsoft’s latest version of the Windows operating system. I placed my order for the Surface Pro 128 from the Microsoft Online Store in the morning on February 16th and hopefully I get mine the first week in March. To date I have not seen the Surface Pro nor the Surface RT in person and have not yet installed or used Windows 8 (So I’ll really be talking out my ass). The second part of this review will be my opinions after getting the device in my hands and using it for at least a week or two.
I think the Surface is Microsoft’s vision for Windows 8 and has been their vision for computers for well over a decade. The two are inextricably linked. Most reviews of the device and the operating system have centered around the old way of thinking of computers. Tablets versus laptops versus desktops. I think this is wrong and mis-characterizes what this device is.
Let me start with tablets. They are computers but are dumbed down versions that are purposely hobbled. Why else would the iPad or any Android tablet have these awful mobile browsers (of which I ‘ve complained about ad nauseum in different places) that can’t do simple things like view videos from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Slingbox? There is no good reason. Tablets also won’t run applications and instead run “apps”. Apps are lighter versions of full blown applications that we use everyday in our offices and homes on fully functioning computers (i.e. laptops and desktops). Tablets are essentially giant smart phones without the phone but with the power of a computer.
Laptops and desktops are almost the same device in different clothing these days. I’ve used a laptop as a desktop machine for years until I made the transition from Windows Mobile 6 to the HTC Incredible loaded with FroYo. Why did this have an effect on the type of machines I use? Well with a smart phone I no longer needed to tote a computer around with me. Instead I could purchase less expensive desktop machines and use my smart phone for all the things I used to use my laptop for while going about my day. I could quickly get information online and check my e-mail without having to boot up a machine and without carrying around a 3 lb. beast. The only time I employed the use of a laptop was when travelling because it’s just not practical to lug a desktop machine with you on a plane.
The Surface Pro, in my mind, is finally the melding of the desktop, laptop, and tablet into one device. It is my hope that Microsoft doesn’t stop there and continues this melding of devices right down to the smart phone, whereby, my smart phone then takes the place of a phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop. The Surface Pro is in a category unto itself in that it is the only device that appears to successfully have nailed the form factor. I contend that if one looks at this device as unique then you will find that Microsoft’s claim of computing without comprises holds true. And that’s the main problem with most reviews since the Surface Pro made into people’s hands. They are looking at this device and comparing it to a laptop (which it’s not) and then comparing it to a tablet (which it’s not). Heck, why didn’t they compare it to a desktop and a smart phone too? They may as well since a Surface Pro is neither of those devices either.
So what is a Surface Pro? It’s a new form factor for a computer. The evolution of where computers have been headed for about two decades. It has the power of a desktop machine, the portability of a laptop, and the convenience of a tablet. It has all these things in one. But comparing it to any of them would be like comparing a tablet or laptop to a desktop and vice versa. This device has the potential of being the only computer you need. I say potential because there needs to be a decent docking solution so you can connect it to a full size monitor, keyboard, and mouse. For the first time since IBM created the PC I think a device has been created that actually lives up to the moniker of Personal Computer. And, that’s what the Surface Pro is. It’s the first genuine Personal Computer and it’s the type of device I’ve been waiting to get my hands on since I purchased a Compaq TC1000 about 10 years ago .
I’m sure it has short comings. What device doesn’t. Nothing is perfect. Some faults that already come to mind are the small solid state drive, only 4 GB of RAM, the inability for a user to upgrade the former, and the inability for a user to swap out a battery. One thing I haven’t listed as a fault yet is the reported battery life. If I can get 4 hours of battery life with the Surface Pro I’m sure I’ll be plenty happy. It’s not a tablet so I don’t expect tablet like battery life. But I’ll leave that opinion open to change as it’s not a laptop either and through normal use it may be that it needs a minimum of 6 hours to be useful. I’ll reserve that for later.
I really want Microsoft to succeed with the Surface Pro and I really want them to expand this concept to smaller devices (my belief is that a 5″ to 5.5″ device running full Windows would be just about perfect). I never liked the direction Apple took computers with the iPad and I grudgingly use a Nexus 7. But I’m tired of using these compromised and dumbed down devices and can’t wait to start using a real Personal Computer again.