Microsoft Surface Pro, the Surface That’s More PC Than Tablet

Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro

How do you reinvent the PC for the tablet era?

Microsoft, not surprisingly, has been spending a lot of time mulling over  that question in recent years. Its touch-centric new operating system, Windows 8, is largely devoted to answering it. And for the  first time ever, the company decided to show us exactly what it thinks a modern  PC/tablet hybrid should be by designing and selling its own Windows computer,  Surface.

Except it didn’t come up with one Surface — it built two of them. The first  version, Surface Windows RT, shipped in October, simultaneously with  Windows 8. Technically speaking, however, it isn’t a Windows 8 machine: It uses  a power-efficient ARM processor and a special version of Windows called Windows  RT which only runs new programs designed for the touch-friendly “modern” interface, not all the apps written for conventional PCs. Starting at $499, it’s  the closest thing Microsoft has to a direct iPad competitor.

And then there’s Surface Windows 8 Pro, which goes on sale at the Microsoft  Store, Best Buy, and elsewhere on Feb. 9. (That’s Microsoft’s full  official name for it; I hope the company won’t be irked if I refer to it as “Surface Pro,” like everyone else is already doing.) It has much in common with  Surface RT: Hold one Surface in each hand, and the only hint that they’re not  the same device is the  Pro version’s additional bulk — it’s .53″ thick and  weighs 2 lbs., versus Surface RT’s .37″ and 1.5 lbs.

Both versions have an elegant vapor magnesium case and kickstand that props  it up for vertical use, and both work with the same whisper-thin Touch Cover,  which includes a keyboard that’s nearly flat yet reasonably comfy. Both have  10.6″ screens, though the Pro’s version, at 1920-by-1080 resolution, packs  additional pixels.

But Surface Pro, unlike Surface RT, is a real PC. As its name indicates, it  comes with Windows 8 Pro, Microsoft’s top-of-the-line operating system. It  sports a powerful Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, either 64GB or 128GB of  solid-state storage and a Mini DisplayPort port; you could hook it up to a  keyboard, mouse and external display, run any program you throw at it, use it  with any Windows-compatible hardware add-on and generally forget that you’re  sitting in front of anything but a brand-new conventional PC.

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