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In-depth first look: Microsoft's Surface for Windows 8 Pro

Tim Greene | Feb. 6, 2013
For those who don't like Windows 8, the 128GB version of the device has enough SSD space to run Windows 7 in its own partition.

Microsoft's home-built ultrabook called Surface for Windows 8 Pro goes on sale Saturday and may be the Windows 8 device that best meets a wide range of corporate needs from tablet to desktop.

The device is built around an Intel i5 processor that gives it plenty of power to run intensive CAD-CAM applications, but it also has the capability and portability to perform as a tablet and notebook. At 2 pounds, it's light enough to carry around all day for workers whose jobs demand mobility. (Watch a slideshow of Surface's features.)

Plus the device runs Windows 8, giving it the inherent security advantages the operating system has over Windows 7. And for those who don't like Windows 8, the 128GB version of the device has enough SSD space to run Windows 7 in its own partition.

There has been a good deal of complaining about the characterization of SSD storage capacity in Surface Pro. The models come with 64GB or 128GB drives, but significant chunks of those drives are unavailable as user space. Microsoft says only 23GB is available with the 64GB SSD and the 128GB version has only 83GB available. (The 128GB test loaner we had said 84.5GB was available.)

Microsoft says various external USB drives, cloud services (including Microsoft SkyDrive that comes with the device) and use of the microSDXC slot all represent options for expanding storage space for those who need it.

Battery life for the device is somewhere between 4.5 and 5 hours, Microsoft says, but it can be worse depending on what tasks it's performing. That's less than desirable for busy road warriors. The battery can't be popped out and replaced with one that's freshly charged as is the case with most laptops.

The keyboard -- which is sold separately -- can be flipped under or removed for the device to be used as a tablet or notebook. A stylus using Wacom Passive Pen technology comes standard supporting an eraser and right mouse-click.

The keyboards' performances are significantly different. Touch has a flat surface with the keyboard image embossed on it. The "keys" don't depress, but they do respond to finger-tap pressure. The Type has mechanical keys that do depress.

The best trial time our test subject turned in during a typing test using Type keyboard was 97 words per minute with 99.5% accuracy. With Touch it was 83 wpm with 97.2% accuracy. (The test subject says tactile feedback is important to a good score, and Touch gives less than Type. Also there's a tendency initially to type harder with Touch than is necessary, which reduces speed.)

The keyboards attach to the computer via magnetic strips strong enough to dangle the 2-pound tablet from the keyboard without fear of its falling off. When the keyboard is folded under to use the device as a tablet or notebook, a switch in the hinge turns off keyboard input so it doesn't fire off random keystrokes.


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