Surface Pro reviews are in and the results are sobering

A survey of more than a dozen reviews of Microsoft's tablet reveals a surprisingly critical, sometimes bitter tone about the Surface Pro

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  • Engadget reviewer Tim Stevens offered some keen observations about the hardware. For example, the small screen begs for running the old-fashioned desktop at 150 percent scaling for touch and 100 percent for mousing, but to switch between 150 and 100 "it's five taps and swipes into the Control Panel just to get to this setting and, when you change it, Windows forces you to log out of the computer -- thus closing all your currently running apps." Although the Surface Pro showed great x86 compatibility, the Microsoft keyboards caught a lot of flak. Full-screen video playback kicked off the fan "with a somewhat shrill, high-pitched noise." Engadget pegged battery life at a miserable 3 hours, 46 minutes, the shortest life of any tested Windows 8 system. The camera? "Photos are incredibly full of noise and the sensor seems to be completely unable to manage contrast." In summary, "We're still completely enraptured by the idea of a full-featured device that can properly straddle the disparate domains of lean-forward productivity and lean-back idleness. Sadly, we're still searching for the perfect device and OS combo that not only manages both tasks, but excels at them. The Surface Pro comes about as close as we've yet experienced, but it's still compromised at both angles of attack."
  • Larry Magid at Forbes put it succinctly: "I find that I can actually out-type the keyboard. ... While there will be some people who will be able to use the Surface Pro as a laptop replacement, I'm not one of them."
  • Gizmodo's Kyle Wagner called the Surface Pro "too much future." He, too, tore into the screen-size problem: "1080p resolution is so dense on the 10.6-inch screen that desktop programs seem too small, too cramped. Since you're already going to probably be hunched over your desk and squinting while using this 10.6-inch screen, teeny tiny text isn't much of a help." He ended with a lukewarm endorsement if you can "tinker, tinker, tinker."
  • Pete Pachal at Mashable was the only reviewer I found who put the Surface Pro on par with analogous Apple products. "[The Surface Pro has] been a very capable substitute for my actual MacBook Pro/iPad setup. While the Pro still suffers from some of the ongoing problems with Windows 8 -- notably the lack of native apps and oddness with how the new user interface sometimes works -- the Surface Pro has won me over with its portability and power." Nonetheless, he went on to say, "If the Surface Pro is stymied by anything, it's Windows 8 itself. I encountered the same bugginess with the Pro that I've been seeing on Windows 8 devices for the last few months."
  • PC World's Jon Phillips said Windows Pro "still can't close the deal." The thrust: "Microsoft is Microsoft, damn it! It owns Windows. Its war chest is huge. If it can't conceive, manufacture, and market the hands-down best Windows 8 hybrid in the world, it's got unfinished business."
  • Vincent Nguyen at Slashgear ended on a positive note: "Think of it as a touchscreen notebook with an optional keyboard and it makes the most sense... Whether that's the market Microsoft was aiming for, we're not sure, but the Surface Pro makes considerable sense for the prosumer."
  • Harry McCracken at Time had the most perceptive view from 30,000 feet: "I'm not arguing that Surface with Windows 8 Pro is a machine without a market. If you equip it with an external display, keyboard and mouse, it becomes a serviceable desktop PC, and if you stick to Windows 8 apps, it may be the best Windows 8 tablet so far. If I were shopping for an Ultrabook and my budget allowed, I'd consider it. But used with the applications I tried, Surface Pro doesn't prove that one computing device can do everything well. Instead, it makes clear that there's no such thing as no-compromise computing. ... That's not the lesson Microsoft intended, but it's a useful one nonetheless -- for consumers, for the industry, and maybe even for Microsoft."
  • David Pierce at The Verge also complained about the screen density and put it this way: "It's really tough to use on anything but a desk, and the wide, 16:9 aspect ratio pretty severely limits its usefulness as a tablet anyway. It's too big, too fat, and too reliant on its power cable to be a competitive tablet, and it's too immutable to do everything a laptop needs to do. In its quest to be both, the Surface is really neither."
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