Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Surface Pro 128 Review

So, now that I have been using the Surface Pro for over a week, I think now is a food time to start the review. First, let me say that I have been using it as a computer more than a tablet. To be more specific, a tablet PC, versus using Metro. I am going to call it Metro, as I sometimes still call a Micro SD card a Transflash card. Some people call it modern, some people Metro. In other words, if you want, read Metro as Modern.

Next, I want to make sure that anyone reading this knows that when I say Surface, I am referring to the Pro model, which runs Windows 8, and NOT Windows RT. This is also the original Surface Pro, and not the new Surface Pro 2. I wonder if I keep saying Surface Pro will make this review rank better on Google, and Microsoft will send me free things to review. If you are a Microsoft employee reading this, I could use a few things like the desktop dock, or a car charger.

Jokes aside, I want to start with some basic specifications, more can be found at the bottom of this review, or in the review itself. The Surface Pro uses an Intel Core i5 running at 1.7GHz. This is the only choice, but you do have a choice between a 64GB or 128GB model. Though it doesn't really matter, this is the 128GB model. You also get 4GB if RAM, and a HD display. Like I said, your one choice is the size of the SSD, and it is worth noting that this is NOT an upgradeable machine. If you choose the 64GB, then you will need to use the Micro SD slot on the side.

That also means that the RAM or battery are not upgradeable either, so if you need more than this, look at the newer Pro 2, which has an 8GB option, as well as options for 256GB and even a 512GB SSD. You would also get a Haswell Core i5, and a 2 position kickstand, so aside from extra battery life, speed, and space, you get the same screen. Now, it is worth noting here that the reason I got this model was the price. My model was on sale for 600, and does all that I need, so the price difference between the two was a major thing for me.

So, now that I have that out of the way, it is time to take a look at the hardware. You can see one thing very quick, or should I say that you don't see one thing very quick. There is not a lot of branding on the Surface except for two Windows logos, which I guess you can call Microsoft logos. You have one small one on the front, and a larger, but not by a lot, one on the kickstand.

The next logical step is to take a look around the Surface Pro. Starting at the right side, and going
around clockwise, we have your Micro SD slot, the magnetic power port, and a mini Displayport. Not a whole lot on this side, nor any side of the Surface really.

Moving along, we have a groove where the keyboard covers fit into. In the center, you have 6 more magnetic pins, flanked by 2 cut outs. This is where the keyboard attaches. Now, on the Surface Pro model, there are 4 pins not on the RT model. These pins are supposed to be for high current power, meaning an external battery like the upcoming PowerCover will provide.

So, on the left, we have the 3.5MM headphone jack, a volume rocker, and the only USB port, which is a USB3.0 port. I would have preferred to see a second port, even if it was only
USB2 but that wasn't up to me to decide.

On top, we have the power button and a microphone. Lot going on up here!

Now, one thing you might have noticed is there is a small groove, maybe 1MM wide, around the entire tablet. That is your venting to keep the system cool as well as let sound out.

Now, on the back, you have the kickstand, and at the top a camera. This isn't the best quality camera, but it does the job for a quick shot. There is a small LED next to the camera to show you when it is turned on.

On the front, we have the screen. It is a very nice 1920x1080 IPS display. On top is another camera and LED, which is the same quality as the rear facing camera. On the bottom, you have a Windows logo, which is also a touch button for the Start menu.

Now is a good time to talk more about this display. I think that it looks amazing, and it is Gorilla Glass from what I have read, but can still be scratched. I have a few tiny thin scratches from using the pen. One thing to remember is that the pressure will be much higher on the tip of the pen, so catching a piece of grit will scratch it, but I think that you don't have to worry a lot otherwise.

It does support 10 points of multitouch, which can be great for playing games with a second person. Something to note here is that this is a capacitive touchscreen, not that it should need to be
said now, since almost all but the cheapest budget tablets are using it. The reason I bring this up is that the pen included with the Surface Pro, as I said, is a Wacom pen, and thus won't work on just anything.

Now, something else I want to mention. This is something I consider a mixed blessing. The magnetic power adapter can be VERY annoying sometimes. I find sometimes it is very hard to get into position just right, and other times it can fall off very easy, but the good thing is it saves you form having a problem like a broken jack if the cord were to be tripped over.

Now, another thing that annoys me is there is no LED for battery charge. You have an LED on the adapter itself, but that only shows that it is connected, not the status of the battery at all. I think that could have done something like my HTC Flyer tablet did. This was also done by other companies like Palm and Dell before, so it is nothing new. I would have preferred to see an LED either under or next to power button that would be orange when charging and then green when full, or they could have even put it inside the plug since it already has an LED. That is how Apple has done, and to the best of my knowledge, still does.

There are a lot of things that I would change, but as a very good friend once told me, I want to change EVERYTHING. Some would be a second USB port, a full size SD card, but one that I would really love is a place to put the pen. Attaching to the charger port is NOT a solution! A simple slot for the pen would make it a lot better since it can fall off the charge port very easy, and if you need to keep it on the charger, there is NO WHERE to put it at all!

Speaking of the charger, something I would have liked to change. The charger has what I consider a much needed feature among ALL companies. It has a 1 amp USB port so you can charge a phone off it, or for me, a mouse or keyboard usually. Although it would have needed some extra pins, I would have liked to see a way to use this USB port for data as well, but I will settle for an extra port to charge stuff from since I have a lot of stuff I like to keep charged.

So, software side, it is Windows 8, which can be upgraded to Windows 8.1 for free. You get no added software really except a trial of Office. I would have loved to see Microsoft provide Office for free since the RT model does, but then again, for an RT model you can't buy Office right now.

In conclusion, I LOVE this tablet, even though it does get hot sometimes, but considering it has a Core i5 CPU and real Windows, it can be much more useful than my Nexus 7 is sometimes. There are different reasons to use the Nexus so if I am going somewhere I will take both with me. Side note, I will also have a keyboard and mouse review posted soon, which will be more of a follow up to this review, which will also mention the Nexus 7 and Surface Pro combination.

So, all in all, I would give this tablet around an 8 out of 10, since while it is an amazing tablet, it does have some shortcomings I am willing to ignore. The market has changed, so now a replaceable battery is sadly considered a luxury. I can personally get by with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD for a tablet, since if I need more power I have a laptop with 8GB RAM and a 1TB HDD, as well as a full SD slot so there will be times I carry my Lenovo G500s, my Surface Pro, and my Nexus 7, as well as maybe one of the phones I use as a PDA if I need something pocketable.

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