Hands-on: Microsoft Surface Pro review

Finally, it's here: Microsoft Surface Pro has landed in the UK and Pocket-lint has got hold of the 128GB version of the tablet PC. Many months later than anticipated, and far behind other manufacturers' Windows 8 hybrid launches, has the wait for Surface Pro in the UK been worth it?

If the details are anything to go by then Microsoft's not mucking around with Surface Pro. Even the packaging's jaunty design is very cool and the 10.6-inch Full HD tablet looks a beaut once extracted from its box.

But, hold up, where's the keyboard? Oh yeah, that doesn't come included in the box - you'll need to fork out an extra £99 for the touch keypad or £109 for the type keyboard with fully depressible keys. Add that to the £719 64GB or £799 128GB model prices and it's no small complete price. It's not that we want it to be a budget device per se, we just think the total price tag should be more competitive.

Without the keyboard the Pro feels incomplete; a PC without a keyboard is like a car with three wheels. You can still sit in it, but not take it for the full ride.

But then this isn't a PC. It's a tablet. And a laptop. Well, it's sort of both. In its tablet form there are obvious discrepancies: at 15mm it's thick compared to other tablets. But how many of those can tout a third-generation Intel Core i5 1.7Ghz processor and 4GB of RAM? That's where the Surface Pro's strengths lie: in its power.

And it's this processor which adds to the size, not in a physical sense but because a top-side vent and internal fan are required to keep the system cool when operating some of those meatier tasks. As this is full Windows 8 you can do pretty much anything you want - play games, run Photoshop - although with just HD Graphics 4000 it won't be able to be accelerated to the max - watch movies or speed through those simpler browsing and office tasks.

There's an included stylus in the box that can handle 1,024 levels of pressure for handwrite or touch command options directly on the Pro's screen. It's responsive, works well and even clips neatly to the side of the device instead of the power port. It's one of the other though, not both.

If using a pen doesn't suit you then go hands-on or snap on one of the magnetised keyboards, pop up the Pro's kickstand and use it like a mini PC. It doesn't sit well on the lap, just like the Surface RT didn't, but then that's to be expected really. Flat on a tabletop and it's very easy to use with the attached optional keyboard - the trackpad may be small, but it feels natural right from the word go.

READ: Surface RT review

Also like the RT, the Pro's storage capacity needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Or two. Maybe three. The 128GB SSD in our model showed up as "84.4 GB free of 110 GB" without our so much as installing a single application. Of course there are programs that will eat into the space, which is fine to a degree, but that does equate to almost a third of the alleged storage space. The solution? Add a 64GB MicroSDXC card to the available port, which won't cost a fortune but does mean a further £40 or so to the price tag. And so Surface Pro's expansive price-waistline keeps on expanding.

 

We've been using the Surface Pro for a full day and, y'know what, we really rather like it. Despite our criticisms this is a well-built, responsive machine with a bright, detailed display that shows off what Windows 8 is all about within a truly portable device.

We're not rushing out a verdict just yet - we're going to live with Surface Pro as our main laptop device, let it simmer into our brains and see how much - if at all - the potential king of the tablet PCs can change our day-to-day workflow and personal computing lives. We see a lot of promise despite the high price and other apparent shortcomings. Keep eyes on the site for our full, fully realised and lived-with Surface Pro review in the not too distant future.