Microsoft's Surface Pro devices pack an Intel Core i5 processor and a full HD display, but pay for it in battery life.
Details of Microsoft's upcoming Surface Pro tablets, which use x86-architecture processors and a full install of Windows 8, have been released - and it's a mixed bag for those who have been hoping for good news.
Slightly larger and heavier than the ARM-based Surface RT products, at 275mm x 173mm x 13.5mm, the Surface Pro tablets pack an Intel Core i5 processor with integrated Intel HD4000 graphics behind a 10.6" ClearType display. While sharing the same dimensions and technology as the Surface RT version, the Pro is a significant upgrade in resolution at 1920x1080 to the RT's 1366x768. Touch capabilities are also improved, with the Pro boasting 10-point multi-touch to the RT's five, and coming bundled with a pressure-sensitive stylus. The system's memory has also been boosted, from the 2GB found in a Surface RT to a more Windows 8-friendly 4GB.
Aside from swapping out the full-size USB 2.0 port of the Surface RT for a USB 3.0 version, ditching the custom video output port with an arguably more useful Mini DisplayPort and, for some reason, losing the second noise-cancelling microphone, the remainder of the Surface Pro's specifications should come as no surprise: the body of the tablet uses the ultra-thin VaporMg casing material in a 'Dark Titanium' finish, features a kickstand on the rear and physical volume and power buttons, while 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity are included as standard. Stereo speakers and a headset jack are built in, while two 720p cameras - one front, one rear - are present and correct.
So far, so good. Now for the not-so-good: despite a larger battery, a 42Wh model to the RT's 31.5Wh, the Intel Core i5 drains power like there's no tomorrow with Microsoft admitting that the Surface Pro will be lucky to get around half the runtime of its more energy-efficient ARM-based stablemate. As a result, buyers can expect to be putting up with a four-hour runtime between charges, although at least charging will be faster thanks to a 48W power supply to the RT's 24W model.
Bundled software is also somewhat light: where the Windows RT gets a cut-down copy of Office Home and Student 2013, dubbed the RT Preview, buyers of the more expensive Pro will have to make do with Windows Mail and Messaging, SkyDrive, Internet Explorer 10 with Bing, Xbox Music, Xbox Video and Xbox Games packages - all of which are also included with the Surface RT.
Finally, cost: while pricing for the UK has yet to be confirmed, Microsoft has announced plans to get the device on the market by January with a US recommended retail price of $899 for the 64GB model and $999 for the 128GB. Neither come with the much-vaunted Touch Cover keyboard accessory, which will cost an additional $100. Adjusting for VAT and rounding up, that means the devices are likely to hit the UK for no less than £700 and £800 respectively - and we wouldn't be surprised to see a swap-the-symbol pricing structure that sees the tablets début at £899 and £999 respectively.