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Christmas Gift Guide
While Apple and others have forsworn the pen input, Microsoft's Surface Pro offers a pressure-sensitive pen for high-accuracy input and drawing.
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The kickstand is a unique Surface feature; it allows the tablet to stand up without the use of a separate case or dock. However, many people complain that it makes for awkward use when in "laptop mode" (with the keyboard attachment).
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Two keyboard options are available. Physical keys (Type Cover) for $129 or touch keys (Touch Cover) for $119. For an extra $10, it's a no-brainer to get the "real" keyboard.
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The magnetic connection on the keyboard covers is strong enough to hold the tablet up by the keyboard -- not that we'd recommend that.
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With the Type Cover and kickstand, the Surface Pro resembles a tiny all-in-one PC.
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The Type Cover has a soft outer surface, and adds surprisingly little to the system's overall thickness.
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The pen can clip onto the side of the system. Unlike the RT version, the Surface Pro supports pressure sensitivity and palm-blocking technology.
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Typing is better than expected with the Type Cover. Not as good as even an ultraportable laptop, but the best tablet typing experience to date.
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While the iPad is primarily used in its portrait orientation, most Windows tablets feel more at home in landscape mode. This pinball game is a good opportunity to mix it up a bit.
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The game section in the Windows app store is weak so far, but you can install and run games on the Pro from Steam, GOG, and other sources; those latter options are unavailable on the RT version of the Surface.
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Like other Windows 8 touch-screen devices, you'll find yourself using a combination of keyboard, touch-pad, and touch-screen inputs.
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The Surface Pro is frankly thick for a tablet, but remember that it's packing in a full Core i5 ultrabook's worth of hardware.
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Connectivity options on the Surface Pro are limited. A rumored future docking solution might help.
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The power connection is similar to Apple's MagSafe connector, and attaches here.
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The port for connecting the keyboard cover has potential future uses, such as a dock or other accessories.
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The 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution looks great, but works better in the Windows 8 UI than the traditional desktop mode.
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The power brick and cable is thankfully small. That's good because at about 4 hours of battery life, you'll probably have to bring it with you. But the inclusion of a USB port for charging your phone takes some of the sting out.
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With a Core i5 CPU, 128GB SSD (in the more expensive model), and a decent keyboard, the Surface shows you can pack a lot into a very small package.
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Can the Surface Pro be your full-time PC? That's a question we'll have to come back to as more people get their hands on the system.
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