Tech Industry

Here comes Microsoft Surface Pro, 64 bits and all

The Windows 8 Pro version of Microsoft's Surface tablet is just around the corner. Here's what to expect.

Surface with Windows 8 Pro starts at an ultrabook-like $899.

Microsoft's Windows 8 Pro version of the Surface will arrive soon, giving consumers probably one the highest performing tablets to date.

Microsoft is already dropping not-so-subtle hints that the device is coming "early in 2013." And now it appears to have made its debut at the FCC.

Let's look at what else Microsoft is saying about the 2-pound tablet that sets it apart from the current Surface RT tablet.

  • 64-bit computing in a tablet: Surface with Windows 8 Pro is "a 64-bit tablet PC." That's not a trivial point. You get all of the goodness of 64-bit computing via Intel's power-efficient Core i5 Ivy Bridge processors. Surface RT, on the other hand, is 32-bit only.
  • Security: Support for the same level of security you can expect with any corporate Windows laptop. And Microsoft includes sBitLocker, which encrypts your hard drive's data.
  • Pen: It includes a pen. That's really a holdover from the Windows 7 slates but something that some business customers still want.
  • Mini DisplayPort/display: This allows connection to large high-resolution displays (e.g., Apple Cinema Display). That said, the Surface Pro's 10.6-inch (16:9) 1,920x1,080-pixel display is already the same resolution of some desktop displays. Other ports include a full-size USB 3.0, microSDXC card slot, headset jack, and Cover port.

And we may already be getting a sneak preview of the Surface Pro courtesy of CNET's review of the Acer Iconia W700 tablet.

Like the Surface Pro, the W700 is a 2-pound Windows 8 tablet that packs an Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor and a 1,920x1,080 display.

Here's what CNET said: "In our benchmark tests, the Iconia W700 performed similarly to other Core i5-3317U Windows 8 laptops and convertibles, or a little behind. It's well-suited for everyday use, from HD video streaming to social media, to working on office tasks."

And battery life? One has to wonder whether Microsoft will be able to achieve the stellar battery of the W700. "The system ran for a very impressive 7 hours and 19 minutes," according to CNET. Yeah, that is impressive. In fact, Acer is beginning to brush up against the staying power you'd find in a high-end tablet with a power-efficient ARM chip.

But that may be too optimistic. Microsoft, in effect, pre-announced the Surface Pro's battery life the other day. Let's just hope that it trends closer to an ultrabook with a tolerable run-down time. This is a tablet, after all.

Let's close on a high note, though. Early this year, I had a chance to use the Intel Core i5-based Samsung tablet with Windows 8 Developer Preview (the same unit handed out to Microsoft Build conference attendees in 2011). I was immediately wowed by its speed. At the time, I felt it was much quicker than the iPad 2 I had been using every day.

If the Surface Pro can replicate that experience, it will attract power users looking for a snappy Windows 8 tablet.

And, remember, the Surface Pro will run all of those Windows 7 applications, too. That, alone, will make it attractive to business users.

See full Surface with Windows 8 Pro specifications.

With the recent release of the Iconia W700 tablet, Acer may giving us a taste of the Surface Pro.
With the recent release of the Iconia W700 tablet, Acer may be giving us a taste of the Surface Pro. CNET