Microsoft Surface Pro set for sales on Saturday

Microsoft will begin sales of the Surface Pro this weekend. The Pro and RT model look alike, but that's where the similarity ends.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read
The Surface RT and the Surface Pro.
The Surface RT (left) and the Surface Pro. Microsoft

With the Surface Pro set to go on sale Saturday, consumers will have a pretty stark choice between two Microsoft tablets that look remarkably similar.

When I walked into my local Los Angeles Microsoft Store earlier this week -- where the Pro was already on display next to the RT model -- it was hard to tell right off the bat which Surface was which.

Not surprising, since both tablets display the same Metro screen and there's a mere 4.2mm difference in thickness.

So, let's recap what sets the Pro apart from the RT version.

Price: The RT model with Microsoft Office starts at $499. The Pro without Microsoft Office starts at $899.

Compatibility: The RT model is not compatible with older Windows applications. The Pro is.

Thickness/weight: The Pro model is about 0.5 inches and 2 pounds, the RT model about 0.35 inches and 1.5 pounds.

Disk space/storage tech: The Pro comes in 64GB and 128GB versions, RT in 32GB and 64GB. Note that the Surface Pro's solid-state drive is fast, the same class of speedy SSDs you find in mainstream laptops.

And there was a lot of confusion this week about the Pro's available disk space, forcing Microsoft to correct itself. The company originally said (in a statement sent to the media) that the Pro had only 23GB available for the user on the 64GB model and 83GB free on the 128GB model. On Wednesday, Microsoft issued an erratum of sorts, upping the available space to approximately 30GB and 90GB, respectively. And if you get rid of the recovery partition, you can retrieve even more disk space.

Battery life: Big difference here. While the Pro gets between 4 and 5 hours, RT gets about twice that.

Processor: Night and day in this case too. The Pro packs a powerful Intel Ivy Bridge chip, the RT a considerably slower Nvidia Tegra 3.

Display: The Pro has a killer 1,920x1,080 display, RT a pedestrian 1,366x768 resolution. Both are 10.6 inches.

In summary, with RT you're getting a tablet, with the Pro you're getting an ultrabook squeezed into a tablet. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.