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Bend It Like Surface Pro

Will the latest fifth generation Surface Pro move the needle for Microsoft in a value driven market like ours?

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With the original  Surface, Microsoft not only entered a territory that was so far the domain of its hardware partners, but also kicked off a detachable tablet PC segment aimed at folks who want the convenience and portability of a tablet backed by the software and power of their regular PCs. Five years down, the Surface series remains one of the best showcases of the two-in-one form factor, but the question remains — will the latest fifth generation Surface Pro move the needle for Microsoft in a value driven market like ours?

Now, if you have seen recent Surface Pro models, you will be well familiar with the way the latest iteration looks. Microsoft seems content with the design of the device, only tweaking a few things — rounding out device edges and giving the now-iconic kickstand some additional degrees of tilt — that sort of stuff. It is not a bad decision — the slim metallic design is still pretty attractive, and the snap-on keyboard (sold separately) now comes covered with a leathery microfibre called alcantara, which gives it a classy appeal. Ports remain largely unchanged — a single USB 3.0 jack, a Mini DisplayPort, and a microSD card slot — no USB Type C port though, which would have made charging and connecting additional accessories easier. My long-standing concern with the kickstand remains: It is best suited for use on a flat table, just pull it out and find the right angle for your screen, but it is trickier to balance and use on the lap than a normal laptop.

It is under the hood that the real changes lie, with the Surface Pro sporting a new whisper-quiet fanless design, which is a pretty big deal considering it packs in a 7th-generation Intel Core i5 dual-core CPU, and not some underpowered processor like some other fanless laptops. The unit I tested came with 256GB of storage, 8GB of memory and a gorgeous 12.3-inch PixelSense touchscreen, which is quite frankly one of the best laptop or tablet displays around. Performance is not a concern at all, and Windows 10 really sings on this device. That said, this is not a device for graphic-intensive games, with the onboard Intel HD Graphics 620 struggling on the latest Windows games. Battery life is in the range of 7-9 hours (depending on usage), which is comfortable.

This configuration will set you back by over a lakh, and is the one I would recommend unless you have some additional cash on hand for the Core i7 variants. Sure, there are cheaper Surface models starting from Rs 65,000, but they only come with 4GB of memory. Also, the price doesn’t factor in the accessories. For instance, if you want to use this as a tablet for drawing and note-taking, you will need the excellent Surface Pen (Rs 7,999) whereas if a laptop/typing is more your use case, the Type Cover (Rs 10,999-12,999) is a no-brainer. There is even the elegantly designed Surface Arc Mouse (Rs 6,399) that rounds out the experience. It is a tad ironic though that for a device that is being touted as a laptop replacement, the keyboard doesn’t come bundled in the package.  

This represents Microsoft’s biggest challenge with the Surface Pro. It serves a niche well, but is too pricey for the vast majority to consider for a regular laptop purchase.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Magazine 14 April 2018 surface pro

Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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