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Microsoft Surface Pro vs. Surface RT

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February 5, 2013

We compare the specs - and other features - of the Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface RT

We compare the specs - and other features - of the Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface RT

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Microsoft had a lot riding on Surface. But the initial Windows RT version – with its hybrid OS and limited app selection – has hardly transformed Redmond into a serious player in mobile. That leaves Steve Ballmer and company pinning their hopes on the Windows 8 Pro Surface. Does its full-fledged desktop OS make it a better buy than its cheaper predecessor? Read on, as we compare the specs – and other features – of the Surface RT and Surface Pro.

Size

Surface Pro is much thicker

At first glance, you might think the two tablets are identical. Surface Pro is slightly wider than Surface RT, but the biggest difference is its extra 4.1 mm of depth.

Weight

Surface Pro is much heavier

Surface Pro is one heavy tablet. Surface RT was already one of the heavier 10-inch tablets, but its Pro cousin outweighs it by 227 g (8 oz).

Display

Surface Pro has a much sharper display

The Pro version has a much sharper display than its ARM-based cousin.

Surface RT’s ClearType (sub-pixel rendering) technology made its sub-par resolution look better than it could have. Surface Pro packs more pixels, but still retains ClearType. You aren’t likely to have many complaints.

Processor

Surface Pro's Intel processor is much faster than Surface RT's Tegra 3

Performance-wise, Surface Pro blows Surface RT out of the water. There are other tradeoffs, but its processor puts it more in the class of a MacBook Air or Ultrabook than an ARM-based tablet.

RAM

Surface Pro doubles RT's 2 GB of RAM

Surface Pro’s RAM is also more in the ballpark of laptops than other tablets. Its 4 GB of RAM doubles the RT model’s 2 GB.

Storage

Usable storage is significantly less than the advertised storage above

On paper, Surface Pro comes in 64 GB and 128 GB models. But the usable free space will be much less (29 GB and 89 GB, respectively). Surface RT’s usable storage also takes a hit, at about 16-18 GB less than the listed total.

Wireless

No mobile data here

Microsoft isn’t selling either tablet in 3G or LTE models. If you want mobile data, you’ll need to either tether your smartphone or plug in a USB wireless hotspot.

Battery

Surface Pro has a higher-capacity battery, but much worse battery life

Surface Pro has a higher-capacity battery, but its more powerful processor takes a hit on battery life. It should last 3-4 hours, compared to the RT version’s 7-8 hours.

Camera

Don't expect much from the cameras

Don’t expect much in the camera department. Microsoft is mum on the cameras’ megapixel counts, only describing them as 720p.

Price

Surface Pro's laptop-like power comes at a cost

Surface Pro has MacBook-like horsepower, but it also has a MacBook-like price tag. With a US$899 starting price, Microsoft may have a hard time selling customers on its Windows-running tablet.

If you want to add Surface's keyboard, you'll need to fork over at least another $120.

Intangibles

Surface RT only runs Windows Store apps, while Surface Pro runs traditional desktop apps

Microsoft’s motto for Surface is “no compromises,” but both tablets have big tradeoffs.

Surface RT is lighter and thinner, with solid battery life. But it only runs Windows Store apps. The selection pales next to iOS’ App Store and Android’s Google Play.

Surface Pro runs desktop apps and performs like a laptop, but it has miserable battery life, is thick and heavy, and – with its keyboard – costs as much as a MacBook Air.

Each device has an audience, but neither is remotely uncompromised.

Wrap-up

Despite the physical resemblance, Microsoft’s two tablets are polar opposites. In several years, Redmond may sell a thin, light, tablet that runs desktop apps and performs like a laptop. Until then, you’ll have to pick your favorite mixed bag.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
3 Comments

I prefer Macs, but will admit that the RT tablet is a solid piece of work and have recommended it over the iPad for some folks based on their individual needs. However, the paltry memory of the Pro make it virtually useless for any "real" work, even if it can run Office and other Windows programs. I see this one selling for half price at Groupon in a matter of months.

Bob Fately
6th February, 2013 @ 08:25 am PST

MSFT needs to spin off all of its hardware products, including XBox, to Nokia for shares. All of that hardware should be branded Nokia or Nokia XBox and sold as such. MSFT should stick with software.

This would give NOK a much greater array of products and cash flow to support MSFT's phone push. NOK could also take MSFT products to much more of a global community of buyers.

This would also encourage more clone phones and tablet makers.

In short order MSFT can then spin the NOK shares off as a dividend to MSFT shareholders.

Gary L. Tucker
6th February, 2013 @ 12:58 pm PST

Sorry, my comment is not about what is being reviewed, but the review itself. I love you you have both set side by side, not only telling us the difference, but showing us with pictures too. I have seen too many reviews comparing two things and using different measurements (ie. one item using standard measurements and the other item using metric measurements)

Thank you very much for a clear and helpful review.

Checkmate
25th October, 2013 @ 09:57 pm PDT
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