* Mossberg, others call device a compromise
* Reviewers say falls between tablet and laptop
* Battery life, memory, price criticized
By Bill Rigby
SEATTLE, Feb 5 U.S. tech writers have given
Microsoft Corp's new Surface tablet-laptop hybrid
largely negative reviews, casting a shadow over the software
group's hopes to take a bite out of sales of Apple Inc's
iPad and MacBook Air.
The latest Surface runs on an Intel Corp chip and
features the full Windows 8 Pro operating system, which
Microsoft hopes will make the device attractive to people who
want to produce as well as consume material.
It also hopes to appeal to businesses who want to give
employees lightweight, mobile machines that fit easily into
their technology and security infrastructure.
The "Surface with Windows 8 Pro", as it is officially
called, is available from Saturday. Windows co-chief Tami Reller
said earlier this week it is a key part of revving up interest
in Windows 8, launched last October but which has not gripped
The Surface Pro is thicker, heavier and several hundred
dollars more expensive than the first Surface RT, which runs on
an ARM Holdings Plc -designed chip and is not compatible
with old Microsoft programs.
Available in 64 and 128 gigabyte versions, both with
wifi-only connectivity, the Surface Pro starts at $899,
excluding a $120-plus keyboard. That is $200 more expensive than
a comparable iPad and closer in price to the 64 GB MacBook Air
laptop at $999.
Microsoft has said the device is the first to bring a full
operating system to the tablet format without compromising
quality. But reviewers found the device uncomfortably stranded
between a tablet and a PC, with many compromises.
"It ran all the software I threw at it - both the new type
and the old desktop type - speedily and well," wrote Walt
Mossberg on the All Things D tech blog.
"But the Pro has some significant downsides, especially as a
tablet ... It's too hefty and costly and power-hungry to best
the leading tablet, Apple's full-size iPad. It is also too
difficult to use in your lap. It's something of a tweener - a
compromised tablet and a compromised laptop."
Mossberg said the Surface lasted less than four hours on his
standard battery test, half the performance of an iPad. He also
expressed concerns about the usable memory on the 64 GB version.
NOT AS GOOD
"The Pro is definitely snappier and more 'performant' (to
use a bit of Microspeak)," wrote Mary Jo Foley on the ZDNet tech
However, she added: "I keep scratching my head over who
Microsoft expects to buy the Surface Pro. It's not as good of a
tablet, in terms of weight/battery life, as the Surface RT is.
But it's also not as good of a Windows 8 PC as other
OEM-produced devices, coming in at lower price points with
better battery life and other specs."
Steve Kovach, writing for Business Insider, praised the
specifications on the new Surface, but not the experience as a
"The Surface Pro has some impressive hardware specs for such
a unique form factor. It can go toe-to-toe with any other thin
and light laptop," he wrote.
"(But) you can't rest the Surface Pro comfortably on your
lap without it flopping around. You can't adjust the angle of
the screen when it's propped on a table with the built-in
kickstand," Kovach added.
"You need to spend at least another $100 to get the full
laptop-like experience with one of the special keyboard covers.
At 10 inches, the screen feels a bit small for traditional
"The cheapest model only has 23 GB of free storage, so
you'll have to buy a separate memory card because you'll
definitely need more than that."
David Pierce, writing on The Verge tech news site, singled
out the high quality of the screen, quick startup time, the USB
port on the charging hub and pressure-sensitive stylus.
But he criticized the lack of Microsoft's Office suite of
applications - which have to be purchased separately - and its
"Even a well-executed Surface still doesn't work for me, and
I'd bet it doesn't work for most other people either," Pierce
"It's really tough to use on anything but a desk, and the
wide, 16:9 aspect ratio pretty severely limits its usefulness as
a tablet anyway," Pierce added.
"It's too big, too fat, and too reliant on its power cable
to be a competitive tablet, and it's too immutable to do
everything a laptop needs to do. In its quest to be both, the
Surface is really neither."