Back in June, Microsoft unveiled its Surface and Surface Pro tablets, the first PCs it’s ever designed and sold itself. Last month, it shipped Surface with Windows RT, which starts at $499. And now it’s finally disclosed the price and precise specs for Surface with Windows 8 Pro, which it plans to deliver in January.
This higher-end Surface device, which weighs under 2 pounds and is 13.5mm thick, will be available in an $899 version with 64GB of storage and a $999 one with 128GB. Both models have next-generation Intel Core i5 processors and USB 3.0 ports, have 10.6″ screens which run at 1920-by-1080 resolution, and come in the Surface’s signature magnesium case with flip-out kickstand. And they come with pressure-sensitive pens for note-taking and sketching.
They don’t, however, come with a keyboard. Assuming you want one — and you will — you’ll pay either $119.99 for the whisper-thin Touch Cover or $129.99 for the chunkier-but-comfier Type Cover. I get why Microsoft doesn’t throw in a keyboard in the base price, but it still feels a tad like Mercedes releasing a new sedan which doesn’t come standard with a steering wheel.
(One other note on specs: As far as I can tell, Microsoft isn’t quoting a battery life estimate, at least right now. UPDATE: It has made an estimate, and it’s not good news — half the life of Surface RT.)
If the iPad is the benchmark, Surface Pro looks awfully pricey: Its $899 64GB model is $200 more than a 64GB iPad. (There is no 128GB iPad.) But if you think of it as a high-end Windows portable PC, the pricing makes sense. Acer’s S7 Ultrabook, for instance, is a slick touch-screen Windows 8 machine that’s roughly similar in terms of specs, and it starts at $1200.
And really, the main reason to consider buying Surface Pro is if you do indeed use it as a high-end Windows portable PC. Unlike Surface for Windows RT, it’ll run all old-style Windows desktop apps, not just the bundled Office suite. It can drive an external monitor at 2560-by-1440 resolution, and work with a standard keyboard and a mouse. The theory is that you might buy it and use it as both a conventional Windows computer and a post-PC tablet, which might make it look downright economical.
Ever since Microsoft started talking about Windows 8, it’s used the phrase “no compromises” to describe its vision of an operating system that’s good at both classical PC tasks and new-wave tablet stuff. As the only Windows 8 system created by Microsoft itself, Surface Pro is the company’s uncompromising approach to no-compromises computing. When it goes on sale in January — only at Microsoft Stores and on Microsoft.com — it’s going to be fascinating to see how many real people buy into the vision.