Microsoft has announced a release date of February 9 for the Surface Windows 8 Pro, a bulkier but more powerful version of the company’s first laptop-tablet hybrid.
Neither model includes the Touch Cover that snaps onto the tablet and doubles as a pressure-sensitive keyboard and trackpad. For that, you’ll have to pay another $120, or you can buy a Type Cover, which is thicker and has mechanical keys, for $130. A “Surface Edition” of Microsoft’s Wedge Touch Mouse will be available for $70, and special edition Touch Covers with laser-etched designs will cost $130.
Microsoft also announced that it will sell a standalone 64 GB Surface Windows RT, starting February 9. Previously, Microsoft had bundled this model with a black Touch Cover. If you wanted a different color or a Type Cover, you had to purchase it in addition, or downgrade to a standalone 32 GB model.
What’s the difference between the Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro versions of Surface? The former is thinner and lighter, but it won’t let you install any desktop software, such as iTunes, Spotify or Chrome. You’re limited to the (currently tiny) selection of apps from Microsoft’s app store, and to a suite of built-in desktop programs such as Office, Notepad and Internet Explorer. The Surface Pro can run all your existing Windows software, has a more powerful Intel Core i5 processor and includes a stylus, but it’s thicker and heavier, and only gets about half the battery life (about 5 to 6 hours, most likely). Both devices have 10.6-inch screens, but the Pro has a 1920-by-1080 resolution display, while the RT’s screen resolution is 1366-by-768.
The February 9 release date for the Surface Pro is later than Microsoft had originally announced. At first, the company said it would launch the device 90 days after its Windows RT counterpart, which would have been January 26. The good news is that the Surface Pro will be sold at Staples and Best Buy in the United States, in addition to Microsoft’s retail and online stores. If you’ve seen all those ads with the dancing, clicking people and wondered where to actually buy the product, now you know.