Suface Pro : a forecast of the Verge review.
I know I can't wait for the reviews for this device to roll in, so I won't. Working on the Verge Surface RT review as a baseline I will adjust the review scores to bring you a forecast, a potential review. The windows 8 review will also factor in and I'll include quotes from both Engadget's and The Verge's hands on with the Pro.
Note: Some scores will stay the same based on the assumption of similar hardware and the fact that, irrespective of personal opinion, The Verge review scores tend to meet their own cross-review consensus.
Design : 8
Same score as the RT, it's true it's heavier, but at first glance this device looks near-identical to its sibling with all the quality that entails. It is also weighted nicely.
"Microsoft has made this really comfortable to use."
"Still, there's no getting around the fact that this thing is bulkier than its little brother:
You know what, though? Two pounds is still lighter than the Acer Iconia w700 which weighs 2.09 pounds, so for a product in this class, the Surface Pro might even pass for compact."
Display : 9
I've upped the score on this by two. According to both Engadget and The Verge the screen is pretty sweet. And it bears noting that it remains a ClearType display that is optically bonded, just like the RT. Only much prettier.
"Surface Pro has a gorgeous 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD Display that outputs a 1920 x 1080 resolution. I say it's gorgeous because this display is unprecedented on this type of device."
"Same 10.6-inch screen, just a lot more pixel density. And believe us when we say the difference is appreciable."
Cameras : 6
Near identical to the Surface RT. However I do question the need for a rear camera on a tablet, or indeed a review on them, but that's just me.
Speakers : 6
Again I can't see this being any different than the RT,unless MS has taken some justified criticism onboard.
"The Surface has two microphones and a set of stereo speakers, which sound decent, though they sometimes distorted when I was playing back music or video"
"When it comes to the other sounds this thing can make, those that you might actually want to listen to through the built-in stereo speakers, the Surface is merely adequate."
Performance : 8
True, the RT received a 7 and in this one we have an (unknown) i5 processor and more ram powering the show... so you may be expecting a significant shift in performance, but it is also running full windows and we are comparing this device not only against tablets, but ultrabooks. I'm going with a conservative 8.
Software : 9
This is a jump of two points from the RT's 7 and perhaps a jump from the Windows 8 review, my reasons being that folks are starting to get used to the windows 8 aesthetic, public opinion is gradually changing (now we've all calmed down from our typically vitriolic stand point towards all paradigm shifts) and the store is growing. Perhaps not as well as it should, but this shared kernel seems to be paying off.
Battery life : 5
This is where the Pro will take the largest hit, a drop of 3 points, probably justified no matter what low power CPU it may be running. If this is a tablet or even an ultrabook - I can't see the battery life for either category its held up to being favourable. If it exceeds expectations, it may reach a 6.
Ecosystem : 9
It's the same score as the Windows 8 review received - and it plays out. One of the most established ecosystems, this is a no-brainer.
Dock : 8
Another score I don't see changing. It's the same dock.
Now, the average for that score brings it to 7.5 or 7.6 if you round up. Yet it's never as simple as calculating the average. There are other factors beyond the hardware that need to be considered, and as The Verge states below every review, The Verge score is subject to change depending on the overall quality of the device. The Surface RT received a Verge Score of 7.0, but its average score was actually 6.7 (or 6.8). That means they felt the overall quality of the device rose its base score. We can assume that the same would happen for the Pro, perhaps by a similar margin. By my calculations that takes us to a potential Verge Score of around 8 out of 10.
Not bad, but as I said, the story doesn't end with a score. A good article reveals the caveats, the compromises, theorises the usability of a device, etc. This all affects the opinion of said device and certainly gives armour or ammo to those who read it.
Most internet negativity swirling around the RT was not in scores - but in direct quotes. From this I think we can expect several things to colour (not talking about distortion of) the score and how people perceive the review in a light that, depending on your bend, can be either negative or positive. So here are what I feel are likely things to be said and more importantly will trend from The Verge's and other important websites' reviews:
"Is it a plane? Is it a grenade? What is it?"
The biggest question will certainly ponder the uses of this device. Is it an ultrabook? A tablet? These are two categories which will more closely fit its userbase and I expect that it will be judged against both. The tablet argument will most certainly mention how portrait mode is either laughable: "It's also a 16:9 tablet so using this device in portrait is comical - Tom Warren." or heavy in the hand when holding it.
Does that mean it fails as a tablet? No, but there are other things to consider when comparing this to other tablets and like so many things that MS does it is a tale of two halves:
On one hand you have what looks like a tablet, yet has half the battery life of one. You have the power of a full OS with a wonderful ecosystem, but a form factor that doesn't completely support it.
For the ultrabook argument, again that battery life will need to be considered. It will likely fall short again. Also the lack of a bundled keyboard really goes against MS here. For this price point shouldn't we expect a bundled keyboard? Whatever is under the hood this is where it fails slightly as an ultrabook, perhaps more so when it comes to performance but that debate is for when the benchmarks are in...
Thinking on what will be said, I wonder what won't: Something unlikely to be considered is that MS have indeed created a new category of tablet. That type of faith, or 'suspension of disbelief' does not go hand in hand when so many questions hang over MS what with so many hits and misses in their portfolio.
'It's basically the same device, but on steroids.'
The hardware, by consensus, rocked for the RT. Some didn't like it, thought it was unwieldy, but the quality was undeniable, as was the amount of thought put into it. Where it lacked was in the software department. That problem now solved and now the desktop has a clear purpose, arguments on this should drift away. Should. Along with the app debate. Maybe.
'Battery life, battery life, battery life.'
Expect this to be the most quoted and belaboured point about the PRO. MS may very well have pre-empted this argument by provoking the debate several weeks before its release by saying its half that of the RT. Who knows, they may have even under-estimated on purpose. Do expect this to be one of the larger caveats though. 'It doesn't have the battery life of a tablet.' 'You'll barely get half a days use.' 'It under-performs against most ultrabooks.' That type of thing.
'Big price, no keyboard.'
It will be annoying. I hate having to buy peripherals. I think if I had to buy the pen separate I'd probably scream. But there is no getting away that there is no bundled keyboard. Where it stung with the RT, here it will feel like a smack in the face with a wet fish. Just think of a laptop with no keyboard.... Now, all right, it has touch but this device will be sold by the fact it has full Windows. It should be easy to do the math from there. Mind you, if you already have a snazzy wireless keyboard you could be golden.
3G in this would be awesome, no denying, but at least the argument for its inclusion can take a back seat. Whilst this is portable and can be used in a similar manner to the RT, I don't think that's its strength. It's that instead of lumping a lappy and a tablet, you get to take just this, tether it to your phone and away you go. I've always thought to have the best of three worlds. Android phone, ipad and a laptop. Now all I want is an Android phone and the Surface Pro. It's that interesting quandary that the RT epitomised, but here gets turned on its head. Surface Pro: a tablet and a lappy in one form factor.
'It's not meant to sit on your lap.'
Counter-arguments aside this is both a valid point and kind of missing the point. I have never seen anyone making do with sitting a laptop on their lap. I think by now that there's enough tables in the world. This won't stop reviewers from mentioning it though or people buying into the idea that the PRO is unwieldy.
Kind of interesting this one, because while there has been a lot of speculation about the price on the run up, there has been far fewer complaints. It will be highlighted that it is 'sans keyboard' but I think the price more of less falls in line with ultrabooks and with the innards, this should support that.
'Touch keyboard cover.'
One of the most interesting things about the RT, people have now probably got used to these keyboards, but will cite that there can be a steep learning curve. The fact that some of these covers have suffered breakage, tearing and cracking will almost certainly be the most common comment on this topic. Also the price will be mentioned. Notice the quandary between price yet?
'Only 64gb / 128gb.'
Mitigated somewhat by its SD card abilities I'm sure there will still be discussion on this, especially taking in the size of the OS and any programs that you may want to use with it. This will be the part that most people will feel limits the device.
CES has certainly opened its doors to a whole slew of Windows 8 devices (about time) and it will be interesting to see what comes of it, it's also looking hopeful as OEMs try to reduce the cost of full Windows 8 tablets. That will be a very interesting race. Anyway, currently there are probably better tablets than the pro out there, and probably better ultrabooks, and inescapably the pro will be best in class... all in its own class, but then again as a portable PC in this post-pc era - I think it will excel and for those who have the right set of needs - this device will be a boon like no other.
'Windows 8 isn't selling well, Surface RT is a flop, Windows Phone 8 has an uncertain future.'
In building an ecosystem, any device built in it has to stand on the merits of that ecosystem and not wholly its own merits. There's no escaping that. This is a Microsoft product and we should judge it so. How well MS is doing (or not) will have a significant effect on public opinion and perception when it comes to this device. Strong reviews may mitigate that somewhat and I think that MS has potentially done enough here to score well, but with a dirge playing over most of what it's trying to do with no small amount of confusion, it will probably be a struggle to sell this no matter the reviews score.
Well, I'm sure there are many other things I could discuss (feel free to add them in below) but I think this covers some major points along with a pretty strong prediction of what the score line may look like.
Thanks for reading!!