Review: Microsoft Surface Pro hands-on impressions

PCWorld spent a solid 30 minutes with Microsoft's upcoming Surface Pro tablet. Can it atone for the sins of Surface RT?

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During the demo, we did fire up the first-person shooter Bulletstorm, and its frame rate at 1920x1080 was smooth enough to play, but didn't look butter smooth in 60fps+ territory. Still, if nothing else, the game demo did prove that Surface Pro is a legitimate performer, and can deliver what one would expect from other Windows 8/Intel tablet combos running similar components.

Unlike the completely passively cooled Surface RT, the Surface Pro has two built-in fans. During the demo, the fans were perfectly quiet when I was using the Pro as a conventional tablet. I was warned the sound levels would increase during game play, but Bulletstorm was loud enough to drown out the fans (that is, if they were increasing in volume at all).

Waiting for pudding--and proof therein

When Surface Pro arrives at the end of this month, it won't receive all the fresh, new-kid-in-town bonhomie that the world bestowed on Surface RT. When RT hit the scene in October, it wasn't just one of the very few Windows tablet-ish devices available, it also piggybacked on top of Microsoft's greater Windows launch PR effort.

But life is very different now for a Windows 8 tablet or tablet-PC hybrid. There are multiple Windows 8 machines to choose from, and consumers will be incredibly sensitive to pricing options. The 64GB version of Surface Pro will cost $900. The 128GB version, $1000. Touch-capable Ultrabooks are aiming to beat those numbers, and Microsoft will shortly find itself in a pricing war with its hardware partners. The "competitor" machines may not have the design panache of Surface, but will looks matter in an ultra-portable market that's already considered to be priced too high?

Stay tuned. Get ready. The PC landscape is more interesting than it's been in more than 10 years, and Surface Pro can tell us so, so much about what consumers want--and are willing to spend--in a new Windows 8 hybrid.

This story, "Review: Microsoft Surface Pro hands-on impressions" was originally published by PCWorld.

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