Tablets

Going Pro: One hot Surface that's a joy to touch

Deb Shinder compares the Surface offerings and shares what she likes and dislikes about the Pro device.

Back in January, I spent some time getting to know the Surface RT and came away pleasantly surprised. I was able to get real work done to a much greater degree than I expected, but there were some frustrations involved and a few important elements missing. I looked forward to the release of the Surface Pro, hoping it would fill those gaps without too much of a tradeoff in terms of weight, bulkiness, and battery life.

The Pro was released on February 9, but it almost immediately sold out at Best Buy, Staples, Microsoft Stores and online. Despite the fact that I'm married to a Microsoft employee, I wasn't able to get my hands on one until the following weekend. Even then, it involved several hours of calling around to different Best Buy locations and finally driving to a store in a different city to snag the last one in stock.

A tale of two Surfaces

If you've used the RT model (or an iPad or later model Samsung Galaxy tablet), your first impression of the Surface Pro is going to be that it's thick and heavy (Figure A). There's just no way around the fact that replacing the NVIDIA ARM processor with a Core i5 means increased heft. At 2 pounds and over half an inch thick, it would have seemed tiny a few years ago. Now, coming from the 1.5 pound, 0.37 inch RT, not so much. However, it's more compact than most current ultrabooks and has the same (or more) functionality. Figure A

You can see the difference in thickness between the two Surfaces, as well as the slight difference in the angle created by the kickstands.

Other differences include more RAM (4 GB vs. 2 GB), USB 3.0 vs. USB 2.0, more storage space (if you're able to find and want to pay an extra $100 for the 128 GB model), a higher resolution display (1920 x 1080 vs. 1366 x 768), and a more powerful operating system (Windows 8 Professional vs. Windows 8). In my case, it also meant finally getting a microSD card slot that actually works, since the one on the RT device was useless.

Light weight and a slim physique aren't the only things you have to give up when moving from the RT to the Pro, though. You'll also give up more money. The Pro sells for $899-$999, while the RT is $499-$599 (both prices are without a keyboard/cover). RT comes with a version of Office 2013 that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote; the Pro doesn't. Of course, because it runs the full-fledged Windows 8 Pro OS, you can install any edition of Office you want (which means you can have Outlook, Access, and the other programs that were left out of the Office 2013 RT version) -- but that bumps the cost up even more.

The RT model doesn't support pen input, but the Pro does. That makes it capable of four input methods: touch, keyboard, voice (through Windows 8's voice command and dictation features), and pen. I love having that kind of flexibility.

The biggest compromise involved, for me, is the battery life (or rather, the lack thereof). RT is advertised as getting 8 hours, but I got closer to 10-12. Like the Energizer Bunny, my RT just kept on going. The Pro gets around 5 hours with moderate usage. That's not awful for an ultrabook, but there are some that do better, and it's downright lousy for a tablet. I'm hoping that the next generation of Surface will run on Haswell processors, which will double that. Meanwhile, I'm pleased with the standby battery performance. Unlike some laptops I've had, it uses little battery when it's idle, so with very light use, I saw the battery last for several days.

Getting there is half the battle

After the inevitable comparisons to the RT, I decided to put that aside and evaluate the Pro on its own merits. As with the RT, our relationship had a bit of a rocky start, but once we got past a few bumps, things were a lot better.

I had come to love the Type keyboard that I bought for the RT, so the first thing I did was snap it onto the Pro -- only to find that it didn't work. Well, actually it did, for three or four keystrokes, and then it stopped working. I snapped it off and back on, and this time the device didn't even see it; the onscreen keyboard popped up. On and off again, a few times, and then it worked, but I didn't love this at all. The keyboard had worked flawlessly on the RT for over a month.

Out of curiosity, I snapped the keyboard off the Pro and back onto the RT, but it didn't work there either. I tried again, and it did. Ugh. I tried wiping off the contacts, put it back on the Pro, and it seemed to be fixed, although it stopped working again the next day. That time, I cleaned the contacts on both sides thoroughly with alcohol, and so far, so good. A web search indicated that some other users have had the same problem.

Once I was able to type, the next step was adding more storage with a microSD card. After all, expandable storage is one of the Surface's big advantages over the iPad, and I'd been awfully disappointed when I got an RT with a defective slot. Thankfully, the slot itself is far more accessible on the Pro, not hidden behind the kickstand. I inserted a known good micro card into the slot and ... nothing. There wasn't a "What do you want to do with this disk?" pop-up message or even a SD card showing up as a drive in Explorer. Could I really have gotten that unlucky twice? Unlike with RT, this time even trying to push the card farther in with my finger and holding it didn't make the card temporarily appear.

I turned to the web again and discovered that you need to reboot after inserting the card for the first time. I crossed my fingers, held my breath, and waited while it restarted (which was really fast, by the way). That did the trick. There was "SDHC (D:)" under Computer in the Explorer tree. Whew!

My next task was to test Office on the machine. I hated not having Outlook on the RT, and I was excited about being able to install Office Professional. One of the nice new features in Windows 8 is the ability to mount ISO files, so after downloading Office Pro from MSDN, I double-clicked the file on the desktop and got an error message that I'd never seen before: "Sorry, there was a problem mounting the file." I tried again and got the same result. I even tried copying the file to a different location, but that didn't work.

I researched the web, and one forum said that the problem was a drive letter conflict when you have an SD card inserted. Another poster noted that he received the error, but the file actually did mount. So, I checked in Windows Explorer, and sure enough, it showed that the file had been mounted three times. Apparently, the error message is, itself, an error. I ran setup and Office installed with no problem (Figure B). Figure B

Microsoft Office Outlook on the Surface Pro.

Making it mine

Because it's running Windows 8, I could customize the Surface Pro just as I did my Windows 8 desktop computer. A big frustration with my ARM-based Surface was the feeling that it was less "mine" because of the limitations imposed by the RT operating system.

One nice thing about logging in with a Microsoft account is that many of my customizations, such as IE Favorites and settings, Explorer view settings, and so forth, were saved from my Surface RT and applied automatically.

If you look closely at the taskbar in Figure B, you'll see that one of the first things I did was install Start 8, which adds back a Start button and Start menu to make desktop mode a little more functional. I've been using it on my primary workstation for a while and love it. I fully expected to pay for it again -- at $4.99 (USD), I considered it a bargain -- but when I logged into Stardock's web site to download and buy it, I was told that I already owned it, and if I wanted to buy it for someone else as a gift, to continue. I exited the cart and got a message that the software had been activated. Next, I installed another Stardock product, Décor 8. Unlike Start 8, which adds real functionality, Décor 8 is purely aesthetic, but it provides the much-appreciated ability to select your own background graphic for the Windows 8 Start screen rather than being stuck with the artsy drawings that Windows gives you. You can see my piano keys background in Figure C. Figure C

Décor 8 lets me make the Start screen with a custom graphic background.

Getting down to business

Now that I had Windows 8 looking and acting the way I wanted, it was time to put the device to the same sort of test as I'd done with the RT -- using it to do my real work. A couple of things were noticeable immediately. Not unexpectedly, the Core i5 processor is far faster than the ARM chip. Bootup is quick and performance is snappy. I didn't experience the lags I wrote about in my RT article, even when composing long documents or posts. The higher resolution display also made a big difference. Pictures really pop and videos display beautifully.

One thing I especially wanted to check out was the digital pen. I bought the Galaxy Note 10.1 specifically for that feature, and I use it to edit photos, draw diagrams, and take handwritten notes. I wondered if the Pro's pen support would live up to the Note's S Pen. Surpringly, it's hard to tell the two apart. I drew and wrote in OneNote without any problems.

I wanted to install my favorite photo editing program, which happens to be Corel PhotoPaint. I have the installation disc on DVD, so that provided a reason to hook up a USB DVD drive to the Surface and see how that worked. I plugged it in, and it was instantly recognized and worked flawlessly; the file copy operation was relatively fast (although the drive was a USB 2.0 device and didn't take advantage of the fast USB 3.0 port). The application appeared to install, but when I tried to open it, I got an error message saying "its side-by-side configuration is incorrect." A web search on that one wasn't very fruitful, although it indicated that it wasn't a Surface-specific (or even Windows 8-specific) problem.

I was disappointed to learn that Adobe PhotoShop Touch (which I use on the Galaxy Note) is available only for iOS and Android; there's no Windows version. I'm still looking for a good photo editor to install on the Surface Pro, preferably one that's touch-enabled. NOTE: I've downloaded the trial version of Corel Paint Shop Pro X5 and it does install properly and works. I'll be taking it for a spin in the next few weeks.

What's hot and what's not

The best things about the Surface Pro are its snappy performance, the ability to run (most) "legacy" applications on the desktop, the beautiful display, and the pen. I was glad to see that the pen does snap onto the charging contacts nicely and is held pretty securely, but it would have been nice to have a slot to tuck it into so that it's not just lying around when you're charging the device. Even a second set of magnetic contacts, perhaps, on the top edge of the device would help.

I'm not crazy about the extra thickness and weight, and since the Pro won't hold a charge long enough to get through the whole day, I hate that the charger is also bigger and heavier than the one for the RT (albeit still fairly small compared to many laptop chargers).

After working with the Pro for a while, my feelings are very similar to those I have for the Surface RT, but for different reasons. In both cases, I have the vague sense that this could be the perfect computing device, but it isn't ... quite. Each of them has something important missing, something that the other one has.

The bottom line

When it comes down to it, the RT is a great tablet and the Pro is a great laptop, but one doesn't completely substitute for the other. I'm glad I have both; I can foresee that I'll use them for different purposes and situations. In fact, I already do. When I want something that will let me do email, web searches, and Facebook all day long, more comfortably than on the phone but with minimal carrying burden, I grab the RT. When I'm going to be doing "real work," which in my case means writing articles, serious blogging, or doing accounting chores for my business, I'll take along the Surface Pro (and its charger).

And if the rumored mini-Surface should ever materialize, I might get one of those, too, for the ability to take it along with me on more of an everyday basis where I wouldn't take the larger devices. With my 5.5 inch Galaxy Note II phone, a mini tablet is less compelling than it once was -- but the Note still doesn't do Windows, so I'm also intrigued by the idea of a Surface Phone.

Many people (including me) were hoping the Surface Pro would be the magical all-in-one device that could "do it all." In that respect, I was disappointed. However, as an ultrabook (that's ultimately what it is), it's outstanding. It's a far better laptop than the lightweight Sony X, for which I paid almost twice as much, and it beats its battery life by about an hour. Despite having half the RAM, it's snappier and more functional for my purposes than the 3.5 pound HP laptop for which I paid $500 more, and it's a lot easier to carry around all day. Neither of those devices have a touch screen, either.

After adjusting my expectations, I'm not at all unhappy with the Pro, although I'm eagerly awaiting the next generation of Surface devices, which I hope will take us one step closer to Microsoft's envisioned future of computing.

About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

20 comments
HHH
HHH

The problem I am having difficulty with is not the hardware it's the OS. win 8 pro is terrible.

ShadyRayRay
ShadyRayRay

The article mentioned "magical all-in-one device that could “do it all.” In that respect, I was disappointed." Did i miss something? What can't the Surface Pro do? Why isn't it an "all-in-one?"

Mantei Woodcraft Ltd.
Mantei Woodcraft Ltd.

The Pro is a great device and I bought it primarily to read ebooks. The fact that it's a full fledged Win 8 Pro computer with a touch screen is icing on the cake. However, gripping the thing while reading is tiring because the case is so smooth and slippery. What would be really nice is if it had a rubberized finish that wrapped up around to the screen borders.

Sul52
Sul52

I picked up my 128GB model on 2.25. For the first few days I loved this device. (Of course, the first thing I did was install Start8 and boot strictly to the desktop.. after giving the tile screen a couple of hours.. and deciding immediately that that screen was going to result in endless frustration except for the most simple of tasks which did not require multiple screens and multiple program quick access.. I need to see my screens as I work.) After 3 days I started to have overheating issues. I was doing some file copying, but strangely when I laid the tablet down and was doing nothing it would freeze, which I found to be an issue with overheating. This was frustrating since it seemed that there was nothing actually active. Microsoft got it right with the Surface Pro, you NEED a pen on a tablet, but the Win7 interface was substantially better for use on a tablet for the pen input, the Win7 interface "grows" with your input so you can decided when to input it into your program, while Win8 consumes almost 1/2 of the screen and has no other options. (I personally liked the functionality of the Win7 pen input MUCH better.) The screen is amazing. 1920x1080 gives you an incredible screen and crisp clear images and text on the small size screen, so even high information screens are easy to read and use. Even though, I took mine back, I will probably give them another chance (the overheating issue was a MAJOR decision in taking it back). But in retrospect, the tablet is lacking a couple of things that I hope they improve for version 2. 1) Let's not mess around with SSD's less than 128gb with full Win8 and given the price of eSATA drives there should be at least a 256gb offering. The 64gb is pretty much a no buy even with additional microSD storage. 2) Add more USB ports. Just as well have them all USB 3.0 ports. 3 would be nice. 2 would be almost required. 3) GPS?!?!? with the size of GPS receivers (some you can put 4 on a dime) this device needs to have a GPS built in. 4) Replaceable battery. I have no problems with 4 hrs battery life (even though I normally got closer to 5.5hrs), but with a replaceable battery, the shorter battery life issue goes away quickly. 5) Docking solution!! This device is very functional with the i5 (or maybe an optional i7 quad core) so that if it could be docked (dock should include a second battery slot for charging - see 4 above) and used as a primary device for the vast majority of users. Add an Ethernet plug on the dock and even in secure environments this thing could wipe out the need for a desktop or high performance tablets. 6) Dump Win8 - I know there is a large investment in the UI but it is not a good UI for multi program users. The back end or under the hood improvements are worth keeping, but the UI is just not a winner, on a notebook or a tablet. Win8 (I installed it briefly on a W510 i7 quad core laptop) is quite a bit faster than Win7 in a lot of areas, but its just not very user friendly, unless you are primarily a user of single apps at a time. Not a good match for heavy lifting unless you stay with the desktop. 7) slim charger. I've seen them for replacements for laptops, and Apple has them. The power brick could have been reshaped into a 1-1.5 inch thick device that was larger in the other dimensions but would fit better in a slim carrying case. 8) while there are some available via 3rd party vendors, when being used as a tablet, it would be nice to have a fitted folio case with a strap that your hand goes through to make holding the device as like a paper tablet easier (and more secure). I was a little nervous when holding the device and doing check lists while not at the desk. This is version one. It's a pretty good start, but there are many improvements that could turn this into an almost essential device for business users, mobile or not.

Slartibartfass
Slartibartfass

... and comments as well. After all this mud-wrestling of MS and Apple fanboys. It's really time for substantial reviews and discussions. Thanks so much Debra!

TNT
TNT

First, great review. Thanks for the comparisons not only between the two products, but also to their competition. I originally planned on buying a Surface Pro to replace my aging desktop, but Windows 8 ran so well that I couldn't justify the expense. Instead I bought an SSD drive and, wow, my 8-year-old PC is as fast as my Core i5 desktop at work! But I do need something portable. I have a netbook but the screen size and keyboard are not ideal for typing, and writing is what I do most. So knowing that I have a desktop to do the heavy lifting, and that writing and managing a web site (using Joomla) is mostly what I'd use a tablet for, which do you think would fit the role best, the RT or the Pro? Is Word and Excel the same on each? Is Lync available on RT? Does Citrix run on RT? I'm really hoping I can avoid spending the extra $500.

SHCA
SHCA

A really great review, properly balanced. I will forward it to all of my colleagues wrestling with the tablet / ultrabook choces. I particularly liked where you balanced any disappointments against the other alternatives. Unlike you, I can't afford one of everything, but I can afford the Surface Pro, and will. As to "the perfect computing device, but it isn’t ??? quite.", Congratulations, that's as good as it gets in Release 1.0 of anything! Still leaves you wanting more, and by the time the next revision comes out, magic!, it will all be there. When you get V2, I'll happily take your used V1 off your hands.

maszsam
maszsam

A person with advanced tech skills had to what just to get it to work? You have got to be kidding.

SMMinke
SMMinke

Yes, as a Microsoft Partner, I also was simply amazed with the idea that it was so hard to get one of the Surface Pro 128 units-- even for Microsoft's own employees! This has to be filed under "Missed Opportunities", though I took the time at every Microsoft conference and training to fill their ears with how one of the best marketing campaigns involves putting these Surface Pro units in the hands of their employees and partners ASAP. Microsoft is well-known for offering employees and partners discounted and "Internal Use" software so that the business world sees those individuals and companies using the latest and greatest Microsoft software; it's simply the BEST way that business decision-makers see those products in action. I have championed both the Surface Pro and Windows Phone to clients, who ask us "What do YOU use" when making purchasing decisions. It's simple really-- put your product in the hands of companies who will market it for FREE. Do so by offering them a steep discount so that the will outfit their entire company with your wares. Apple has been doing this with school districts and such for years. They "get" marketing... or a least Jobs did. I was shocked to see how many Microsoft employees DON'T have Windows Phone, for instance. :-( At a recent conference, I was showing off the seamless integration with my Windows Phone 7 HTC Arrive with our Office 365 "Internal Use" account that the company I own uses. There were a lot of "Windows Phone Converts" that day-- straight from iOS and Android. Then, on Day 1 with my Surface Pro 128, I sold 3 of them to one of our Medical MSP clients for the doc and their medical assistants. It was the thing that they had been waiting for that fit perfectly into a niche that their iPads had failed miserably on: Being able to run their medical practice software without being limited by whatever "App" their medical vendor has turned out. Seriously Microsoft. Figure this out and do with hardware what you have done so well with software! Get your employees and partners to market for you! By the way, in order to make that sale I went through the hell known as walking into Best Buy, talking with an employee who knew little or nothing about the device but immediately asked why I wasn't getting the new iPad instead, and pre-ordering said device to insure that I had it on the launch date (a first for me-- I've NEVER done that for any other device). Then, on launch day, myself and MANY other hapless souls watched with horror as our pre-orders never arrived that day... or for two weeks afterward. Yeah. Really. Anyhow, rant over. Maybe it will reach the right person at Microsoft eventually. Since Deb's article is about the Surface Pro, my two cents is that I LOVE this device and pretty much everything about it-- with the exception of the Pen/Stylus location. It seemed like an afterthought almost. Here you have a tablet/laptop/ultrabook device that functions as all of those and does things no iPad can ever dream of... only to functionally disable its Tablet abilities by choosing a Pen location where: 1) It blocks the charging port. 2) It blocks the display port. 3) It falls off the device if you look at it wrong. 4) It naturally gets RIGHT in the way when you grab the Tablet like any normal user would whe trying to use it as a tablet... in Panoramic mode. It often falls right off when you grab it. 5) It inhibits typing via the "OnScreen" keyboard. The onscreen keyboard-- especially the "Split" keyboard-- is simply a triumph... except for when trying to type on it with the Pen attached. There it a complete failure of Human Engineering concepts. When we as humans "type", we keep a mental reference of "stationary" items that guide our fingers to the right locations of the keys we intend to strike. The physical keyboard is a great example. The keys stay in the exact same location every time. Imagine if someone was moving the keyboard as you typed. That's what happens when the Pen on the Surface Pro is docked. Your right hand slightly misses the target and you end up with plenty of typing errors. Now, to be fair. This "complaint" is like me complaining about the cherry on top of my ice cream sundae not being perfectly centered on top in a world where ice cream sundae's don't have cherries. After all-- it's a 1st-Gen device folks. The other "problems" with this spectacular device are not problems for me at least. Battery life is WAY better than the heavy and awkward HP TouchSmart laptop I was carrying (only because Lenovo didn't have a great tablet when I bought it). After all, iCore5 processor and a great bright screen... what do we expect? With that kind of device, I would have been happy with only 4 hours of battery and I seem to make it through the majority of my work day visiting clients and such without it being too much of an issue. Battery life is a moving target and a poor reference point. I don't want to hear iPad references as they are "apple-meet-orange". One final note on my Surface Pro. Don't discount the beauty and functionality of two items... the "Touch" keyboard and the Microsoft Wedge Mouse. The Wedge mouse really has to be used to be appreciated. It fits cleanly into a pocket or small laptop bag in little more width-space than the Surface tablet itself. Clients see it and ask about it immediately-- much like the touch keyboard. They assume it's too small for them-- only because of how they have used a mouse traditionally. It's really a great human-engineering example. You "pinch" it on the sides with your thumb and pinkie or ring-finger rather than holding your hand over it like a traditional mouse. It seamlessly connects to your Surface Pro WITHOUT A DONGLE OR TRANSCEIVER, which would of course occupy your only USB port. It tracks seamlessly on all surfaces... yes-- even glass. The surface of the buttons are "gesture-sensitive", similar to Apple Mac mice. Though the Wedge only currently supports vertical and horizontal scrolling gestures... future driver updates will likely add more gestures. Consider grabbing one. It's a great little device and perfect for your Surface Pro. Now for my biggest surprise... the Touch keyboard. I almost dismissed it out-of-hand, figuring it was an aesthetically-pleasing toy that would not work for me (Just like the iPad proved to be... cough cough ;-) ). I went ahead and got a Touch cover in "Ferrari Red" (My masculinity requires me to brand it that), assuming that it would quickly be returned to the store in favor of a Type cover. Man was I surprised. You see, I tend to be rather verbose (shocking admission, I know)-- so the thought of hammering out long passages via the Touch Cover was a laughable thought. Shockingly, it works BETTER than a real keyboard in almost every way. Not kidding. Back to the human-engineering concept. When most of us type on real keyboards, we inevitably accidentally hit two keys at once. Then you backspace, correct, etc. It's a daily ritual that we all take part in without complaint, if only because it's all that we know. With the Touch cover, I type almost twice as fast because I simply don't hit two keys at the same time... ever. the key spacing is PERFECT and the keys respond beautifully with either light touches or hard touches. The only issue I had was getting used to it. There was an issue with typing on soft surfaces or while trying to use it on my actual lap while on a couch... but thankfully the latest firmware update on Microsoft Patch Tuesday addressed that pretty well. Anyhow, the touch cover is really the perfect companion to this device and fits into the "Surface" brand perfectly. How good is it? Well, I typed this entire novel... er, ahem... post with it! :-)

davelevy@work
davelevy@work

There is a substantial group of people who buy a computers for personal use that wants to buy just one device instead of a desktop, and a netbook and a tablet. They will mostly use the device in their home in the "computer cubby" but like the idea of it being portable, "just in case". These folks will see that the Surface Pro will let them use the same software that they use at work (one level of justification for home computers), it's easy to take with them somewher (another level of justificaition) and it's like an iPad/Kindle thingie. It might cost a little more, but they will appreciate the simplicity of one machine. Even if it brings a headache or two along.

project.manager
project.manager

I have had my Surface Pro for about 2 weeks and am really enjoying it. As an avid photographer the first thing I did was load my photo editing software. I use both Adobe Lightroom 4 and Corel Paint Shop Pro X5. I haven't had any issue with either.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Which are of course, the same thing, but still, the surface pro just seems to be a double priced netbook.

deb
deb

Reading over this after it was published, I see that I have a typo in the fourth paragraph: "Windows 8 Professional vs. Windows 8" should be "Windows 8 Professional vs. Windows RT." Obviously, as I talk about the RT operating system further down in the article.

lburt
lburt

This seems to hit the nail squarely on the head.

Slayer_
Slayer_

It was specifically designed for that hardware. But the bugs in the system do annoy me. Normally bugs don't bother me that much because eventually they get fixed. But with Microsoft, that's not true. If you are lucky they might make a service pack that fixes bugs, but usually they just add new ones and you need the next version of the OS to fix the previous bugs (again, only fixed if you are lucky).

deb
deb

Basically, it gives you the power of an ultrabook (which are priced comparably for the same specs) with the size/weight of a netbook, along with the flexibility of detaching the keyboard and using it as a tablet. The i5 processor is what makes the difference in performance and is also what bumps up the price. The pen input, for graphic artists, is a big bonus (although I wish they had included a slot to store it inside the device, like the Note 10.1 has).

Slayer_
Slayer_

I think if I was standing in the store with money in my hand, I would probably go to a netbook instead. For portability, a netbook is nearly as good as the surface, for a much lower cost. If I lost the netbook (or stolen) I would feel less bad about it as it was cheaper. When it breaks in a year (You said yourself your keyboard is already getting finicky) I won't feel as bad. And I know I can use the keyboard of the netbook on my lap, the surface needs a flat surface to use that kickstand properly. The only advantage I can see with the surface pro is the ability to use it as a touch tablet. But that price makes it hard to swallow when I can get a Nexus 7 for 240 bucks instead. And I can buy a cheap case for that that allows it to stand up and a roll out keyboard if I need to use it for serious typing.

Slayer_
Slayer_

That's my problem, they have the exact same functionality. You can even get them with touch screens if your desperate to smudge up your screen.

Mantei Woodcraft Ltd.
Mantei Woodcraft Ltd.

A netbook is just that. Netbooks have limitations that a fully functional computer does not. If what a netbook has to offer fulfills your needs then that's what you should be looking for. A Surface Pro or even RT is certainly overkill and you'd probably never be happy about having shelled out for one.

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