Microsoft today announced that the Surface Pro would be available in Best Buy, Staples, and (of course) their own chain of retail stores on February 9th. While the Surface RT has experienced “lousy” sales, many believe that this Intel-powered tablet will be a bright spot for Microsoft. However, at $899 and roughly four hours of battery, the Surface Pro isn’t so much a tablet as it as a very portable notebook. Comparing it to the iPad, which is cheaper in every configuration, seems a little misguided: while both can certainly complete similar tasks, the current design and price of the Surface Pro puts it more in line with an ultrabook.
Apple also makes an “ultrabook:” it is known as the MacBook Air. The version that is most comparable to the Surface Pro comes in at 11.1″, and ships for $999 from Apple (though lower prices, sometimes significantly so, are available online).
The following comparison by Anandtech shows the differences between the Surface RT, Pro, and iPad. Obviously, the Surface RT compares far more directly to the iPad than its larger and more expensive brother does:
9to5mac noted the lack of given CPU speeds for the Pro’s Core i5 chip. Think slow; it’s likely using a low-power 1.6 GHz chip found in similar ultrabooks. While the CPU speed is comparatively low, Intel’s i5 will handily best any ARM competitor.
BGR made the following comparison chart, which does seem to be a far better comparison. Instead of the iPad or Surface RT, both of which are lighter and have better battery life but are unable to run full desktop applications, BGR used the current MacBook Air as a point of reference.
This comparison reveals two closely specced devices. Both computers use almost identical processors. Both have similar amounts of RAM and storage. The MacBook Air is actually slightly cheaper, when compared to a Surface Pro that was purchased along with a Touch Cover. The Surface Pro, however, has a higher-resolution display and more storage options, along with the obvious touch capabilities.
The deciding factor may end up coming down to price. As 9to5mac also noted, the base model MacBook Air can be purchased for very low prices during certain sales from third-party vendors.
The touch capabilities of the Surface Pro may also come in to play. While the MacBook Air does have a fantastic trackpad, it can’t compare to the touchscreen, or to the incredibly accurate stylus support.
In the end, the decision will likely come down to the following: do I want a laptop that is as small as a tablet, or a tablet that is as powerful as a laptop?