Microsoft has recently released two tablets called the Surface RT and the Surface Pro. Given our focus on business computing, the Surface RT doesn’t provide enough features for our liking, but the Surface Pro does, and as a result we wanted to see if it could indeed be a viable replacement for the laptop.

Surface is Microsoft’s newest line of touchscreen tablets and was specifically designed to run on Microsoft’s newest Windows operating system, Windows 8. The beauty of the Surface Pro is that it offers powerful business-class laptops that pair with the hardware, but in a much smaller, travel-friendly package. This is a rare combination in today’s market. Looking at some of the specs, the Surface Pro weighs 2 pounds configured with a solid-state hard drive and comes equipped with wireless connectivity and ports for external USB-3, mini-HDMI video, and a slot for an SD memory card. There are third-party docking stations that plug into the USB port, allowing you to connect an additional mouse, keyboard, Ethernet, video, and USB ports when working in the office. Most likely it is all you need.

The settings are the same as for any other Windows device. Surface asks you to choose your language, agree to Microsoft’s Terms of Service, apply some settings, and you’re ready to go. Windows 8 also has the ability to allow the user to log in with a Windows Live ID, rather than a standard local profile. This provides cloud services and allows the user to store the Windows 8 device profile in the cloud so that it is available, along with specific settings, for any other Windows 8 device when they log in to Windows Live ID.

Windows 8 provides two independent desktop environments for ease of use. When you log in, the Surface desktop defaults to the ‘Tiles’ environment. This environment is suitable for touch screens such as smartphones, allowing you to swipe and click to access the programs pinned to this screen. In this layout, there is a tiled main screen where programs and shortcuts can be customized. By swiping your finger across the screen (again, similar to a smartphone), other screens and menus can be accessed.

There is also a ‘Desktop Tile’, which accesses the traditional Windows desktop look. Programs and documents can be saved to the desktop for quick access, just like in previous versions of Windows. The missing Start menu and various other bug fixes are expected to be added in Windows 8.1, a free service pack from Microsoft due out in October.

Both can be confusing at first, but they get easier with use.

The Surface tablet works great with Windows 8. When undocked and used as a tablet, the tiled mode is best. Large, clickable tiles are much easier to work with compared to small icons.

The keyboard is a highly recommended accessory for office work. Although the on-screen keyboard responds very well, it is still difficult to use for daily needs, such as writing a Word document or composing an email. The keyboard magnetically attaches directly to the bottom of the device providing a full QWERTY keyboard. It also flips the screen to act as a screen saver when on the go.

At the current price of $ 999, the Surface Pro can be considered a laptop replacement for a user who wants to reduce their travel load while maintaining computing performance. Since many people already use tablets, such as the iPad, the cost justification is that it is two devices in one, with a similar cost. But this tablet runs real software; not just apps from the AppStore.

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