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LAS VEGAS—In 2012, we reviewed the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT, and we found to be an impressive piece of hardware. Windows RT is like a subset of Windows 8, but one that's unable to run Windows XP/Vista/7 programs and plug-ins. It's not surprising that many people have been waiting for the Surface with Windows 8 Pro (aka Surface Pro), which runs a full copy of Windows 8 with all the backwards compatibility and support for programs acquired outside the Windows Store. The Surface Pro adds some interesting updates to the Surface family, but it's undoubtedly a Microsoft Surface device at first glance and when you dig a little deeper.
The Surface Pro looks almost identical to the older Surface tablet from the front while operational, with many of the same tiles greeting you from the 10.6-inch touch screen. A sharp eye will notice that the Surface Pro's screen has a bit better contrast thanks to the higher quality 1,920 by 1,080 resolution screen (as opposed to the 1,366 by 768 screen on the older Surface). An even sharper eye will notice the presence of Microsoft Outlook, at least on the pre-production model we saw in Las Vegas. When we popped the Surface Pro into desktop mode, icons and UI elements were sharper, but didn't look tiny, as they did on the Acer Iconia W700 tablet.
The system is heavier than the Surface (2.0 vs. 1.5 pounds officially), but the Surface Pro didn't feel much heavier or less balanced in the hand. The Surface Pro shared the docking connector and compatibility with Type and Touch covers, and the power adapter connector looked similar (the Surface Pro has a higher capacity adapter to recharge its larger battery). That battery connector can be used to hold the included digitizer pen securely, since the connector is both magnetic and recessed. The digitizer pen is pressure sensitive, so it's graphics-artist friendly. The button under the magnetic connector on the pen acts like the right-click button on a mouse. The pen and Surface Pro combo may not replace a Wacom Cintiq for the hardcore artist, but you could certainly use it for casual sketching and signing documents. The internal screen can be mirrored, extended, or turned off when you have the Surface Pro connected to a mini-DisplayPort monitor. The tablet continues to work fine via both touch and the digitizer pen even while the internal screen is off. With the screen off, the Surface Pro acted like one of Wacom's prosumer tablets, such as the Bamboo Create.
Continue Reading @: CES 2013: Hands on With the Microsoft Surface Pro | News & Opinion | PCMag.com