In this case, I completely disagree with your statement. You can't make a blanket statement like "it just isn't ready for prime-time", indicating the entire Surface Pro line as a whole, when in fact there are thousands that are being used, and operating properly. Absolutely, YOURS isn't ready, and of course, and there may be issues with the Surface Pro in general, but they are the kinds of issues that are common to 1-st gen devices. My very first Pro, out of the box, had a defective WiFi card. I've been a first adopter for a LOT of gadgets, and this is a pretty low level of issues, IMHO. They dropped the ball on the Wacom pressure sensitivity drivers, but other than that, it looks like every other device like it.
It's unfortunate that every time a patch comes out, it wrecks your machine, but again, from this very forum it's evident that for every person that has that issue, there are scores of others whose Pros are working fine.
20-ish minutes is accurate for the time to make my image. I didn't time it, just kicked it off and came back to it later, definitely 30 minutes or less. Like Nuspieds indicated, I didn't do a verification pass afterward, and it was just the base OS, plus Office 2010, and a few utilities. The image doesn't actually write empty space of course, so the image size wasn't huge. So I'm not sure what your disbelief is, but my disbelief is that you reinstalled the OS that many times.
My first experience with an imaging app was Symantec's offering, Ghost, which I did not like. The next thing I tried was True Image, and have been using it for about 8 years. I'm not sure what your issue was with it, but I've used multiple versions of it to make hundreds of images. Of those, at least 7 or 8 times my bacon was completely saved by having those images, and never had an issue with any of them. Besides, their feature of being able to take an image, and restore the image to completely different hardware, is just plain cool.
Anyways, my statement in my initial post remains- I hope you do have better success with your next device.
Connect to a good fast reliable wifi signal and just do the Darn Updates, PLEEEEEEESE!!!!!!. This is not rocekt science people... UPDATES, UPDATES, UPDATES...