Microsoft's Surface Pro goes on sale Saturday

The highly anticipated tablet will test the company's viability in that market

Microsoft's highly anticipated Surface Pro with Windows 8 will be on sale Saturday starting at US$899 and will test the company's viability in the tablet market after the failure of the Surface RT.

The Surface Pro tablet has an Intel Core i5 processor. It can also be used as a PC when a keyboard is attached. The tablet has a 10.6-inch screen and includes the Type Cover keyboard dock that doubles as a case. The tablet will come in models with 64GB and 128GB of storage.

The tablet will provide a full Windows experience like on PCs, running older applications of previous Windows versions. That is in contrast to the Surface RT, which is expressly designed to be a tablet, runs on an ARM processor and does not support existing Windows applications.

"The power and speed of Intel's Core i5 processor, coupled with the detailed engineering design from our Pro team, really brings you the power and performance of a laptop PC, all in a tablet package," wrote Panos Panay, general manager for Microsoft Surface, in an entry on Microsoft's new Surface blog.

The tablet will initially be sold in the U.S. and Canada through Microsoft retail stores and the company's online retail site. Best Buy and Staples will sell the tablet in the U.S. and it will also be available through retailers in Canada.

The tablet has so far received mixed reviews, with PC World calling it the best Windows 8 tablet, but not an effective PC replacement with its small screen. The battery life was measured at roughly five hours. After the OS is loaded, the available storage space is only 23GB on the 64GB model, and 83GB on the 128GB model.

At 0.9 kilograms, the tablet is lighter than ultrabooks, but heavier than the Surface RT tablet, which weighs 680 grams. Surface Pro has a screen that can display images at 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution, while ultrabooks priced in the same range mostly have 1366-by-768-pixel screens. Other features include a stylus, 4GB of RAM, front and back cameras, a USB 3.0 port, a micro-SDXC slot and a mini-DisplayPort slot. More specifications are listed on Microsoft's retail website.

Many alternatives to Surface Pro are already available. Alternative tablets with Intel's Core processors and Windows 8 include Asus' Taichi, Lenovo's Yoga 13, Samsung's Ativ Tab Smart PC Pro 700T and Acer's Iconia W700. Windows 8 tablets are also available with Intel's tablet-specific Atom processor code-named Clover Trail, which provides a longer battery life but is slower and has poorer graphics compared to Core processors.

Microsoft will also start selling a new 64GB version of the Surface RT tablet Saturday. The RT tablet will be available starting Thursday in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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