Microsoft has finally entered the tablet fray, wading into open conflict with Apple and waving the Microsoft Surface above its head like a Windows 8-powered battle axe. This preview concerns the Surface that comes with Windows 8 Pro, a more comprehensive version of Windows, and a punchier processor.
I'm yet to get hands-on time with the Microsoft Surface Pro, but read on for a glimpse of what to expect, based on the specifications that Microsoft's confirmed. Check back for more video and photos and we'll give it a full review closer to the launch.
The Surface isn't as slick or as rounded as the new iPad. It sports sloped, angular sides. Around the back is a fold-out kickstand so you can prop the Surface up.
The Pro version of the Surface is thicker than its more modest Surface with Windows RT counterpart, measuring 13.5mm deep compared with 9.3mm. It weighs a lot more too, tipping the scales at 903g as opposed to the 676g of its sibling.
The reason it's heavier is it's packing more powerful hardware, which I'll explain below. But that extra girth may hurt the Surface Pro -- a weighty, chunky tablet could prove uncomfortable to hold for longer periods and would feel less luxurious.
Touch Cover and Type Cover
Setting Microsoft's tablets apart from the rest of the crowd are two magnetic covers, which snap onto the side of the Surface. The Type Cover is 3mm thick and offers a touch-sensitive keyboard and there's a slightly thicker 5mm option with keys that can be pushed in slightly, offering some physical feedback when you're typing.
This Surface tablet is powered by a quad-core Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge CPU, meaning it'll have a hearty amount of power under the bonnet. The 16:9 aspect ratio, 10.6-inch display is touted as having a Full HD resolution. That likely means 1,920x1,080 pixels. You'll also be offered a choice between 64GB or 128GB storage options.
The Pro version will have a slightly better port selection, including USB 3.0 and a DisplayPort slot.
This version of the Surface is powered by Windows 8 Pro, which is a comprehensive edition of Microsoft's new operating system. So as well as the tile-based Metro interface, you'll also be able to access the Windows 8 desktop.
I'm not expecting the desktop to work particularly well with the Surface's touchscreen -- previous Windows tablets have proved too fiddly to be much use. But by plugging in a USB mouse, you might find the Surface makes an effective laptop replacement.
Price and release date
Microsoft has said that its more basic Surface tablet will be competitively priced, which I think means it will cost about as much as the iPad. This Pro version will be more expensive. As well as a fuller version of Windows 8, it's going to offer a powerful Intel processor and higher-capacity storage. I wouldn't be surprised if this Surface tablet costs about the same amount as an ultrabook -- roughly £800.
As for the release date, it will come out approximately 90 days after its more modest Windows RT counterpart, which should arrive in the autumn alongside the launch of Windows 8. Depending on when Windows 8 makes it onto shop shelves, we could see the Pro version of the Surface tablet on sale around Christmas.
The Pro version of the Surface will prove tempting to anyone looking for a tablet to replace their laptop completely. However, it's likely to be much more expensive than the lighter, skinnier Surface that's powered by Windows RT, so think carefully before throwing down your moolah.
We'll have more information soon so be sure to check back.