Once in a while a new device comes along that’s just different enough and has the right combination of features to really stand out. Enter Microsoft’s Surface Pro.
Tablets aren’t new. Apple’s iPad has become a runaway success and the standard bearer in that niche. It’s a fine media consumption device, especially for those immersed in the Apple ecosystem. But good as it is, it’s not perfect as a field tool for photographers, at least not for my needs. Specifically, it’s not convenient for backing up images on a multi-day shoot, nor will it work seamlessly within the Office suite of programs. Now there’s another option.
The Surface Pro is new to the market and hasn’t had time to gain much of a following yet, but I suspect interest will grow because it offers a very attractive feature set that genuinely bridges the gap between traditional tablets and ultrabook-style computers. Running an i5 Intel processor and Windows 8 Pro (64-bit) OS you can employ touch, type, and draw (using a pressure-sensitive stylus) on a brilliant high-res screen (I wish it weren’t glossy, but I suppose that’s part of the “touch” territory) using the full array of “PC” programs, and easily connect with external devices (via the USB 3.0 port) or an external monitor, all in a two-pound unit. See an early review here.
Is this the perfect component for field work? Maybe not in its first iteration, though it certainly meets a number of thresholds. Hard drive (SSD) capacity is limited to 128GB (256GB would be better), and there’s only 4GB of RAM (actually plenty for most basic work), and the biggest question so far seems to be battery life (after all, there had to be a compromise somewhere). But the formula is really promising and I expect a lot of photographers not married to Apple will be taking a long hard look at the Surface Pro. I think it has a lot of promise.