Why Microsoft's Surface Pro Can't Replace Your Laptop


Microsoft's upcoming Surface Pro tablet is being given a daunting task: present a viable alternative to laptops and Apple iPads for business users in need of productivity devices. The device is hoping to do this with a price point that sits between iPads and high-end laptops including MacBooks.

Unfortunately for prospective buyers that were hoping to ditch their laptops for the software giant's tablet, they may be in store for an unpleasant surprise.

Now with 64% less space!
In an official statement to Engadget, Microsoft has now confirmed that the actual amount of free space available on the entry-level $899 Surface Pro will be just 23 GB of storage right out of the box, a whole 41 GB less than its advertised 64 GB of storage. That's also approximately the same deficit that the higher-end 128 GB model that costs $999 will see, with only 83 GB of free space from the get-go.

In fairness, all gadgets have less free space than advertised, since formatted capacity is always less and the operating system and first-party apps inevitably take up some space. The difference is that in most competing gadgets that usually amounts to a handful of gigabytes, not up to 64% of advertised storage.

This exact issue arose in October when the company launched its Surface RT and some users found out the hard way that those entry-level 32 GB models that cost the same as a 16 GB iPad didn't actually have twice the capacity. One such user happened to be a lawyer, and as lawyers tend to do, he sued for false advertising and unfair business practices.



Advertised Storage

Free Space Out of Box

Free Space Percentage

Surface RT


32 GB

16 GB


Surface RT


64 GB

45 GB


Surface Pro


64 GB

23 GB


Surface Pro


128 GB

83 GB


Sources: Microsoft and Microsoft statement to Engadget.

Windows RT and bundled apps take between 16 GB and 19 GB of space, depending on which model, while Windows 8 Pro gobbles up 41 GB to 45 GB. That's particularly hard to swallow for the $899 Surface Pro model in particular, as users only have 36% of advertised storage to call their own for content.

Microsoft's unhelpful suggestion is to use the device's USB 3.0 port to expand its storage capabilities with external hard drives and flash drives, which is not only inconvenient but decidedly less mobile and potentially costly.

Raining on Mr. Softy's parade
This comes just as Apple has added a new 128 GB option to its full-sized iPad lineup, in part to position it as a productivity device for business users willing to pay for more capacity if their work depends on it. Apple's move, while seemingly insignificant, appears to be aimed squarely at Surface Pro, since the new high-capacity iPad will be available just days before Surface Pro launches.


Advertised Storage





iPad with Retina display

64 GB / 128 GB

$699 / $799


Apple A6X

Now / Feb. 5

Surface Pro

64 GB / 128 GB

$899 / $999


Intel Core i5

Feb. 9

Sources: Apple and Microsoft.

The iPad undercuts the Surface Pro price points by $200, and that's before factoring in the storage shortages inherent in Microsoft's tablet. One differentiator in Microsoft's favor is that Surface Pro supports legacy Windows apps, which makes it easier for enterprise customers to use existing software.

Sources: Apple and Microsoft. Images not shown to scale. Surface Pro (top) vs. iPad (below).

Apple's positioning of the 128 GB iPad as a business device is readily apparent in its press release, making numerous references to business uses. The iPad makes a "significant impact on business" with almost all Fortune 500 companies testing or deploying the device. Apple mentions Autodesk's AutoCAD several times and the large files it uses. This was clearly a move for the benefit of the enterprise market and to the detriment of Surface Pro.

Business customers aren't going to be thrilled when they find out how little of their critical work data they can carry around with the Surface Pro.

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The article Why Microsoft's Surface Pro Can't Replace Your Laptop originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Intel, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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