Microsoft’s 2017 Surface Pro and the law of diminishing returns

Posted:  September 26, 2017   By:    8 comments   


The law of diminishing returns

For the last two weeks, I’ve been using Acer’s Switch 5 as my daily driver. It’s got a lot in common with Microsoft’s Surface Pro with the biggest differentiating factor being its price tag. The Switch 5 I have here comes with an Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage and it’s priced at RM3,999.

If we were to spec a 2017 Surface Pro like that, you’re looking at a price tag of RM5,899 or RM6,568 if you want a Type Cover, which you do. And we haven’t even included the cost of a Surface Pen (RM299) where Acer also bundles a stylus with the Switch 5.

For a premium of about RM3,000, what are you getting with the Surface Pro that you don’t get with the Switch 5?

Picking them both up, weight is the most obvious difference. The Surface Pro is significantly lighter than the Switch 5 — almost comically so — while also feeling more premium in the hand. Its fit and finish is simply something the Switch 5 can’t match. While Acer’s offering feels like an off-the-shelf OEM design, the Surface Pro feels like a precisely engineered marvel.

Speakers, would be the next big difference. Surface Pro speakers have always been pretty good and Microsoft says this new one is even better. Though I can’t personally confirm how much better the Surface Pros speakers are because I didn’t get a chance to test them, I can say that it will take some effort for any device’s speakers to sound worse than the Switch 5’s.

And lastly, if the Surface Pro’s battery life is anywhere near its quoted time of 13.5 hours, it will be miles better than the Switch 5, of which I only managed about 5 hours of usage on a single charge.

Besides that, I really didn’t find anything else that I’d call a clear win for the Surface Pro, at least, based on my first impressions. The new hinge is arguable because while the Surface Pro’s kickstand is much sturdier, I like the Switch 5’s auto-retracting kickstand — at least for my workload. Their displays are also pretty comparable.

Oh, and that RM669 Type Cover? I actually prefer the typing experience on the Switch 5’s bundled keyboard better (though I like that Microsoft didn’t put the Page Up and Page Down keys right above the arrow keys). I think Acer’s keyboard has a more satisfying click to it.

So is the Surface Pro worth the RM3,000 premium over Acer’s Switch 5? For me, that’s a big fat no. But is the Surface Pro a better laptop than the Switch 5? Absolutely…well, except for the lack of USB C. The way I see it, you’re really paying for the little things here — weight reduction and battery life — and if you have the cash to burn, then yes, go for the Surface Pro. If you’re on a budget, from my personal experience, the Switch 5 can do pretty much everything the Surface Pro can just as well.


Microsoft, Mobile Devices, Mobile OS, Windows 10
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8 Comments for Microsoft’s 2017 Surface Pro and the law of diminishing returns

JohnW

I think the battery life and weight really do plays a big role in determining the winner here. I’ve been using the Surface Pro 3 for months, and my only complain with it is only the battery life. The reason someone would wanna get a tablet is simply because of the convenient it offer, definitely preferred to be light and with good battery life so that you could easily leave the power brick at home. Not to mention the Windows 10 experience is swift with the Surface.

However, with the launch of the Surface Pro 4, it is simply unforgiving that they didn’t include the pen with it anymore, yet raising the price for both the device and keyboard. The keyboard should have come with it if they didn’t have the pen.

As for USB Type C, it shouldn’t be a big deal. This is largely because USB C still uncommon with most PC peripheral devices. If they add in USB C, then it would have been a bonus for all. But if they simply replace it, then it would cause pain to all users, just like the Macbook.

    Rory Lee

    I agree that those are nice bonuses, especially when it's a device you carry every day. However, the point I'm trying to make is that at a premium of about RM3,000, that's a luxury not many can afford. In the grand scheme of things, the more affordable device can give you nearly the complete experience for a fraction of the cost, hence the law of diminishing returns. Regarding USB C, I'm also not saying that they should only use USB C, I'm saying that they should have added at least one USB C port. After all, if it's done right, that is an incredibly versatile port.

      flagsheep

      portability may not be just a nice bonus for a portable device?
      same goes for batter life. state of the art tablet without battery power is just an expensive paper weight.
      besides it has always been the case that slimmer and light notebook always cost more…

      on the other side, your so call USB C is a nice to have. there is no need to spend so many words on it.

      LIEN WEE HOO

      They are targeting professional and enterprise, not average users.
      I believe under business decision, USB-C is just a nice-to-have, but not a must-have feature.

        Greg

        Professional people don’t use USB C? Then Lenovo, Dell and Apple must be targeting millennials by your logic. Have you heard of external GPU or Thunderbolt 3? Maybe you think too highly of yourself as a professional.

          John

          No professional in the world uses an external GPU… and a fraction of home users haven't even heard of "external GPU". USB-C isn't accepted yet to the extent where people commonly use it for peripherals, etc.

          Find me an office environment where working professionals with their docking stations, pendrives, etc. come in USB-C. It's unfortunate, but enterprise is still using legacy USB.

          Before talking about Thunderbolt 3, educate the average consumer about the differences between normal USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. You have no idea how many people this confuses and who think it's the same. At the same time, educate people about USB-C charging so that they don't ask questions why their high-powered laptop isn't charging properly through USB-C when using a normal phone charger with a USB-C cable attached.

          LIEN WEE HOO

          How many thumb drive with USB-C you see in the market? Somewhere. How many USB-A u can find? Everywhere. This explained it all.

YKK

Finding an alternative to Surface’s original docking station is difficult with only USB-3. USB-C is easier.

Didn’t have good experience after receiving a unit last week. Occasionally getting stuck in Egde using touch but mouse cursor works, weird.

The touchpad + cursor make me forget that you have a Touch screen. Many other desktop operations, still work better using cursor.

Need sometime to adjust.