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

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.

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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.