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Microsoft Surface RT vs. Microsoft Surface Pro

Microsoft Surface RT vs ProIn less than a month, Microsoft will begin selling its new Surface Pro tablet. Performance-wise, the tablet will sit on par with most of today’s competition while simultaneously offering some benefits of a laptop. However, unlike the current crop of Surface RT tablets, which start at $500, the Surface Pro will start at $900. To the untrained eye, the price difference may seem baffling, but the truth is both tablets vary wildly in specification and features. Below, we highlight a few of their main differences.

Processor

Microsoft Surface RT tablets were designed to go head-to-head with the legions of tablets on the market today. Originally called “Windows on ARM,” these tablets are built around the ARM processor. As a result, Surface RT tablets won’t provide the same breakneck speeds you’ve come to expect from a modern-day laptop. By comparison, Surface Pro tablets are made from the same DNA as today’s laptops and Ultrabooks. They use Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, which provides enough horsepower to work with processor-intensive programs like Photoshop.

Screen resolution

While both Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets rely on 10.6-inch touchscreens, the RT uses a ClearType HD Display (1366 x 768 pixels), whereas the Pro boasts a ClearType Full HD Display (1920 x 1080 pixels). In addition, the Surface Pro features 10-point multi-touch support, meaning the screen can register all ten of your fingers on the display simultaneously. The Surface RT maxes out at 5-point multitouch support.

Software

Although it may look like both tablets run the same operating system, they’re actually running distinct versions of Windows 8. Surface RT tablets run a limited, tablet version of Windows 8 that only supports apps available through the new Windows Store. Users will not be able to run third-party apps until developers create a Surface RT-compatible version of said app. However, since Surface Pro tablets are built around Intel CPUs, they’re able to run the full Windows 8 operating system, meaning these tablets will support any new Windows Store apps in addition to any legacy apps or Windows 7 programs. It’s also worth noting that Surface RT tablets come with a mobile version of Microsoft’s Office suite, which gives users the basic (but not all) functionality of the desktop version. Surface Pro tablets don’t come with Office pre-installed, but they have the brawn to run the full program and not just the basic version.

Battery

Battery life is of utmost importance in any mobile device, and because Surface RT tablets run power-efficient ARM processors, they can provide more battery life than the Surface Pro. In fact, despite featuring a smaller 31.5Wh battery, our Surface RT tablet provided between 8 to 9 hours of battery life. Meanwhile, Microsoft has confirmed that Surface Pro tablets (with their bigger 42Wh batteries) will only provide half the battery life of Surface RT tablets.

Price

Surface RT tablets start at $500 and top out at $700 with all the bells and whistles. Surface Pro tablets, on the other hand, will start at $900, putting them at a higher price point than many of today’s mainstream tablets and almost on par with some premium Ultrabooks. 

Surface RT or Surface Pro?

Ultimately, the major difference between Surface RT and Surface Pro is power. The Surface Pro was designed to provide the best of the tablet and laptop worlds with little to no compromises, whereas Surface RT was designed more for the casual tablet user.

In the end, your purchasing decision should be based on how you plan to use your Surface device and how much you’re willing to spend. Either way, Microsoft is fully committed to both platforms, and both devices will only improve as more apps are built for them.