Microsoft’s Surface is its own-brand tablet, but there are two models, the Surface RT vs Surface Pro. So what are the differences between the two and which one is right for you? On the, er, surface, both tablets look pretty similar. But while they have an almost identical design, they vary wildly in specification and run different versions of Windows 8. Here, we’ll compare the specification of the two Surface tablets and highlight the differences between them.
It’s difficult to tell the difference between the Surface Pro and the RT, since they share similar dimensions – both are 275x172mm. However, with beefier components to pack in, the Surface Pro is thicker, at 13.5mm compared to 9.5mm. It’s not a surprise that the Surface Pro is also heavier, at 903g, while the RT weighs 686g.
The Surface RT starts at £399 and goes up to £559. Microsoft has announced only US pricing for the Pro, which will launch in January with prices starting at $899.
Both tablets have a 10.6in ClearType screen, designed to be used predominantly in landscape mode. Each has an aspect ratio of 16:9, but there are some differences. The main difference is resolution: the Surface RT offers 1366×768 pixels, whereas the Surface Pro has a full-HD resolution of 1920×1080. This means the Pro’s pixel density of 208ppi is greater than the 148ppi offered by the RT. Another difference is that the Surface RT supports up to five-point multitouch, while the Surface Pro offers 10-point input.
Running the tablet-specific version of Windows 8, the Surface RT is fitted with the popular nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. The Surface Pro, by comparison, has the type of hardware line-up you’d typically find in an Ultrabook.
It boasts a third-generation Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM. We don’t know the exact processor model, but it will be a dual-core chip with a clock speed of 1.7GHz and integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics.
Both Surface tablets are available with two storage capacities. The Surface RT offers 32- or 64GB, while the Surface Pro has 64- or 128GB. They each come with a microSDXC card slot for expanding this capacity, and a full-size USB port is useful for attaching an external hard drive.
There’s no difference when it comes to the cameras. Both the Surface Pro and Surface RT have 720p front and rear cameras. The rear camera is angled such that it’s level when the tablet is propped up with its kickstand.
Connectivity options are very similar for the Surface Pro and Surface RT. Both have Bluetooth 4.0, a headphone jack, a microSDXC card slot and a 2×2 Mimo antennae for 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. However, the Surface RT offers USB 2.0 and Micro HDMI, while the
Pro one-ups it with USB 3.0 and Mini DisplayPort connections.
The software each tablet runs is perhaps the most important distinction. The Pro runs the full version on Windows 8, as seen on laptops and PCs, while the Surface RT runs Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 designed for ARM processors. Operating in the tiled Modern UI, the tablets are no different; apps for this part of the operating system can be downloaded from the Windows Store. It’s in desktop mode that you’ll notice a real difference. On the Surface RT, this is merely an environment in which you can run Office and Internet Explorer, and access the Control Panel and File Explorer. On the Pro, which isn’t preinstalled with Office, you can run legacy x86 programs.
The Surface RT has a 31.5Wh battery, while the Surface Pro has a higher-capacity 42Wh pack. Despite this, the Pro offers half the battery life of the RT – Microsoft claims it runs to around four hours.
The Surface Pro is our preferred choice. The full-HD screen, extra storage, laptop-like spec and ability to install any Windows software gives it the edge.