Microsoft has recently been causing a stir with tantalizing previews of their upcoming Surface Pro tablet. Purportedly overcoming all the drawbacks of the original Surface that launched only a short time ago, the Pro is aimed at an altogether more professional and business-savvy audience. This is exactly the same market that Lenovo has put their sights on for their IdeaPad line. In this article, we’ll pit them head-to-head: with some surprising results.
The Surface Pro is, according to CNET, due to arrive in “a matter of weeks”. It is a statement that has been confirmed by Panos Panay, General Manager of Microsoft’s Surface products, via Twitter. The Pro will be available in two versions, both priced sub-$1000 – a key pricing target for ultrabook manufacturers (one of the specifications prescribed by Intel at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year).
On the other hand, Lenovo’s Yoga – the 11S variant of which is due to launch in a few weeks (post- CES announcement) – is a more traditional laptop/tablet hybrid ultrabook and comes with a higher price tag for the base model (just shy of £1,000: approximately $1,595). The 13-inch model sports similar hardware to the Pro, but which should we anticipate more eagerly?
Both the Surface Pro and the IdeaPad Yoga will run Windows 8, but they’ll be using slightly different versions. The little brother of the Yoga line (the 11S) will run the stripped-down, super-optimized Windows RT (tying you into Microsoft’s Velcro-like ecosystem), but the Yoga 13 uses full-blown Windows 8. That means you can install applications to your heart’s content.
The Surface Pro, in the meantime, will run ‘Windows 8 Pro’, allowing it to “integrate nicely with existing enterprise management infrastructure,” according to Microsoft. Other than this, there’s little to differentiate its offering from Lenovo’s. It’s worth being aware of all your options though: if you’re not interested in using the high-level business functions of either device, there’ll be a Windows RT alternative waiting in the wings.
Both devices display spectacular attention to detail. As we might expect from ultra-compacts, they’re both hewn from the finest materials (VaporMg for the Surface Pro; bright, vibrant magnesium from Lenovo). The Lenovo is more eye-catching, for sure, and it’s impossible not to admire the beautifully integrated hinge system. As a hybrid, the Yoga is thicker and heavier than the Surface Pro, but the physical keyboard feels a lot more natural to type with than the Surface’s (arguably great) keyboard case.
Under the hood, things get a lot more exciting. The Surface Pro will ship with either 64GB or 128GB of storage, Intel Ivy Bridge i5 processors, a 10.6” ClearType Full HD Display (at 1920×1080) and a Mini DisplayPort capable of driving another 2560×1440 external display, twin 720p cameras, USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 4.0 (allowing for low-energy connections to be made on-the-fly at a significantly greater pace than the Bluetooth 3.0).
The Yoga, on the other hand, boasts a 1600×900 pixel display, a 64-bit i5 Ivy Bridge processor and Intel Graphics 4000 chipset (vital for any graphically-intensive applications, such as games or 3D modeling software). There’s 128GB solid-state drive as standard, with USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports. The battery life? Apparently 8 hours. The LCD screen carries ten-point touch responsiveness, which makes the laptop ideal for complex or multi-person operation. It’s arguably better than the stylus that comes attached to the Surface Pro.
It’s very difficult to differentiate between these devices based on hardware. Both offer a fantastic set of components, and a similarly slick experience on Windows’ latest OS. For business users, it’s hard not to recommend the Pro, but the extra graphics punch in the Yoga pushes over and above for the average consumer. Its physical keyboard is a godsend too: typing on anything less responsive than a physical keyboard can quickly become wearisome.
Which would we recommend? For business users who don’t need to type a great deal, the Surface Pro is hard to ignore. It offers a fluid Windows 8 experience, a huge number of connectivity options (including that potentially productivity-boosting external display link via Mini DisplayPort) and plenty of storage for documents and the like. However, much of this won’t fuss the average consumer. If photo editing, document-writing and 3D applications are on your must-do list, you’re much better of plumping for the device with more grunts: that’s the Lenovo ultrabook.