Microsoft Surface Pro
The iFixit team delved deep into Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet only to find that the machine is barely repairable. Microsoft

Microsoft is preparing to launch the Windows 8 version of its first self-branded tablet, the Surface Pro, offering what could be the most PC-oriented slate to hit the market. The Redmond, Wash.-based company has yet to specify a release date beyond January 2013 but clues are pointing to a launch in the near future.

At the end of December, Microsoft submitted a tablet labeled 1514 to the FCC for approval. While the company did not explicitly say this is the Surface Pro, the device was described in the filing as running the Windows 8 software. It’s also worth noting that the current Surface tablet appeared in the FCC as running on Windows RT with the numerical label 1516—just two digits away from the Microsoft tablet that’s yet to launch.

There’s no doubt that the Surface Pro will arrive in due time, but what exactly separates it from the current device? For Microsoft fans looking to do some tablet shopping, here are the key factors that differentiate the Surface from the Surface Pro.

Operating system. The most significant difference between the Surface and the Surface Pro is the software each tablet operates on. Microsoft’s first Surface tablet, which debuted in late October, features Windows RT. This version of Windows is essentially the mobile edition of Microsoft’s software for tablets only. This means that Windows RT operates in a completely mobile environment and only runs apps in the Windows Store and its native software. Windows 8 and Windows RT look almost completely identical, but users cannot run any third party apps on Windows RT. As a result, those looking for a tablet to act as their primary device might want to choose the pricier Surface Pro. It runs Windows 8, which means users will be able to download software that is made for a desktop environment and won’t be restricted to mobile-oriented apps.

Price. The Surface Pro will start at $899, while the Surface for Windows RT begins at $499. This is a stark difference, but the Pro does come with more powerful specs than its predecessor.

Dimensions. Both tablets are fairly similar in terms of their dimensions, but due to its heftier specs the Surface Pro is a bit thicker. The Surface for Windows RT and the Surface Pro both feature dimensions of 275 x 172mm, but the latter is 13.5mm thick compared to the Surface’s 9.5mm thick body. To no surprise, this means that the Pro is also heavier, weighing in at about two pounds.

Specs. We’ve mentioned that the Surface Pro comes with more powerful specs, and that may be evident more than ever in its processor. This higher-end version of Microsoft’s tablet comes with Intel’s Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor, enabling it to provide 64-bit computing rather than the Surface RT, which is a 32-bit device.

In addition, the Pro also comes with a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels while the Surface RT only uses a 1366 x 768 resolution. Both have an aspect ratio of 16:9, but the Surface Pro offers 10-point multi-touch unlike the original Surface’s five-point.

The higher end version of the tablet also boasts more storage space, and just like the Surface RT users have two options to choose from. Buyers can opt for the 64 GB or 128GB of the Pro, while the Surface RT is only available in 32GB or 64GB. These are the standard storage space options for most 10-inch tables on the market. All models of the Surface, including both RT and Pro, come with a microSDXC card slot for additional storage and a full-size USB port on either side. Both tablets also come with Bluetooth 4.0, a headphone jack and a 2x2 multiple input multiple output antennae for 802.11 Wi-Fi as well.

When it comes to connectivity, the only difference between the two variants is that the Surface RT’s USB port is version 2.0 while the Pro’s is 3.0.In addition, the Surface RT has a micro-HDMI port while the Pro has a Mini Display Port.

Battery. Power consumption and battery life is crucial for any device, especially one heavily targeted toward enterprise users such as the Microsoft’s Surface Pro. To power its heftier specs, the Pro features a 42Wh battery, while the Surface RT comes with a 31.5Wh battery. However, this battery may not be big enough to suit the needs of the Surface Pro, as Microsoft has already confirmed via Twitter that it will offer half the battery life of the RT.

While Microsoft’s Surface Pro could prove to be an attractive Windows 8 PC-tablet hybrid choice, it’s still entering a highly competitive and oversaturated tablet market. The Windows maker has already had trouble pushing out units of its Surface for RT, with some critics claiming that the tablet is overpriced.While we believe that the Surface Pro is a bit too pricey to really make a splash in the tablet market, we're interested to see how it fares against competitors.