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Alternatives to Microsoft's Surface Pro: Affordable Slates and Ultraportables

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By , dealnews Senior Feature Writer

Microsoft's big moment has arrived. As promised back in October, the company has now announced that its Surface Pro tablets will be available on February 9 at a starting price of $899 (for the 64GB configuration).

Unlike last year's Surface RT tablets, which all run ARM processors, Surface Pro tablets will feature the latest Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 processors, and they'll be able to run existing Windows programs in addition to new programs designed for Windows 8. (Surface RT tablets, by comparison, can only run the latter.) In other words, these new tablets make no compromise; they're built to offer the best of both the tablet and laptop world.

So while we wait for the Surface Pro's first reviews to arrive, we here at dealnews couldn't help but wonder what other laptops you could buy for $899 (especially at a time when Ivy Bridge laptop deals are particularly low). So we've rounded up a few noteworthy systems that while not always hybrids, offer a lot of value for your dollar.

  • Apple MacBook Air Intel Core i5 1.6GHz 11.6" LED-Backlit Laptop
    Store: MacConnection
    Price: $699.99 with free shipping
    Savings vs. Surface Pro: $199

    Why You'd Want It: The 2011 MacBook Air is hands down one of the best ultraportables ever made. While it doesn't offer any tablet-like functionality, it's light enough (2.4 lbs.) to take anywhere and despite packing a year-old Sandy Bridge CPU, it still offers enough punch to get most tasks done without a skip. In fact, its combination of size and power earned it a 4-star CNET rating. Sure, it's limited to 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD, but at $199 less than the entry-level Surface Pro, we aren't one to complain.

  • Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 NVIDIA Tegra 3 1.4GHz 11.6" Convertible Touchscreen Laptop
    Store: Lenovo
    Price: $699 via coupon code "YOGA11DEAL" with free shipping
    Savings vs. Surface Pro: $200

    Why You'd Want It?: Before the Surface Pro can win over the public, it'll have to compete with its own lineage, particularly against the Surface RT line of tablets. One entrant we think will be tough to beat is the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11. The 2.8-lb. hybrid features an 11.6" 1366x768 display that flips backwards a full 360-degrees, transforming the Yoga from an 11" laptop to an 11" slate. Powering this 0.61"-thick laptop hybrid is an NVIDIA Tegra 3 1.4GHz quad-core processor. It comes with a hefty $699 price tag, but compare that to the Surface Pro's $899 price and we'll stick with the Yoga 11.

  • ASUS VivoBook Intel Ivy Bridge Core i3 11.6" Touchscreen Laptop
    Store: Microsoft Store
    Price: $499 with free shipping
    Savings vs. Surface Pro: $400

    Why You'd Want It?: While many manufacturers are experimenting with laptop/tablet hybrids, ASUS' VivoBook is sticking to its roots. However, this is no ordinary laptop as it features an 11.6" 1366x768 touchscreen, which Laptop says "provides a solid Windows 8 touch experience in a lightweight design." And at $499, it's the cheapest Windows 8 laptop with touch capabilities we've seen (and significantly cheaper than any of the Surface Tablets).

  • HP ENVY x2 11-g010nr Intel Atom 1.8GHz 11.6" LED-Backlit Convertible Touchscreen Laptop
    Store: Office Depot
    Price: $749.99 with free shipping
    Savings vs. Surface Pro: $149

    Why You'd Want It?: From the ashes of the TouchPad comes the ENVY x2, HP's latest foray in the tablet market. But unlike the failed TouchPad which only functioned as a tablet, the ENVY x2 has the brains of a laptop, but with a detachable keyboard that lets you use it like you would a traditional notebook or tablet. While Laptop found the x2's notebook functionality a little underwhelming (thanks in part to its Atom CPU), it praised the x2's 12-hour battery life when docked with the keyboard. It's also $149 cheaper than the entry level Surface Pro.

Uphill Battle for Surface Pro

No matter how you cut it, Microsoft's Surface Pro is facing a difficult task. Not only must it compete with mainstream tablets like the Google Nexus 7 and Apple iPad, but it also has to prove it's better (and worth more money) than last year's Surface RT tablets and the latest crop of Windows 8 ultrabooks. Regardless of the industry's reviews, that won't be an easy task. But what do you think? Are you ready for an $899 Surface Pro or will you stick with your current gear? Sound off in the comments below.


An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisRamirez.

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Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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10 comments
wvunorbeey
The Microsoft Surface tablet, iPad, and every other tablet on the market now are a great offering for the average computer user that gets the shakes when they've gone too long without their Facebook status update or need to send another Cute Cat email. Short and simple-if you want a tablet get a good one (all of the above tablets are great), but pay the least amount you can for it.
The Surface Pro, though brings a little more flexibility to how the tablet will perform because it runs a full version of Windows 8 (not Windows RT). The LENOVO Yoga11" and HP ENVY [detailed above] only run Windows RT (meaning only selected APPS and no real SOFTWARE made for windows) and don't even compare to Surface Pro.
The Apple Macbook Air 11"&13", Dell XPS 12", and LENOVO Yoga 13" will run full Windows 8.
No manufacturer, including Microsoft has quite figured out the perfect combination of hardware to make a perfectly usable Windows 8 computer/tablet.
clanecks
My biggest concern is the 4 GB of RAM on Surface Pro. The primary reason I say that is because Windows have never been all that great at managing its resources. Granted, I haven't had a 4 GB computer since Windows Vista... Considering that Surface Pro is a tablet, its RAM probably cannot be upgraded by users. I'd hate to purchase a 4 GB model only to find out I really need 8 GB or more at about a year down the road.
riopato
@grumpy, it's a $900 tablet that can run adobe Photoshop with a pressure sensitive stylus. The closest thing to this type of tablet cost $2500 and that's just the monitor part which needs to tether to a pc!
riopato
Levono yoga listed in this article shouldn't be consider as an alternative to the surface pro at all and does a disservice to your readers by including it since it's like comparing the iPad as an cheaper alternative to the MacBook air. If anything, the price of the yoga is on par with the Surface and not the Surface Pro since the former is a tablet that can be used as a laptop and the latter is an ultra book that can be used as a tablet.
Bitz
Quiet poor thinking in previewing Surface Pro. If Microsoft can match the power of processor with RAM and other hardware components and Windows with programs runs fine, then it is an answer to Macs. Right now I have a tablet and have to have a laptop as well and Surface Pro seems to merge both into one. It looks very promsing for Microsoft and for Intel. The losers will be PC makers and Apple. Cost wise, my tablet and laptop cost me over $1000. In addition to less clutter, Surface Pro and copycats will offer longer battery life and great resolution versus poor laptop battery power and screen resolution. And let Apple get blinded by greed by offering managed incremental upgrade. Apple ran its course and its products are no longer magical. iPhone 5 handed Samsung's S IV and Note II another victory lap by incremental upgrade.
grumpy
Just about anything is an alternative to a $900 tablet!
hutuka
A MacBook in a Windows article, nice troll dealnews!
dberry
This article makes no sense. You admit in your article that the surface pro is running an i5 processor, and can run full windows programs, where the windows r/t can't. Yet you compare them in pricing with r/t tablets?
You are comparing apples and oranges here.The only one that you could somewhat compare would be the MB air, and that is a stretch.
Espn.360
Why is the ideapad being compared to Surface Pro? Its just a WinRT tablet.

So the real comparison must say it is twice as heavy and $200 more expensive than Surface.
clanecks
Surface pro specs at $899:
10.6 inch screen
1920 x 1080 LED
Core i5 CPU
4 GB RAM
64 GB SDD
Intel HD4000
Mini-Display port
Full size USB 3.0 (x1)
Bluetooth 4.0
SDXC reader
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