Windows Surface Pro in the Classroom – part PC, part Tablet

Pictured here with a keyboard cover that is an additional purchase.
Pictured here with a keyboard cover that is an additional purchase.

A previous post explored the Windows Surface RT as a classroom tablet. More recently, the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet / computer is now making its way into stores. Tablet and PC choices for the classroom continue to grow with Microsoft now entering into the fray. However if you think the Surface Pro is merely a spec bump from its Surface RT sibling, take a look at some of the important factors inherent with this tablet PC.


1. It is a PC. The Surface Pro runs a full version of Windows 8 and for teachers and students who want to access and install all the programs that they would normally use on their Windows 8 desktop PC or laptop, the Surface Pro will be able accommodate this need. This is great for schools and school districts who have already invested in Windows software titles. Furthermore, with a touchscreen you now take full advantage of the new Windows 8 metro-style desktop which is designed for a touch interface. The USB 3.0 port will offer the expandability that we have come to expect from our computers, allowing for the easy connection of peripherals, storage, hubs, etc.

However offering a PC experience on a tablet requires some compromises to the tablet experience.

2. Battery life is limited. Tablet owners are used to achieving 8 to 10 hours of battery life on their respective mobile devices. However with the Surface Pro offering the functionality and performance of a full Windows PC, the battery life inevitably takes a hit. There are reports of 3-4 hours of Surface Pro use from a fully charged battery. This becomes a significant factor for schools and classrooms who anticipate using these devices over the course of a school day.

Micro SDXC slot provides the option to quickly expand storage on the Surface Pro.
Micro SDXC slot provides the option to quickly expand storage on the Surface Pro.

3. Windows 8 takes up drive space. Early reviews reported that the 64GB and 128GB capacities of the Surface Pro actually offered 23GB and 85GB of usable storage respectively. Not surprising if we think about these devices as PCs housing a full operating system rather than your typical tablet or mobile device. Once more, it is something for schools to carefully consider when assessing the potential purpose and use of this technology. Having said that, the presence of a mini SDXC card slot and USB 3.0 port provide solid options to expand the storage on your Surface Pro.

So what does this all mean? Basically, if teachers and administrators are considering the Surface Pro, we need to weigh in the benefits and compromises that this hardware offers with a full Windows 8 operating system. Is the device appropriate for the age and ability of your students? What types of tasks do you hope to have students complete with this hardware?Are there additional peripherals (keyboard, external drive), accessories (cases, covers) and support (wireless access, training) that you will require for this device?

In the end, choice is a great thing and the Surface Pro provides another compelling choice for schools and classrooms. If you are curious about other Windows 8 hardware offerings have a look at these options:

1. Surface RT – similar form factor to the Pro but runs on a mobile Windows operating system that does not offer a full Windows 8 experience.
2. Acer Iconia W5 – a series of Windows 8 tablets complete with keyboard dock
3. Asus VivoBook – a series of touch screen Windows 8 laptops from Asus