Microsoft Surface Pro

Tablets for government: Surface Pro from Microsoft

The tablet has become an integral part of the mobile plans of many agencies, complementing and, in  some cases, even replacing laptop and desktop PCs. Different models of tablets have different strength and weaknesses, and which one is right for your agencies depends on your own needs. This week, we take a close look at five popular tablets and what they offer agencies.

What we considered

Battery life

How long will it last when unplugged from a power source? Are optional spare batteries easily removable and replaceable?

Processing power

Does it have a powerful processor and enough memory to open large documents, use high-performance apps or run multiple programs at the same time?

Security features

What kind of authentication is available? Are there FIPS-certified encrypted drive spaces or secure containers for BYOD users?


If it’s designed to be rugged, how rugged is it? Can it pass MIL-STD 810G tests for temperature, shock, liquid and particle intrusion?

The Surface Pro from Microsoft could be a popular choice among government IT administrators, given its large, clear display and processing power. But the larger size and weight of this device might make it less popular among some end users. Its price starts at $899 for 64G versions, $999 for 128G and a just-released 256G version for $1,200.

What works for government agencies

The Surface Pro’s 10.6-inch ClearType HD wide-screen 10-point multi-touch display is nice and bright, though there are some visibility problems in indirect sunlight or brighter environments. The keyboard cover that came with the model we tested snaps into place, and when combined with the built-in “kickstand,” it provides a pretty close approximation to a notebook or desktop experience.

The Intel Core i5 processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000 and 4G of memory is a powerful combination, making the Surface faster than tablets that rely on the lower power Atom Z2760. We were able to open and run multiple apps without any noticeable sign of lagging, allowing an agency user to multitask effectively.
The Surface Pro had a decent number of accessory ports, including a full-size USB 3.0 port, a Micro-SDXC card reader and a MiniDisplay port. The power adapter also has a full-sized USB port, which lets users charge another device at the same time.

What might not work for government agencies

The Surface Pro does come with some security features. For instance Windows 8 Pro’s built-in BitLocker feature can encrypt the Surface Pro’s hard drive. However, there are no hardware-based security features, as some agencies may require.

And as might be expected of a device with a powerful processor and the ability to run multiple apps, battery life can suffer with heavy use.

Like the keyboard cover port, the power adapter port is magnetic, which can be a safety bonus in some situations. However, that port is also where the pen device is stored. So users can’t charge the tablet while storing the pen. Those who need to be able to recharge while on the go might end up losing the pen.

Probably the biggest issue users might have with Microsoft Surface Pro is the weight. Two pounds might not seem like a lot, but after holding it for more than five minutes, users will feel it, and they probably won’t like it. This might eliminate the Surface Pro from consideration from certain types of jobs, such as certain medical environments, but it should work well in places such as the classroom.

MORE: 5 tablets for government

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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Reader Comments

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 DL MD

One of the other issues is that with the Surface Pro's wireless adapter cannot connect to WiFi that is running in FIPS mode. This is a major hurdle for us. Also, is there an issue with TAA compliance?

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 Paul

Using a Microsoft operating system is the largest flaw and mistake that can ever be made. The government needs to practice what they preach. Fair competition, they preach it all the time, yet never give anyone but Microsoft the inside scoop. Worries me greatly.

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