Talking tech since 2003

Today, news circulated tech sites that Best Buy was offering a pretty amazing deal this weekend: the original Surface Pro, which only came out roughly a year ago, is on offer for $500. That’s a $400 discount from its regular retail price of $900. For those who’ve been looking to get into tablet PCs, this might be the opportunity they’ve been waiting for.

But while $500 for a $900 computer—a computer with a solid processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128 GB solid-state hard drive, mind you—sounds like a great deal, things are not all they seem.

So is it really the Best Buy?

A post on CNET about the sale points out—quite helpfully—that Microsoft itself sells this exact model of Surface Pro for a regular price of $599, only a hundred dollars more than Best Buy’s two-day sale price. And neither deal includes a Touch or Type Cover, which cost run between $80 and $130. Quite frankly, a Surface without a keyboard cover is only half the computer it’s meant to be.

And there’s more. As cool as the Surface Pro was, Microsoft’s real achievement came in the Surface Pro 2—a tablet PC that offers everything the original did, plus a more lap-friendly kickstand and a longer battery life. The Pro 2 is selling out in retailers all over, and represents the company actually realizing the potential of Windows 8. Of course, then we’re back to the question of cost: the 128 GB version will set you back a thousand bucks, and one with half the hard drive space is only a hundred dollars cheaper. And, again, no keyboards included.

So then we come to what I did when I lamented the fact that I couldn’t afford a slick Surface: I bought a Dell Latitude 10. At roughly fifty dollars more than the Best Buy sale this weekend, it has half the RAM and half the hard-drive space—but its Intel Atom processor gives you a much longer battery life. Moreover, Dell even has a keyboard solution, made by Targus. I have this case, and while it doesn’t have the ‘wow’ factor of the Surface’s Touch and Type cases, it gets the job done very well, with an actual, full keyboard at a fraction of the price. And the Latitude 10 also features Wacom Stylus support (though, yes, the Wacom Stylus is a separate purchase).

My verdict

All of this is to say that while the Surface Pro sale this weekend sounds pretty tempting, it still might be tough to justify in the face of 1) Microsoft’s regular pricing, 2) the Surface Pro 2’s many improvements, and 3) Dell’s cheaper, extremely reliable alternative. That doesn’t mean I’m not still kind of salivating over the prospect of grabbing the Surface Pro today or tomorrow; I love me some discounts, sometimes just for the sake of discounts alone. But chances are good I’ll resist. Will you do the same?

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