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Surface Pro storage space in short supply

Microsoft's lowest-priced Windows 8 tablet offers just 23GB for software, customer content

January 30, 2013 04:20 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft's low-end Surface Pro tablet, slated to start shipping Feb. 9, sports just 23GB of free storage space out of the box, Microsoft confirmed today.

The 64GB Surface Pro, which will sell for $899, uses more than 60% of its flash memory for the Windows 8 Pro operating system, a Windows recovery partition, and associated software, including a raft of what were once called "Metro" apps like Mail, SkyDrive and Xbox Music.

The $999 128GB Surface Pro will report 83GB of free space when customers first switch on the tablet, Microsoft said.

The Verge first reported the Surface Pro's available space on Tuesday, citing a Microsoft spokesperson. Microsoft confirmed those numbers to Computerworld.

The shortage of free space on the Surface Pro is reminiscent of the discovery last year after the debut of the less-expensive Surface RT tablet that its out-of-box storage readings were lower than many expected: Just 16GB on a 32GB model, 46GB on the 64GB configuration.

(The difference in free space on the 64GB Surface Pro and 64GB Surface RT -- 23GB, with the former getting the short end of the stick -- is due to the larger footprint of the Windows 8 Pro operating system compared to the relatively lightweight Windows RT.)

Add Office 2013 to a Surface Pro, as many owners will likely do -- Microsoft has pitched the Pro largely on the merit of being able to run "legacy" Windows applications, and Office is, by far, the most-used such application -- and the free space falls to the 20GB mark. According to Office 2013's system requirements, the suite demands 3GB of storage space on Windows.

The Surface Pro's available storage space is much smaller than one rival: Apple's MacBook Air notebook. Although Apple does not publicize the amount of space on a new 64GB or 128GB 11-in. MacBook Air, users on the company's support forums have come up approximations of 46GB for the former and 116GB for the latter. If accurate, it would mean a 128GB MacBook Air has 40% more available space than the top-end Surface Pro.

Both the Surface Pro and MacBook Air rely on NAND flash memory storage, and while the Air is a notebook by definition, most analysts have stressed that the Surface Pro should be compared with an "ultrabook," Intel's brand name for thin, lightweight laptops, on everything from price to functionality.

Microsoft's Surface Pro stacks up even poorer to an Apple's iPad, of course, because of the significant differences in the size and power of their respective operating systems. A 64GB iPad, which lists for $699, reports approximately 57GB free, for example. Apple's just-introduced $799 128GB iPad, which will hit stores Feb. 5, should show 121GB free, or 46% more than the similarly-configured Surface Pro, if the model with half that storage space is any guide.

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