Microsoft Surface RT - The Most Stylish Windows RT Tablet So Far

1/16/2013 6:34:25 PM

A chiseled slab of chic offering a premium experience

There’s no shortage of Windows tablets coming out at the moment, but Microsoft Surface is the one that has grabbed the most headlines. Surface is Microsoft’s own hardware, built in an attempt to create a flagship for Windows 8, and the result might just be the most desirable tablet of the year.

Microsoft Surface RT

Take one look at Surface and it’s clear straight away that this is no iPad clone. The screen is 10.6 inches rather than the iPad’s 9.7 inches, and the extra size is immediately apparent. The body is made of a magnesium alloy, which is tough and durable, and gives it a light, premium feel. The alloy is pleasantly smooth to the tough and keeps the tablet’s weight at 680g. that’s 30g more than the iPad 4, but taking into account the extra inches of screen size, it’s certainly not bad going.

Clean screen

The screen itself is a 1,366 x 768 IPS panel, which delivers clear and crisp visuals when you’re watching movies rented from Xbox Video or streaming services like Netflix. It isn’t quite as vibrant as the iPad 4’s Retina display or some of the AMOLED screens that are gracing new devices, and nor is the resolution as high as the 1080p panels in the Sony VAIO Duo 11 Asus Taichi. However, the result is a more reasonable price tag, with the 32GB model available for just $599.

This first Surface tablet runs Windows RT, which means it uses the same type of processor that powers smartphones and tablets such as the iPad. They offer long battery life, allow lightweight designs and are economical, but there’s a trade-off. You can’t run standard Windows desktop software, as it’s not designed to work with this version of the OS.

Any app on Surface must come from the Windows Store, in the same way iPad apps come via iTunes. The Windows Store is still in its infancy but growing exponentially and already features most of the top apps. Additionally, Microsoft includes a full version of Microsoft Office with Surface, which makes it a powerful tool for work straight out of the box.

Light but strong

Microsoft has announced its intention that no one should be forced to carry a tablet and a laptop, enduring the weight and bulk of two devices that should do the same job. Surface attempts to bridge that gap with the nifty Touch cover,  lightweight detachable keyboard that turns it from a tablet to a laptop, for $120 (when bought together with Surface).

Light but strong

Light but strong

The cover feels incredibly lightweight, having the texture of a designer egg-box, with a texture coating that’s soft to the touch. However, it’s exceptionally strong and when attached with magnetic contacts, which snap to the bottom with surprising force, it springs into life with an astounding array of great functionality. Unlike iPad equivalents, the keyboard has a mouse trackpad for when you need to use the traditional Windows interface.

Using the Touch cover takes some getting used to. There’s no tactile feedback from the keys, as they’re essentially just letters on a comfortable pad, and at the beginning we regularly mis-pressed, making typing laborious. However, things got easier and, while working on long documents is less than comfortable, making quick edits was easy. That doesn’t mean, however, that Surface isn’t suitable for work.

The Type cover is an optional extra with tactile keys, and is designed for people who use Surface for work, and can be bought for $165. It’s the best portable keyboard we’ve ever used, with large spacious keys that make typing easy, and is a must have for anyone who envisages typing on their Surface for extended periods.

When not in use, both covers slip over the tablet’s screen to protect it. It’s a solution that works superbly and looks stylish. In fact, the only worry is how easily the soft finish will clean up after dirt and scrapes take their toll.

High styling

This slate’s power is provided by an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, which is a fixture of big-name tablets, such as the Asus Nexus 7. It handled everything we threw at the Surface with ease, enabling us to switch between some intensive apps without slowdown.

Despite the power on hand, battery life was absolutely staggering. We looped HD video for seven and a half hours before the battery died, which is a phenomenal result and one of the best tablet battery scores we’ve seen.

Microsoft Surface RT back

Microsoft Surface RT back

Elsewhere there’s 2GB of memory, which may seem low compared to the Ultrabooks hitting the market, but this is far is excess of most Android and iPad tablets. There is also a 64GB model which has plenty of room for storing movie, photos and apps.

Connectivity is excellent, which is another trump card that Microsoft’s own tablet holds over the likes of the iPad. There’s Micro HMDI for connecting to external displays and USB for peripherals and USB sticks, which means you can add your own keyboard and mouse, turning the tablet you played games with on the train into a desktop workstation. That’s not all – there’s a micro SD slot tucked under the kickstand, which could increase storage by up to 64GB. To put that in context, a 32GB Surface can be expanded to 100GB, for the same price as a 16GB iPad.

As well as value and storage, Surface scores highly in the style stakes. Its modern design and chiseled looks make you want to pick it up and use it as soon as you see it. Add a funky coloured keyboard cover and you’ve got a seriously sexy combination.

Microsoft has come out swinging with its first tablet, and Surface is undoubtedly the most stylish and best value Windows RT tablet we’ve seen so far.

Vital Statistics

·         Price: $599

·         Manufacturer: Microsoft

·         Web:

·         CPU: Quad-core Nvidia Tegra 2

·         RAM: 2GB

·         Screen size: 10.6-inch (1,366 x 768)

·         Storage: 32GB

·         Weight: 680g


·         Features: 8/10

·         Performance: 7/10

·         Value: 8/10


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