Microsoft Surface RT - Cleverly Designed Tablet

12/30/2012 8:57:30 AM

Windows RT, the version for ARM tablets of Microsoft’s flagship OS, is finally available on a range of devices, including the company’s own Surface RT tablet.

The 10.6in screen provides a fraction more room in which to manoeuvre than the iPad, but it’s just as thin as Apple’s tablet at 9.5mm. The Surface is easy to squeeze into a bag, and it isn’t too heavy to carry, at 686g. An optional cover adds around 200g.

In contrast to the rounded iPad, the Surface has a far more angular, business-like yet sleek design.

In portrait mode, Windows 8’s tile-based interface looks odd, but held in its preferred landscape mode the Surface promotes wrist strain. This tablet is very much designed to be operated from a desk.

Microsoft Surface RT

Microsoft Surface RT

The kickstand is an important element. A bracket flicks out at the tablet’s rear, in the process revealing a microSDXC slot, but the kickstand’s rake isn’t adjustable.

Adding one of two keyboard covers creates what feels like a pint-sized laptop. These keyboards are a genius invention. The Touch Cover, just 3mm-thick with flat keys, initially feels strange in use, although you quickly get used to it. Its pressure-sensitive touchpads are fine for casual use, but serious typing demands the Type Cover. This is double the thickness, but fitted with real keys (albeit with minimal travel).

Both keyboard covers click securely into place, and you can even dangle the Surface from its cover without it hitting the ground.

The Surface RT feels like a premium product right out the box. We’d have given it a higher build- quality rating had it not been for an unseemly gap on the rear, through which the internals are on display.

The VaporMG chassis, made from injection-moulded magnesium, makes the slab strong and nice to the touch; although, within minutes, we’d tainted its absorbent finish with scores of fingerprints.


Windows RT can’t run regular x86 software, making it all but useless when faced with legacy Windows programs. It’s designed to run on ARM processors, and the Surface is fitted with a 1.3GHz nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core chip and 2GB of memory.

There’s precious little software available for Windows RT, which includes our usual benchmarking utility. Through Internet Explorer 10.0 we were able to run SunSpider, in which the Surface recorded 1,024ms in the Desktop mode and 985ms in the Modern Ul. Both scores trail the iPad’s 854ms.

From the user’s perspective the interface is extremely slick, just like Windows Phone 8. The interface animations are smooth, and tasks such as pinch-zooming in Internet Explorer are responsive.

From the user’s perspective the interface is extremely slick, just like Windows Phone 8.

From the user’s perspective the interface is extremely slick, just like Windows Phone 8.

Apps don’t launch as quickly as we’d like, though, and we were often left staring at Windows 8’s swirly dots for several seconds upon first launch - behaviour we’ve previously noted in Windows Phone 8.

At its comparable $599 price point, the 32GB Surface has twice the storage of the 16GB iPad 4. A microSDXC slot lets you add up to 64GB more. There’s also a 64GB Surface RT, which costs $839 (including the Touch keyboard).

The 1366x768 pixel count is common on 15in laptops, but on a 10.6in tablet it gives a higher 148ppi pixel density. The screen looks good at a regular viewing distance, matching the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, but it’s no Retina iPad; look closer and fuzzy edges are noticeable in reading type.

More than the usual Wi-Fi, the Surface has two antennae for better wireless performance, plus Bluetooth. There’s also a headphone jack, micro-HDMI, full-sized USB, and a keyboard dock and charging port. Note that the Surface won’t charge over USB, although this port accepts a range of peripherals.

Our experience of battery life bemused us. We started the day with a full charge, and used the tablet for 90 mins while shooting our video review (, and 30 minutes browsing the web. The next day the battery was flat. Microsoft touts a seven- to 15-day idle runtime.

Soft where?

Most interactaction is via the touchy Modern Ul with its tiled design. Learn all the finger gestures and it’s a breeze to navigate.

Microsoft Surface RT Review

Microsoft Surface RT Review

One handy feature is the ability to configure multiple user accounts. Logging into the tablet with our Windows Live account instantly populated the tablet with our contacts, email and calendar. The Store lets you buy apps, although many everyday utilities, including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Google Maps and Dropbox, are missing.

The Surface includes a preview of Office 2013, which runs within the Desktop tile. This makes the Surface a great portable productivity PC.


·         Price: $599

·         Contact:


·         1.3GHz NVidia Tegra 3 quad-core ARM

·         2GB RAM

·         32/64GB flash storage

·         10.6in (1366x768) LCD

·         802.11a/b/g/n, 2x2 Mimo

·         Bluetooth

·         microSDXC

·         USB 2.0

·         Micro HDMI

·         Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT (preview)

·         31.5Wh fixed lithium battery

·         275x172x9.5mm

·         686g


·         The Surface RT is a very well built and a cleverly designed tablet.

·         The hardware is mostly sound and Windows RT runs smoothly, but lacks decent apps.

·         Build: 4/5

·         Features: 3/5

·         Performance: 4/5

·         Value: 3.5/5

·         Overall: 3.5/5


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