Summary

Our Score

8/10

User Score

Pros

  • Great screen
  • Excellent speakers (for a tablet)
  • Unique, durable design
  • Good performance and battery life
  • Superb keyboard cover(s)

Cons

  • Low screen res
  • Rubbish cameras
  • No NFC or 3G/4G
  • Not as comfy to hold as some

Review Price £399.00

Key Features: Windows RT for ARM; Tegra 3 quad-core CPU, 2GB RAM, 32/64GB expandable storage, USB 2.0; Keyboard covers with touch or physical keyboard; 10.6in 1,366 x 768 IPS screen with Gorilla Glass 2

Manufacturer: Microsoft

Introduction

Microsoft Surface is big. Not literally, as it’s actually a slim and light 10.6-inch tablet, but Microsoft’s Windows 8 RT tablet is a true milestone for the world’s largest software company and creator of the Xbox games console. For starters, this is Microsoft’s first tablet and, more importantly, it represents its first ever PC device.

Does the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 have anything more to offer?

Microsoft Surface 13

Though MS has a lot of hardware experience with designing peripherals, media players, and of course the aforementioned consoles, the maker of the world’s most popular operating system for computers has never designed one itself. This alone makes Surface a very big deal - though as a replacement for your PC or laptop, Surface Pro, which will be launching early next year with a Core i5/7 processor, probably makes more sense.

Wondering which Windows 8/RT device to get? Have a read of our Best Windows 8 Laptops Tablets Convertibles and PCs roundup

Microsoft Surface - up against the iPad and Nexus 10

Microsoft Surface 24

Microsoft Surface with Type Cover on the left, iPad 2 with Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover on the right.

As a tablet, Microsoft Surface is just as important. Unlike the Surface Pro which will essentially offer laptop power in an tablet-like package, the Surface, which starts at £399, will go up against the Apple iPad and Google Nexus 10. Both of these players - with iOS and Android respectively - have had the tablet market virtually to themselves since the original iPad, and now have a strong hardware line-up too. So can Microsoft’s tablet establish itself when it’s so late to the party and costs nearly as much as a (lower capacity) iPad 4?

Microsoft Surface - Tablet Launches Windows RTMicrosoft Surface 11

On the software side meanwhile, Surface is big because it’s the launch hardware for Microsoft’s Windows RT, essentially Windows 8 for ARM devices. Existing separately from Windows Phone 8 and regular Windows 8 for X86 architectures, RT faces an uphill struggle as it doesn’t offer the legacy support of Windows 8 and (for now) its app catalogue is woefully small compared to its main rivals.

Microsoft Surface 22

Showing the Microsoft Surface box, Surface power adapter and rear of the Touch Cover

However, there’s some big-time compensation in the inclusion of a full version of Microsoft's own Office 2013, which is a major draw for those wanting to use their tablet for productivity as well as entertainment and content consumption. It would also appear that it’s very easy to convert Windows apps to work on Windows RT, so we’re likely to see the Windows Store grow quickly on both of Microsoft’s platforms.

Microsoft Surface - Design and Build

Surface is a beautifully designed tablet with its own unique aesthetic. It has had obvious care put into the details and offers superb build quality – though it does suffer from a few minor niggles.

The first thing you’ll notice when you take the Microsoft Surface out of its nicely presented box is just how thin and wide it is. With a 16:9 aspect ratio rather than the 16:10 of most Android tablets or the 4:3 of the iPad, this Windows RT tablet shares its shape with the average TV or laptop. It also shares its 1,366 x 768 resolution with the majority of laptops and HD Ready tellies, which means content formatted for those platforms (like your favourite series) will fit perfectly without adjustments - but more on that later.

Microsoft Surface 8

It’s also apparent that ‘angular’ was a definite buzz-word when the Surface was being designed. There’s not a single curve or tapered edge on this tablet, except for the slightly rounded outer corners. It’s a great look that unequivocally sets it apart from its rivals, and for those saying its look is not as clean as that of the iPad, wouldn’t you rather have all its connectivity? Unfortunately, Surface’s slightly unapologetic edges do mean it’s not quite as comfy to hold though.

Microsoft Surface 5

The Microsoft Surface’s entire chassis is constructed using a unique VaporMg magnesium alloy which is three times lighter than aluminium yet just as durable. This is a good thing, as the Surface already weighs 18g more than the heaviest iPad. However, keep in mind that at 10.6-inches, it’s markedly larger than the 9.7-inch iPad too, so it’s quite light considering. Despite appearances, it’s also nearly as thin, adding only 0.2mm.

Microsoft Surface 7

Build quality is simply superb. Nowhere on this tablet is there any sign of cut corners, and the matt black metal feels superb in the hand. The entire tablet has been treated with anti-fingerprint coating, which definitely helps as the metal parts only show marks after extensive prodding. The only plastic part is a soft-touch strip at the top which houses the rear camera and improves wireless reception. The entire front is protected by Gorilla Glass 2.

Next page

Mathieu D

June 19, 2012, 8:51 am

I'd love one of these but at either price it'll be a bit too rich for my blood. I was hoping Microsoft would have at least one smaller model that would compete with the Kindle Fire in terms of pricing, but with full Windows functionality; clearly the two markets they're aiming at instead are iPad/Transformer-level Androids and Ultrabook/MacBook Air laptops. Fingers crossed the forthcoming Google Nexus tablet is more in line with my limited budget...

aeonturnip

June 19, 2012, 12:55 pm

FYI, on the spec sheet it says it does have a microSD on the RT model and a microSDXC on the Pro.

(http://www.microsoft.com/globa...

TechVegan

June 19, 2012, 3:44 pm

@Mathieu D:
Who knows, maybe my pricing estimates will prove too high, or perhaps Microsoft will introduce a cheaper tablet down the line. With quality sub-£300 tablets coming to market, either/both seem likely enough.

@aeonturnip
(awesome user name btw :)
Thanks for the comment - amended.

Qddy

June 19, 2012, 5:29 pm

Wow, the pro version is almost perfect. It's what I have been waiting for; one device to replace everything.

By including a micro-DisplayPort they have done what nearly all ultrabooks have so far failed to do; support 1080p+ resolutions for external displays!

My only concern is the weight. Maybe too heavy for a tablet, for my usage anyway. I already find the iPad 3 too heavy for prolonged use. If it's too heavy then may as well get a laptop and separate lighter tablet.

A couple of unanswered questions: memory does it have and screen quality?

peebee

June 19, 2012, 9:00 pm

MSFT has probably decided these form factors are the future of personal computing - hence Windows 8, and it's probably right. But I still want a bigger screen on my desktop and a smaller screen for a mobile/tablet. I don't think I'm alone in this and Win 8 as it stands doesn't effectively bridge that divide. I think the next couple of years are going to be interesting, but tricky ..

bobsta

June 19, 2012, 9:47 pm

If Microsoft get the pricing right, they could potentially take on Apple and Android. The design looks good and I just hope they don't cut corners. This could finally bring Microsoft into the tablet arena and hopefully design their own phone as well (assuming they have their eye on Nokia as a potential purchase).

ElectricSheep

June 20, 2012, 1:45 am

I really hate the look and feel of Windows 8. I really like the look of these tablets.

Having just returned my 3rd TF300 tablet (dodgy screens) and been issued a refund, I'm now looking around again for another tablet in future months. A jailbroken iPad 2 or 3 has appeal, but these 2 MS tablets would be preferable for my intended use.

Sadly, with no proper hands on time being given to hacks, virtually no concrete specs (or intended specs), no intended release dates and nothing due for sale for a long time, this has the makings of vapour-ware written all over it.

I hope they get made. And in time to still be relevant in a market that evolves day to day, waiting 4-5 months for availability is just not going to work.

TechVegan

June 20, 2012, 2:12 pm

@Qddy:
Indeed, I'm thinking the same - IF that stylus is pressure-sensitive :)

Regarding DisplayPort, actually HDMI 1.4 (which is what the Ultrabooks you mention have) supports resolutions higher than 1080p too - and the Asus Zenbook [http://www.trustedreviews.com/...], for one, had both HDMI and DisplayPort...

As to the unanswered questions, I've updated the article with some speculation regarding those - have a read if you like :)

@ElectricSheep:
Let me ease your concerns: these tablets are very far from vapour-ware, they're the flagship product from one of the biggest companies in the world with a proven track record in hardware (Xbox, Zune, Mice, Keyboards, etc).

They've undergone extensive testing and engineering. All specs aside from RAM have been confirmed, as have the estimated release dates - they're in the article. ("a few months" is definitely less than 4-5 btw).

BevMeister

June 22, 2012, 3:08 pm

Good summary of what essentially is an unreleased piece of kit. No one at the briefing actually held/touched one of these- lest touch the keyboards (which may be great). The demo was pretty light on actual software. Reminds me of when RIM released the PlayBook to speculative fanfare. Let's judge these when they ship or when you get a chance to use it without MS's PR flacks hovering.

ElectricSheep

June 22, 2012, 8:21 pm

@Ardjuna I see this very differently to you.

These two products are nothing but vapourware until they are actually available to purchase. Neither of these products are available for journalists to test today, nothing is for sale, no sales dates have been announced, everything is up in the air. The tablet even froze up and had to be swapped out in the live presentation! I'd view this move more as a market manipulation exercise in the short-term.

In the long-term, these products may come to market...if they can create enough space in the market and generate & maintain a level of hype that as yet, Microsoft has never achieved before, whilst juggling the moods of the OEM manufacturers without annoying them too much to the point where they just ditch W8.

If these products were to both come to market in say, 12 weeks time, then maybe, just maybe they would have enough relevance to gain traction in the market - IF they are priced very competitively.

Then there's the issue of the hardware / apps:

'Surface' will run only Metro W8 ARM compiled apps = None (yet)
'Surface Pro' uses at Full HD display on only 11.6" and supports all older windows programs. I don't know about you, but I think that using a keyboard and mouse and stylus will be necessary to be productive on such a small screen! Preferably using the HDMI out to a bigger screen too.

All they seem to have done is move all the gubbins of an ultrabook from under the keyboard to behind the screen, thus making it impossible to use on your lap. Which is silly because it ain't exactly light!

Interesting times ahead. That's for sure :)

TechVegan

October 26, 2012, 12:16 am

ElectricSheep:"@Ardjuna I see this very differently to you.
These two products are nothing but vapourware until they are actually available to purchase."

@ElectricSheep:
Not vaporware... :D

Hans Gruber

October 26, 2012, 6:12 am

Did you mention battery life, Ardjuna? I can't see it anywhere.

KultiVator

October 26, 2012, 3:12 pm

Interesting that the TR reviewer considers this device light in weight - whereas TR has in the past made much of the lighter iPad range feeling heavy!

But moving on from TR's editorial spin ;-)

It still seems to me that Microsoft have completed confused the general population - the number of people who assume Windows RT is just Windows 8 and will run all their normal desktop software may become a significant hiccup or mis-fire for MS.

I'll be watching closely - but certainly your average Joe doesn't understand that and ARM-based device wont be suitable for managing their photo library in Photoshop Elements and their music collection in iTunes!

Perhaps MS should have followed the "Windows Phone 8" precedent and gone with "Windows Tablet 8" to make the distinction somewhat clearer than "Windows RT" does.

TechVegan

October 26, 2012, 3:45 pm

Thanks for the comment, Hans.
I didn't, as I'm hoping to update with the full review soon rather than giving an estimate based on components and capacity.

TechVegan

October 26, 2012, 3:48 pm

@KultiVator:
Actually I use light in relation to the metal rather than the tablet :)
It all depends on what you compare to too, don't forget the Surface is closer to an 11-inch tablet, while the iPad has a smaller-than 10-inch screen.

As to the confusion thing, you're spot-on there, and the RT suffix isn't particularly enlightening. But yeah, apparently Microsoft wanted to use our initials backwards ;)

ElectricSheep

October 26, 2012, 7:54 pm

@Arduna - 5 months after my original comment & 2 years late to market with a confusing line up of (not cheap) products & software...no, it's no longer vapourware but this will be a rocky road to success.

I still don't see any appeal in W8. I just can't get passed the Fisher-Price tiles. Horrid. The RT based tablets, whilst a good design, are overpriced considering the limitations of the OS. The Pro Surface tablets are not going to be far off the price and weight of a decent Ultrabook.

I think i'll do a Vista on the entire next generation of Windows products, and sit this one out ;)

TechVegan

November 8, 2012, 11:49 pm

@ALL:
The above comments are all based on the preview, just to avoid any possible confusion :)

Iiee

November 9, 2012, 4:22 pm

I have seen alot of comments about how windows rt eats into a significant part of you storage space meaning that the 32gb version actually has much closer to 16gb of space. That reduces the value equation significantly vs its ipad and android rivals. How much did you find that to be the case?

TechVegan

November 10, 2012, 1:19 am

As I mention in the review on page 3, Windows RT AND Office 2013 plus the other pre-installed apps use under 12GB, so you'll still have more available free storage than a 16GB iPad or Android tablet. It's also worth remembering that you can expand the storage using microSDXC.

Hope that helps :)

John Parkinson

January 31, 2013, 11:30 am

The big downside for me seems to be the inability to use the keyboard in portrait orientation. I do a lot of text work, so abandonned laptops will their fixation on widescreen for an iPad, which I can use any orientation I like. I'd seriously consider moving back to MS but only if this too has the flexibility to type with it in portrait.

TechVegan

February 12, 2013, 6:20 pm

I don't know of many devices that let you use a (good) physical keyboard in portrait mode...

If you're talking about a virtual keyboard, then the Surface - or rather, Windows RT - will let you use it in any orientation you please, including portrait :)

Melodie

September 1, 2013, 7:56 am

We have a Microsoft surface tablet, we are in Peru & no wi if connection. We have bought a dongle which apparently isn't compatible with the tablet .. How can we get Internet connection?

frustratedperson

January 4, 2014, 11:31 am

I need help with my cover keyboard and I have no idea what I'm doing wrong but it's not working! I've connected it properly, I can assure you that and it's new. It worked for about two days and now for the past week or two, it just stopped responding. Please reply! So frustrated.

Jim J

February 4, 2014, 10:11 am

I had a similar problem and finally 'refreshed' the tablet after which everthing functioned well

mandrew

August 7, 2014, 11:45 am

And with jump drive (flash drive)

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