Review Price £399.00
Microsoft Surface Tablet For Windows 8
Ever since the first Surface whispers, it seemed that Microsoft - whose last non-console hardware venture was the neat but ultimately ill-fated Zune HD - was announcing its own tablet. As it turned out, that speculation was actually spot-on.
Read the full Windows 8 review here
Though we’ll still be seeing Windows 8 X86 and Windows RT for ARM on third-party tablets, Microsoft is also bringing its own hardware to the market. Welcome to Surface, its 10.6-inch tablet for Windows RT, with Surface Pro, its X86 tablet, still to come.
SpecsThe first Surface, designated just Surface or Surface RT, uses an Nvidia Tegra 3 ARM processor - incidentally the same chip found in the Google Nexus 7 and Transformer Infinity. This is backed by a whopping 2GB of RAM - double that found on most ARM devices - and either 32GB or 64GB of storage, expandable by up to 128GB through a microSD card slot.
Want to get a 'proper' X86 Windows 8 device instead or after a Windows RT alternative? Have a read of our Best Windows 8 Laptops Tablets Convertibles and PCs roundup
These specifications compare very favourably with most Android and Apple tablets currently on the market, though the PadFone 2 with its quad-core S4 Pro processor is the current tablet specification champion.
ScreenUnfortunately, the Microsoft Surface's 10.6-inch IPS screen doesn't hold up as well. Unlike the Surface Pro, which crams in a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution, the RT version sports a 1,366 x 768 display. That's significantly lower than Apple's bad boy iPad 3 and iPad 4, and in these 'Retina'-obsessed times it's a major disadvantage.
Still, it's worth remembering that, until a few months ago, this was the standard resolution on laptops with far larger screens. Microsoft's ClearType tech also helps the Surface screen to stand out from the competition, though naturally it's not enough to make up for the missing pixels.
ConnectivityConnectivity is nothing to sniff at either, with a core ingredient being a full-size USB 2.0 port (not USB 3.0 like on the Surface Pro), ideal for hooking up anything from peripherals to memory sticks - an essential that far too many tablets omit. It’s joined by microHDMI for effortless video output, while front and rear HD cameras are also on the menu.
Design and BuildThe Microsoft tablet is built using a magnesium alloy, which is one of the lightest metals around. This leads to a weight of just 676 grams and slim 9.3mm profile for the RT version.
Touch and Type CoversHowever, if you do want to add a case, it sports magnetic connectors, just like the iPad. And despite being only 3mm thin, the Touch Cover Microsoft will be selling along with this tablet acts as a multi-touch keyboard and two-button touchpad, in something of an Asus Transformer-lite setup. It comes in five different colours too.
If you prefer actual, physical keys (as we, along with most productivity-oriented individuals, most certainly do), there’s a 5mm thin cover that has those too. Logically enough, it’s called the Type Cover.
PriceSurface RT starts at £399 for the basic 32GB tablet, or £479 with a black Touch Cover included. Getting other colours seperately will set you back £99.
The 64GB version of Microsoft's tablet is £559. You can't get the Type Cover in a bundle, so will need to purchase it seperately for £109.
First ImpressionsSo there you have it. The Surface tablet definitely has potential as an iPad beater. It looks great, is reasonably well-connected, and has some seriously nifty accessories. More importantly, it includes a full Windows RT version of Microsoft Office 2013, the most popular office and productivity suite in the world. Combined with the Type Cover, this lets you at least partially replace a laptop.
Then there's also the Windows 8 integration to consider, with contacts, preferences, settings, files and more syncing with both Windows 8 X86 (probably your laptop/desktop PC) and Windows Phone 8 (possibly your mobile phone).