Print 52 comment(s) - last by tharik.. on Oct 27 at 3:22 PM

A few early reviews from around the Web

The long-awaited Windows 8 OS is almost here, and while it will make its way into consumer's hands through various devices, the most intriguing is Microsoft's new Surface RT tablet -- which also happens to be Microsoft's first tablet.

What's Under the Hood?

The Surface is a Windows RT-based tablet, which is a variation of Windows 8. The Windows Pro version will be released at a later date, but for now, only the RT is available. Some Surface RT specs include a 10.6-inch display, an ARM-based processor (NVIDIA quad-core Tegra 3), 32GB or 64GB storage options, 2GB of memory, 1366x768 resolution, 720p rear- and front-facing cameras, a USB port and a microSDXC slot. Also, the tablet has a VaporMg magnesium casing and a built-in kickstand.

Touch Cover vs. Type Cover

The Surface is especially unique in that it offers a keyboard accessory, but not just any keyboard: two keyboard options that double as protective covers. There's a touch cover, which is a thinner (3.25 millimeters) pressure-sensitive keyboard, and a type cover, which feels more like a laptop keyboard at 6 millimeters and physical keys.

On to the Reviews!

The Surface isn't due for release until October 26, but of course, tech blogs like The Verge, Engadget, AnandTech and Laptop Mag have gotten their hands on some Surface tablets for review purposes. So, before you run to the store and drop $499 for the 32GB, $599 for the 32GB with touch cover, or $699 for the 64GB with touch cover, here are a few reviews from those who've spent some time with Microsoft's new baby.

The Surface's design has been a popular topic with varying opinions. Anandtech's Anand Shimpi compared it to the iPad's design, saying its heavier and larger than Apple's signature tablet, but is more comfortable to carry.

The added weight is offset by superb internal weight distribution. Microsoft claims a lower moment of inertia by more evenly distributing weight inside Surface’s chassis. I don’t know that I’d consider Surface light but it is very comfortable to carry around. It’s not quite like porting around a pad of paper, but carrying Surface feels very natural.

The focus on weight distribution results in a device that is honestly comfortable to hold in tablet mode and very comfortable to carry around. The more squared design of Surface actually makes in hand feel more like a book than the iPad, which was an early goal for the device.

However, one part of the Surface's design that could use some work is the built-in kickstand, which is meant to sit the tablet upright on a desk. Shimpi and Tim Stevens from Engadget both had pretty much the same complaint: the kickstand is durable, but not adjustable.


With a fixed angle of deployment the kickstand doesn’t always deliver the best viewing experience, although it’s usually good enough. The kickstand is perfect for desk use and even for using while reclined on a couch or even in bed. Where it does fall short is if you’re hunched over Surface on an airplane in coach without a lot of room to move the device away from you. In those situations you’re going to find that you’d wish the kickstand could open at a wider angle.


Its hinge is complex but feels durable, though we do wish Microsoft had put a notch on either side of the stand, instead of just the one on the left. Flipping it out with your right hand can be a little tricky at times.

David Pierce from The Verge added that the kickstand would be better with more adjustable options, but serves a great purpose since the Surface is "awkward" in both landscape and portrait mode and "just wants to be on a desk."

A convenient feature that is appearing in more and more tablets is the ability to turn into a laptop or a tablet via keyboard docks or covers. In the Surface's case, it has two keyboard cover options that are winning the hearts of many tech reviewers. Shimpi praised the Surface for its transformation capabilities.

Microsoft wants you to be able to quickly transition between notebook, tablet and display modes. It’s rare that I see a goal so well executed. Surface really masters the art of quick transitions between all three modes. I can be in word, typing out this review and quickly switch to a tablet mode where I’m browsing the web with the keyboard cover folded neatly behind the display. If I need to respond to a comment or answer an email, I can just as easily switch back.

Pierce, on the other hand, said the type cover is responsive but a bit odd feeling when folded into tablet form. He added that the touch cover and track pad are very responsive and comfortable as well.

On a last design note, Shimpi said the colorful options of the Surface cases gives them a "consumer twist," helping Microsoft appeal to more than just business folks.

As far as software goes, Pierce had a few complaints. Namely, apps took awhile to load, games were sluggish and Flash video was subpar compared to HTML5. However, Pierce did say the Windows RT user interface was "inventive and useful."

Avram Piltch from Laptop Mag warns, however, that Microsoft fans are in for a whole new experience with Windows 8.

If you've never used Windows 8 or Windows RT before, you're in for a shock, because Microsoft has completely redesigned its OS to be more touch-friendly.
The touch-friendly environment is meant to create a convenient mobile platform, and with mobile devices of course comes applications -- and the reviewers have a beef to pick with Microsoft over some app-related issues.

One of the top complaints was that the Microsoft Store isn't heavily loaded. Piltch was happy to elaborate.

At present, the Windows Store has less than 5,000 apps, with few truly compelling titles available. We saw many casual games, but only a handful of graphically intensive titles. Other than the built-in Internet Explorer 10, we did not find any Web browsers, nor did we see many useful utilities or, apart from the built-in Microsoft Office, any good productivity apps.
Another app-related complaint was that Windows RT doesn't have legacy support for Windows software. Stevens shared his experience with legacy apps on the Surface, but has high hopes that new, useful apps will make their way to the Windows Store.

There's nothing stopping you from downloading legacy apps from the browser, but none will run on Windows RT. As we discovered, you can go so far as to create desktop shortcuts for apps. But when you try and load them, a banner will stretch across the screen, telling you the app won't run on your device. As for apps you can run, the selection is small, but growing. Netflix, for instance, just arrived in the Windows Store, and we expect plenty more soon (including our own app). So far, there's a comforting group of heavy hitters, including Skitch,, Associated Press, Evernote, eBay, StumbleUpon, Pandora and Slacker Radio. We'd like to believe that bodes well for other major apps that still haven't arrived on the platform.

But the Surface's power seems to make up for the lack of app selection (for now.) Piltch said it's a great multi-tasker.
With its 1.3-GHz, quad-core Tegra 3 processor and 2GB of RAM, the Surface with RT had enough power to take on all the tasks we threw at it, from viewing HD videos and using Microsoft Offfice to video chatting and playing demanding games like "Dredd vs Zombies."

However, serious photgraphers might want to steer clear: the cameras haven't received the best reviews from the likes of Pierce or Stevens. Steven, specifically, said the cameras won't be used for much more than video chatting.
The Surface has dual 720p cameras, but unless you're in the mood for video chatting, you probably won't be using them much. Even by tablet standards, the image quality here is pretty poor. Our full-res, 1,280 x 720 shots look awfully pixelated, even in brightly lit environments that shouldn't have yielded any noise. You'll also notice a good deal of color saturation (take a look at those fire-engine-red peppers in the sample gallery to see what we mean). As for the Surface's 720p video recording, we noticed some motion blur, but we were pleasantly surprised by how gentle the audio rendering was. Too often, our clips taken with tablets have a buzzing, distorted quality. In this case, the tablet didn't pick up any stray gusts of wind that might have otherwise spoiled our recording.

An important mobile question is, "How long does the battery last?" Shimpi answers that question with a little over 9 hours.
To measure battery life I put Surface through our 2012 tablet battery life suite. All tests were run with the display calibrated to 200 nits and with Surface, its Touch Cover was attached. Overall battery life is pretty competitive with the iPad. In lighter use cases Apple pulls ahead slightly, but if you look at our updated web browsing test the heavier CPU load pushes Surface ahead of the third gen iPad. It’s not clear how the 4th gen iPad would stack up in this comparison.

One final, but absolutely important factor in considering a Surface purchase is cost. Many complained about the Surface's high price tag of $499-$699, saying that it's as much as a new iPad. Also, a touch cover or type cover can cost an extra $120-$130.

Whether or not Surface is priced appropriately really depends on how much you value Windows RT and getting Office 2013 for free. I suspect if you’re already a big Office user, you’ll see a lot of value in the bundle. On the Windows RT side, whether or not that platform has value really depends on how frustrated you are by the multitasking, task switching and lack of screen sharing (two apps on the screen at once) of other mobile OSes. Depending on your feelings on those two issues Surface will either feel like a bargain, or too much.

Final words?

As a device, Surface is incredibly well executed. It makes sense that Microsoft’s OEM partners are feeling the pressure as there’s very little that I would change about Surface from a design perspective. The chassis is well built and the integrated kickstand is seriously one of the most useful features to ever meet a tablet. The optional Touch and Type Covers complete the package. While a full sized notebook is going to deliver a better typing experience, when paired with its Touch/Type covers Surface results in a more productive platform than any other tablet.

If gaming and music and movies and reading are what you're looking to enjoy, then we might advise sitting this one out for a few months just to make sure that all your bases will indeed be covered. If, however, you're looking for an impeccably engineered tablet upon which you can do some serious work, a device that doesn't look, feel or act like a toy, then you should get yourself a Surface with Windows RT.

The Surface with Windows RT proves that Microsoft can beat its own partners on hardware. Between the build quality, kickstand, and truly innovative Touch Cover, this is a tablet whose design and fresh interface will turn heads away from the iPad. But for how long? For a flagship product with a premium price, Microsoft compromises on too many things by including poor cameras, weak speakers, slow internal memory and a screen that, while better than most, isn't as good as the iPad's Retina display.

If all of the above sounds like a good deal, you can preorder the Surface to your specifications here. The tablet goes on sale October 26.

Sources: AnandTech, Laptop Mag, Engadget, The Verge

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: .
By B3an on 10/24/2012 9:57:29 AM , Rating: 2
The prices are high due to the early adopter tax, with Dell, Acer, Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, Toshiba, Sony, Lenovo etc' jumping on the bandwagon and competing against each other, it's only a matter of time before the prices plummet and the x86 tablets look more appealing from a price perspective.

Nothing to do with early adapter tax. Take one look at the hardware in most of these Win 8 tablets. You're getting Ultrabook hardware in many of them. Obviously they will cost more, as they really are laptop replacements.

If anything you get BETTER hardware than most Ultrabooks, as you usually get IPS displays in these Win 8 tablets, not the cheap TN junk, and a extra battery in the keyboard dock as well.

Something like the Asus Transformer Book has a 1080p IPS screen, plus a 500GB HDD in the dock (with 128GB SSD in the tablet) and another battery in the dock.

The x86 tablets already look far more appealing than any other tablet as they're a laptop replacement as well. In the long run you save money as you no longer need a laptop.

RE: .
By Netscorer on 10/24/2012 10:45:22 AM , Rating: 2
'Ultrabook hardware'? What planet are you from? Here's my ultrabook:
- 14'' 1600x900 IPS screen
- iCore 3 Ivy Bridge CPU
- HD4000 GPU
- 128GB SSD Storage
- 2 USB3 ports, HDMI, SD Card
- Aluminium unibody design
- $599 as configured

Now compare this to Surface:
- 10.6'' 1366x768 IPS screen (equal)
- Nvidia Tegra 3 (much inferior)
- 32GB Flash Storage (much inferior)
- 2GB RAM (inferior)
- 1 USB2 port, pseudo-HDMI (much inferior)
- magensium body (equal)
- $599 with touch keyboard

Internals are hardly Ultrabook like. They are more like Google Nexus 7 tablet, which is $250 with the same 32GB of flash storage and higher-clocked Tegra 3.

RE: .
By geddarkstorm on 10/24/2012 11:41:27 AM , Rating: 2
Your last sentence is really the only true problem with the Surface. It's a beautiful tablet but... targeting the wrong price point.

Gotta see how the x86 price plays out, but I'm just hoping this overpricing of the ARM tablet doesn't mean the x86 will be priced into crazy land. Otherwise I'd love to have this thing.

RE: .
By Ramstark on 10/24/2012 3:13:59 PM , Rating: 2
You are comparing wrong. The ultrabook should be compared to the WinPro version, not the RT...

The hardware in the RT, as you point out, is equal to an ultrabook in equal in a 30% of the "market characteristics" so, as I see it, is actually pretty good, considering its a TABLET not a bulky ultrabook.

By the way, in other countries, the Ultras are considered "dead" simply because the Win8 tablets are on its if you purchased one and considered it a great acquisition....

RE: .
By nafhan on 10/24/2012 5:21:03 PM , Rating: 2
Except... Ultrabooks are close to the price point of Surface (with keyboard). Since some people will be choosing between the two, a comparison is perfectly valid.

That said, I checked out a couple Win 8, touchscreen ultrabooks: not bad at all. Being able to easily switch between keyboard/mouse and touchscreen based on which makes sense for the application and task you are performing is nice and intuitive. In fact, I would say it was better than having just one or the other. That experience gave me a much better feeling about Windows 8 in general, which actually makes RT seem even more pointless.

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki