The last time Microsoft made advances on tablet market it was in 2010 with the Slate. At the time the race between Apple and Microsoft for tablet glory was the subject of much chatter on tech forums and blogs.
Then the iPad came out and everyone forgot there had ever even been a Slate to chatter about. Apple has defined the tablet market ever since and fuelled a tech phenomenon in the process. Now, though, Microsoft is here to do a little re-defining. Its own-brand, two-tier MS Surface series is sleek and powerful, much like the iPad.
Its own-brand, two-tier MS Surface series is sleek and powerful, much like the iPad. Yet it also has clever and cool-looking keyboards hidden in its cases and tighter operating system compatibility with its desktop siblings. It’s not just for consuming, says Microsoft, it’s for creating. Here's a run down of the key features that Microsoft hopes will convince you to choose Surface over iPad.
The lower-end Surface runs Windows RT, Microsoft’s new, tablet-specifi c OS, while the slightly heavier, more serious version runs full-fat Windows 8 Pro. You can read more about what to expect from the sleek Microsoft OS in our Windows 8 review.
Both have 10.6-inch screens – a full inch bigger than the iPad’s – with the Pro getting full HD resolution and the RT something called “ClearType HD”, which is presumably a snappier way of saying “not full HD”. The RT version measures 9.3mm thick and weighs 676g; the Pro 13.5mm and 903g.
Touch and Type Cover cases
The OS aside, the standout features are the Touch Cover and Type Cover cases, which magnetically attach themselves to the tablets, much like Apple’s Smart Covers, but double as flip-down keyboards. The Touch (main image) is flat, like a ZX81, while the Type (top left) has a more contemporary, MacBook-like feel. With their help and that of an integrated rear kick stand on the tabs – something Microsoft unveiled almost as if it were a cure for cancer – the Surface transforms into a laptop seamlessly.
Storage and processor power
Storage options range from 32GB to 128GB, a microSD slot for adding even more, and access to Microsoft's Skydrive cloud storage. The lower-end Surface will have an ARM-based CPU and the Windows 8 one a more powerful third-gen Intel Core processor.
UK Price and release date
If you want to buy the Microsoft Surface, pre-order prices start at £399 for a 32GB version (tablet only), £479 for a 32GB model with Black touch cover, and a hefty £559 for a 64GB version also with the Black Touch cover you will have to stump up £559. If you compare that to pricing for the 4th generation iPad it's almost identical, so there is not much to choose between them in that department.
Despite Windows 8 meeting its October 26th launch date, it seems delayed shipments could see prospective UK owners wait for a Surface UK launch until November 2nd.
Microsoft Surface specifications
Processor: (RT) ARM, (Win 8) Intel Core
Storage: (RT) 32GB or 64GB | (Win 8) 64GB or 128GB
Screen: (RT) 10.6-inch, HD | (Win 8) 10.6-inch, full HD
Connectivity: (RT) USB, HD video out, microSD | (Win 8) USB 3.0, microSDXC,
Camera: Both versions feature two 720p HD LifeCams, front- and rear-facing with TruColor
Battery: (RT) 31.5 W-h | (Win 8) 42 W-h
Planning to buy the Microsoft Surface? Let us know your thoughts about the Windows 8 tablet in the comments section below