Microsoft Surface RT review
We review the Microsoft Surface RT, the first hybrid tablet from the creator of Windows
The Surface RT is Microsoft's first foray into the worlds of both computer hardware and tablets and it's the first purpose-built Windows hybrid device to hit the market. So the stakes are high. The company is clearly hoping to rival Apple's iPad with its new product.
The Surface sports a 10.6-inch display, runs Windows RT, the build of Windows 8 made specially for ARM processors, and has a 1.3GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 quad core processor.
The 32GB storage model costs £399 while the addition of a Touch Cover bumps the price up to £479. A 64GB Touch Cover-equipped model costs £559 and all variants have microSD storage too.
Microsoft Surface RT review – Design
The exterior design is one of the Surface RT’s stronger aspects, Microsoft has really done a great job in building something which is different enough from the status quo to be interesting, has enough unique character and yet is also familiar enough to not appear too alien.
The sharp, angular shapes look really clean and modern, particularly the contoured edges which narrow towards the back panel. The bezel around the display is evenly spaced all-round and it’s thin by tablet standards, though it’s not so slim as to compromise your grip.
The build quality is also excellent, the fit and finish is very tight with no creaking whatsoever, you’ve also got the brilliant integrated kickstand which fits flush to the back panel.
Microsoft’s car door analogy is apt as it has just the right amount of weight and resistance to it, although the TV ads are a little inaccurate as it closes with a much weedier click than Microsoft’s bombastic campaign might imply.
The materials used are rather interesting. The Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) treated moulded magnesium (also known as VaporMg), feels quite similar to non-brushed aluminium on some competing devices.
Obviously this is better than plastic, but when Microsoft first announced it we were expecting something a little better than this. Microsoft cited sports watches as inspiration, so we were thinking something more metallic and probably brushed.
It’s premium, sure, but it’s not super-high-grade premium as Microsoft’s buzz implied.v
Of course we couldn’t talk about the Surface RT without mentioning the detachable keyboard covers which are so central to Microsoft’s design ethos.
The cheaper version is the Touch Cover, which is also the thinner of the two, though not by much. It comes in a range of colours and is made of a slightly rubbery material with a matte finish, which is soft to the touch but also quite rigid overall.
The keys are touch-sensitive but do not depress like an actual keyboard and while the experience is noticeably better than an on-screen touch keyboard it’s still nowhere near as good as the real deal and you’ll make plenty of mistakes while using it.
What is virtually as good as the real deal is the marginally thicker, but more expensive, Type Cover, which is very much like a genuine laptop’s condensed keyboard.
The Type Cover has proper travel to the keys and is generally miles more accurate and satisfying to use. Both cover variants have a fully functioning trackpad and a complete set of Windows hotkeys.
The Surface’s weight might be a bit of a problem for some as it’s a bit hefty at 680g. But then, that’s sort of what the kickstand is for. Indeed, the whole device appears to have been designed with desktop use in mind because it can only stand up in ‘laptop mode’ using the kickstand. Ironically, it’s not particularly usable on your lap, where presumably you’re expected to revert to tablet mode.
The power connector is proprietary, magnetised and of a very awkward design overall. The seating in the socket is shallow, so it doesn’t feel connected even when it is and the magnet never pulls it into the port properly.
|Typical Price||From £399|
|UK Launch||October 2012|
|Phone Style||Hybrid tablet|
|Built-in Memory||32GB/64GB, 2GB RAM|
|Additional Memory||microSDXC to 64GB|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0, microHDMI,GPS|
|Screen Colours||16 million|
|Music Formats||MP3/WAV/eAAC+ player|
|Battery Standby||approx 10 hours|