Microsoft Surface RT Review
Introduction:

Microsoft, as we know for a long time now, has always had a formidable presence in the computing space. Even now, they still command a sizable piece of the pie, but as we’ve seen, there is a stark shift in what people are using on a daily basis for their computing needs. A few years ago, everyone seemed intent on riding the wave surrounding netbooks, but as we’ve witnessed, it was short lived. Ultimately, Apple redefined the entire computing spectrum with the introduction with the iPad – and of course, the rest was history. Continuing to dominate the scene, consumers quickly realized the advantages that tablets have to offer over traditional laptops. And for a while there, Microsoft sat content in pushing forward with its usual computing platform offerings.

Thankfully, they too quickly realized how tablets are increasingly outpacing laptops – as they prove to have that killer combination of pricing and mobility to attract consumers. Interestingly, rather than following the same routine of just solely building its own tablet platform from the ground up, the Redmond based company is relying on itself to produce its own device as well – much like what we’ve seen with the Xbox and Microsoft Zune (and the Kin phones). Enter the Microsoft Surface, a sleek and ultra-modern looking tablet that’s gunning to make a charge in the competitive tablet market. More importantly, however, is whether Microsoft is able to soundly capture the embodiment of a highly usable tablet platform with Windows RT. Naturally, there’s a lot at stake riding on the back of the Surface – both from a hardware and software perspective.
Microsoft Surface RT Review
Microsoft Surface RT Review

The package contains:

  • AC wall charger
  • Touch Cover (sold separately or as part of a bundle)


Design:

From afar, the Microsoft Surface looks like any other slate out there sporting one cookie cutter industrial design, but once it’s in our hands, we soon realize that there was a lot of love placed into it. Indeed, it’s not the skinniest (0.37” thin) or most compact tablet out there, but it has all of the required elements to make it an attention grabber against most other things out there on the market. For starters, its tapered edges help to give it a distinctive look of its own – while its magnesium composite chassis, which is a material that Microsoft calls “VaporMg,” comfortably adds a sense of strength and durability to its construction. Fortunately, the Surface manages to maintain a clean façade, as it does a good job of repelling dirt and debris from dirtying its uniform looks.

In addition to that, there’s a reasonable amount of weight (24 oz/680 grams) to instill in us that it’s one solidly made thing. Compared to some of the other venerable tablets on the market, the Surface’s design is right up there and in the same league as the iPad and Asus Transformer Infinity Pad, but we’re most humbled that Microsoft is able to distinguish its offering enough to give it a defined look that’s attractive in many fronts. Taking into account that it’s not too often we find Microsoft helming the design process, we’re undeniably impressed that they’re able to execute it unequivocally so well with this.

Microsoft Surface RT Review


By default, Microsoft has made it so that the Surface is primarily held in landscape, and with that in mind, there’s a capacitive Start button below the screen, which merely brings us back to the Start Screen. Above the display, we find its 1-megapixel front facing camera, which has the ability to shoot HD videos too. Nearby, there’s also an LED light that turns on to indicate that the front camera is in use – nothing more than that.

Microsoft Surface RT Review
Capacitive Start button - Microsoft Surface RT Review

Capacitive Start button

Front facing camera - Microsoft Surface RT Review

Front facing camera


Along the top edge of the tablet, we’re presented with its slightly raised & springy power button and two small notches that initially appear as being part of its speakers, but rather, they’re actually microphones. As for the speakers themselves, they’re located on the upper sections of its left and right trims. To the left, though, we find the volume control and 3.5mm headset jack – while on the right, there’s a full sized USB 2.0 port to connect a variety of accessories and peripherals to the Surface, microHDMI port, and its proprietary magnetic power connector. Finally, the sole item spotted in the bottom trim is the proprietary magnetic accessory connector – for the optional touch covers and type covers.

The sides of the Microsoft Surface RT - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The sides of the Microsoft Surface RT - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The sides of the Microsoft Surface RT - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The sides of the Microsoft Surface RT - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The sides of the Microsoft Surface RT - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The sides of the Microsoft Surface RT - Microsoft Surface RT Review

The sides of the Microsoft Surface RT


Flush with the surrounding area, the Surface is packing along a 1-megapixel fixed focused rear camera, which can shoot videos in up to 800p. Just like before, an LED light sits close by, but it doesn’t do anything except to indicate that the rear camera is active.

Back - Microsoft Surface RT Review

Back

Rear camera - Microsoft Surface RT Review

Rear camera


Not something that’s normally seen with tablets, the Microsoft Surface incorporates a very useful kickstand that firmly locks into the open position. In fact, it’s strong enough to even prop the tablet in portrait – though, its primary function, in addition to giving us a hands-free video watching experience, is to allow us to properly use the tablet along with its optional Touch Cover. Lastly, discretely ticked away under the one side of the kickstand is a very handy microSD card slot.

The Microsoft Surface RT incorporates a very useful kickstand - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The Microsoft Surface RT incorporates a very useful kickstand - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The Microsoft Surface RT incorporates a very useful kickstand - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The Microsoft Surface RT incorporates a very useful kickstand - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The Microsoft Surface RT incorporates a very useful kickstand - Microsoft Surface RT Review

The Microsoft Surface RT incorporates a very useful kickstand



Display:

Opting for the widescreen format with its display, the 16:9 aspect ratio of the Surface’s 10.6-inch screen makes it ideal for watching videos, which is made better with the kickstand in play. However, knowing that it’s sporting a less-than-spectacular resolution of 1366 x 768, it’s not going to be garnering much attention over the higher resolution displays used by its main rivals. Sure, we’re able to read text from a normal distance away with few nagging issues, thanks to Microsoft’s ClearType sub-pixel rendering technology, but upon closer inspection, we can actually make out individual pixels.

Although some might not fancy knowing it’s boasting a lower contrast level than other displays, it actually makes for a better reading experience thanks to reduced eye fatigue during prolonged viewing. Similar to the iPad 3, the Surface’s display emits warmer color tones, which truly shows off its vibrancy when its brightness is cranked all the way to its maximum setting. On top of that, its wide viewing angles combined with its 400-nit brightness setting helps to maintain its visibility – especially when it comes to outdoor viewing. Noteworthy to mention as well, the Surface features an optically bonded display, similar to in-cell touch technology used by the iPhone 5 and LG Optimus G most recently, allowing the screen to be closer to the surface of the display. There’s no arguing it gets the job done with most benign things, but above all, its low resolution doesn’t do justice in giving its display the sharpness it needs to polarize prying eyes.

Viewing angles - Microsoft Surface RT Review
Viewing angles - Microsoft Surface RT Review
Viewing angles - Microsoft Surface RT Review
Viewing angles - Microsoft Surface RT Review

Viewing angles


Color production - Microsoft Surface RT Review
Color production - Microsoft Surface RT Review
Color production - Microsoft Surface RT Review

Color production



Touch Cover:

If you haven’t noticed it already in the Microsoft Surface commercials, the secondary star attraction of the Surface is the optional Touch Cover, which retails for $120 when bought separately and is available in different colors. Acting as a smart cover on one hand, the Touch Cover firmly snaps into the Surface’s magnetic connector dock – with an audible thud sound to indicate it’s positioned correctly. And boy is the connection strong! So much so that it can hold the entire dead weight of the Surface as it’s dangling. Of course, it’s also there to protect the display when it’s closed.

Secondly, the Touch Cover provides us with a full-sized keyboard with directional keys and a trackpad. Lined with a fabric-like material, it manages to retain a very clean appearance at all times, but there’s very little distinction between buttons because of their flush appearance. Sensitivity is hit and miss in our experience, as light taps aren’t registered sometimes – resulting in firmer taps of the finger. To tell you the truth, we find ourselves more productive typing with Surface’s on-screen keyboard. Still, it feels more natural typing things up when propping the tablet on its kickstand and using the Touch Cover, as opposed to laying the Surface flat on our lap to use the on-screen keyboard. If you prefer physical responses, you might want to consider picking up the Type Cover, which is thicker in size and priced a little more at $130, but offers the tactility of real buttons.

The optional full-sized keyboard - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The optional full-sized keyboard - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The optional full-sized keyboard - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The optional full-sized keyboard - Microsoft Surface RT Review
The optional full-sized keyboard - Microsoft Surface RT Review

The optional full-sized keyboard





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40 Comments

1. mercorp

Posts: 1045; Member since: Jan 28, 2012

This is awesome!

36. Nadr1212

Posts: 741; Member since: Sep 22, 2012

Yeah, I'll kinda be waiting to get the 2nd version of this tablet just bcuz I want more of the typical features like delete all emails or search bar on its app store

42. enterthemax

Posts: 8; Member since: Sep 04, 2012

Are you kidding? Search is the most complete feature in windows RT, and the store DOES have it!! Delete all emails? What? If you're talking about SELECTING multiple mails and delete them, there is this "feature" too (obviously)...

2. mydi.maus unregistered

well this one is the one to be mine,..wishlist..

3. Android4u

Posts: 456; Member since: Aug 16, 2012

take my money damnit!!!

4. darkvadervip

Posts: 366; Member since: Dec 08, 2010

What's the megapixel on the pro before version

5. darac

Posts: 2156; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

You will be able to get a Nexus 10 with FAR better display and processor for less price so.. Still i won't say this isn't a good product per se..but a low res screen is just a no these days

11. Eingild

Posts: 203; Member since: Apr 19, 2011

for far less functionality too.

15. darac

Posts: 2156; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

Just wait when it gets Android 5 and 6 ;) Still, you think serious, heavy windows users will pick an RT over the full version? For the "light ", media, entertainment and internet centric majority Nexus 10 does the job more than fine trust me

16. chaoticrazor

Posts: 2347; Member since: Aug 28, 2012

well for light use many are gonna go for the ipad, its sad but true. anyway by the time of android 5 or 6 im sure windows would have evolved too

21. darac

Posts: 2156; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

Well, that is what I have serious doubts about actually..how frequent are major new releases for windows? Even if they seriously step up their pace, Google is simply in another level of speed with android development.

28. Zero0

Posts: 592; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

What less functionality? The RT is limited to the Windows Store, which has a pretty small selection of apps at this point. Now, if we were talking about the Pro, that would be a whole different story. The Pro is basically a Microsoft-built, touchscreen laptop.

6. Kronic

Posts: 321; Member since: Sep 11, 2012

Nexus 10 and ipad 4 blow this out of the water.

8. McLTE

Posts: 922; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

depends on your target audience.. I'm looking at either a laptop or pad for my kids for Xmas.. I was going laptop only because there is very little in the Apple and Android tablets for school productivity.. can't easily create word docs, power point presentations.. etc. This RT tablet COMES with the full blown office suite.. so the kids can do the Pad thing, but also do some school things as well. Are the screens better on the Nexus 10 and the Ipad.. YES.. will my kids notice? NO. The most compelling tablet to me is the Surface Pro.. full windows in a tablet.. mmmmmmm

9. Kronic

Posts: 321; Member since: Sep 11, 2012

iWork exists! And with all due respect tablets are not made for kids.

10. arsenaljimenez

Posts: 196; Member since: May 03, 2012

And what is the ipad for then? Games, for kids. its not good enough for anything else, when I see people using it at school they mostly use that notepad give me a breakk get yourself an actuall laptop, or a surface, just as good

19. Kronic

Posts: 321; Member since: Sep 11, 2012

You don't own it and so you don't know how capable it is.

22. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

well indead Pro version is all the way better then any thing known as tablet to date if u dont agree u dont know what pro version is

29. Zero0

Posts: 592; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

So I presume that you own a Surface?

20. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

lol u are so corecct ipad seems like a toy nothing else

24. btdvox

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 31, 2012

Your kidding right? I know your an apple fanboy but iWork is the worst office like program out there and pages, keynote and numbers suck butt.

30. Kronic

Posts: 321; Member since: Sep 11, 2012

I use them on a daily basis so I know just how awesome they are.

12. TrainFromUkraine

Posts: 95; Member since: Mar 26, 2012

You may want to consider Dell RT tablet for your kids. It can be purchased with a keyboard dock that has actual keyboard/touchpad plus a secondary battery.

37. okiwa002

Posts: 3; Member since: May 09, 2011

You could put Polaris Office on your Android based tablet to create M$ Office-compatible documents/presentations.

17. Whodaboss

Posts: 176; Member since: Nov 18, 2011

So, you're telling me you own a Nexus 10, an iPad 4, and a Surface therefore you know which one is better? I think that's what I understand you to be stating when you mention "Nexus 10 and iPad 4 blow this out of the water." You have first hand knowledge? Hmm... must be nice.

18. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

dont mind taco... a troll will be a troll. I will revisit when they get a software update or 2. I have some hopes for the platform, but they need to light a fire under it, especially with Goog really stepping up the nexus game.

7. snowgator

Posts: 3614; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

Nice review. The Surface is a ground floor, start the ball rolling device. I would sure suggest waiting until other Windows tablets are on the market before jumping on one. But, it is nice to see the general decent (though not glowing) reviews on the Surface.

13. Joshing4fun

Posts: 1244; Member since: Aug 13, 2010

Thank you for not listing "no legacy apps" as a con since this is a TABLET at the end of a day. Good review.

14. ahhxd717

Posts: 332; Member since: Dec 08, 2011

Good review. I think that once windows 8 becomes standard, the lack of apps will be less of an issue, and with software updates, the tablet will run better. I think this is a great start for Microsoft, they just need developer support and consumer support to make those the ultimate ARM tablet that can fully compete with others.

23. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

Disappointing that Flash doesnt work in the Modern UI version of IE. I mean, it makes sense on this tablet, since it is more basic. However, in the DESKTOP version of Windows 8, on the same modern UI, it doesnt either. Very troubling that Microsoft went this route. Hopefully its just an oversight on Adobe's part for not supporting it yet, otherwise...
Surface RT
  • Display 10.6" 1366 x 768 pixels
  • Camera 1 megapixel
  • Processor NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30, Quad-core, 1300 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB

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