GADGET WATCH: Microsoft Surface RT

Windows RT is a version of Microsoft’s operating system that runs on ARM devices, and the first Surface tablets with Windows RT have started appearing.

The Surface tablet has received a lot of attention ahead of its release, as it could end up being a serious competitor to the iPad. But can it stand up to the competition, and is it worth it for the enterprise customer?

Hardware and features

The Surface tablet measures 0.37 inches thick and 10.81 inches wide. It weighs 1.5 pounds, with a screen size measuring 10.6 inches. The resolution comes in at 1366×768 pixels.

The Surface is powered by a quad-core Tegra 3 processor and 2GB of RAM. Storage size comes in either 32GB or 64GB, along with a microSD port for portable storage.

Both the front and rear cameras film at 720p, while connectivity includes WiFi, Bluetooth 4 and USB ports.

Battery usage is quoted at eight hours, although that will decrease with constant and consistent usage.

What’s the consensus?

Microsoft has made an effort with its hardware this time around, and reviewers have noted the quality build on the Surface. Over at Engadget, the publication noted the Surface both looks and feels different from some of the cheaper tablets on the market.

In fact, it said, the build feels “amazing”:

“The exterior of the slate is a cool, matte surface that looks dark and feels quite strong and durable. It’s constructed using Microsoft’s Vapor Mg process, which relies on vapor deposition to create this distinctive tactility, which we found ourselves quite drawn to.”

“The material feels amazing in the hand and here it’s used to create a structure that is quite complex, flat on the front and back of course but with the sides angling outward, connecting a facade slightly wider than the rear.”

Gizmodo agreed, praising the build. A tablet that promotes constant, heavy usage needs to feel sturdy, and that’s exactly how the Surface comes across.

“But more importantly, Surface is handsome. That ineffable Hey, this thing feels good quality is lacquered all over Surface.”

TechCrunch, however, noted despite the solid build, there are a few aspects that make it hard to handle – specifically the wide screen.

“When holding it properly, that is, in landscape, it’s a bit too long to be held with one hand. Likewise, when holding it in portrait, it’s too tall to be held comfortably one-handed. In fact, it’s slightly awkward overall.”

The downside of such a high-powered tablet is that without the Touch cover, which features a keyboard, TechCrunch says the device is “basically a big laptop screen without the keyboard”.

“The cover rights the design’s wrongs by forcing the user to use the physical keyboard rather than the on-screen keyboard. Microsoft knows this. After all, Surface is rarely advertised without a Touch Cover, but that doesn’t alleviate the sting of paying another $100+ for a keyboard.”

Gizmodo noted the display, praising it for a crisp clarity and a technology that helps round out jagged edges. The screen “stands up well against the competition”, it said, despite the Retina screen on the iPad beating it out for resolution.

But one of the bigger contributions on the Surface tablet is the keyboard, and as TechCrunch noted, they “work equally as well as they look”.

“The $119 Touch Cover uses touch-sensitive buttons that do not physically move. This Touch Cover is half as thin as its brother, but after spending a week with both, I found I was about half as productive on the Touch Cover versus the Type Cover (see WPP chart below). Both have little touchpads with right and left clicking buttons under the keyboard.”

However, it did say the Touch Cover makes the Surface tablet “ungainly large”:

“When used with the Surface’s kickstand and a Touch Cover, the whole contraption is 10-inches deep. That’s the same depth as a 15-inch MacBook Pro.”

“An iPad with a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard is only 7-inches deep; most ultrabooks are 9-inches or under. A Surface with a Touch Cover barely fits on most airplane seat-back trays; it doesn’t work at all on the trays that pull out of an armrest. That’s a problem.”

Engadget also noted they were able to type at a “brisk clip…making surprisingly few errors along the way”.

Battery-wise, Engadget noted the device came in at 9:36, which is an impressive amount and puts it in the upper scale of the competition.

However, the tablet seems to come crashing down when it comes to Windows 8. All publications noted a significant amount of bugs when using it, and in a limited fashion it doesn’t provide enough connectivity.

The apps don’t work properly, the touch screen features don’t work as described. It’s simply not working as advertised – and despite the solid hardware, that’s a big problem.

Who’s it for?

You shouldn’t buy this. Microsoft has succeeded in creating a pretty polished piece of hardware – but Windows 8 lets it down badly: It’s buggy, the apps don’t work, and for a device that claims to be a PC, not a tablet, it’s simply not up to scratch.

The Surface is a large tablet, a powerhouse. It’s being marketed by Microsoft as a PC. But if any PC was as buggy as this, you wouldn’t use it. Skip over this one.

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