GADGET WATCH: Microsoft Surface

Microsoft debuted its Surface tablet this week, in a mystery event kept so under wraps journalists didn’t even know the location until a few hours before.

Was the gadget itself worth the secrecy? While the Surface tablets won’t be out until later this year at the earliest, several analysts have had the chance to get some hands-on time to get some early impressions.

Hardware and features

There are actually two different versions of the Surface tablet. The first will be running Windows RT, and the second will run a more professional version of Windows 8.

The first version running Windows RT will weigh 676 grams, is 9.3mm thick and has a 10.6” inch screen, featuring either 32GB of 64GB of storage. It features Office Home and Student 2013, and can work with the gadget’s peripherals as well including the Touch Cover.

The Windows 8 Pro tablet weighs slightly more, 903 grams, and is 13.5mm thick. It has the same 10.6” display, although battery life is a little longer. The device will also come with either 64GB or 128GB of memory.

The RT version is powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, and features a USB 2.0 port, while the Windows Pro is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, with a USB 3.0 port.

What’s the consensus?

Early opinions on the device are positive. Over at The Verge, the publication notes the design and build of the gadget itself is “very polished, with tight, clean lines”.

It also said the Surface tablet was light, with the display looking “crystal clear” from a number of different viewing angles. However, it did say not a lot of time has been spent with Windows 8 so far – that will demand a longer review session.

However, Gizmodo pointed out it thinks the device itself is fast and responsive, with the new Metro interface being able to switch through apps easily.

“When we flipped through an app, going from snap state to full screen, it blazed faster than your average reggae band in Humboldt County. Touching led to instant firing.”

One of the more interesting announcements at Microsoft’s conference was the addition of a Touch keyboard, a type of cover that acts as a full QWERTY keyboard. But does it hold up to long, extended periods of typing?

At TechCrunch, the publication noted the Kickstand that’s built into the device works in a stylish and easy way with “a satisfying ‘snap’ sound”.

And at TechRadar, the publication noted some interesting details, including the fact that when you fold the cover forward against the screen, it turns the tablet off into a Connected Standby mode.

As for the Touch Cover, it said typing was responsive, and that resting your hands on the cover doesn’t register characters accidentally – a huge plus.

“The soft surface is more comfortable and less slippery than typing on a screen – not to mention being at the right angle.”

“It is harder on your fingers than typing on a keyboard with physical keys that give as you type, so if you type a lot there’s the Type Cover.”

Who’s it for?

It’s hard to tell so far, but it appears Microsoft is attempting to corner some of the iPad market with the Surface. That’s a fool’s errand, given Apple’s massive market share.

The Surface, though, could definitely work its way into the enterprise market in due course. With no pricing or release date, it’s hard to say exactly what Microsoft is going for here, but tech-savvy entrepreneurs should definitely keep an eye on this one.

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