Microsoft Surface tablet – top five talking points
Some might say the tablets market was getting a little stale, with the Apple iPad dominating sales and countless Android tablets playing second fiddle. Windows 8 is bound to shake things up, and Microsoft has kickstarted the Windows 8 tablet movement with its own tablet range, named Surface.
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Two versions of the Surface tablet will launch initially, one which runs Windows 8 Pro, and one which runs Windows 8 RT. We take a look at some of the headline features of the Surface tablets:
1. Windows 8 operating system
The ‘Pro’ version of the Surface tablet will run Windows 8 Pro, meaning you’ll be able to access all the usual Windows-compatible software, as well as apps designed for the Windows 8 Metro interface. In short, this means you’ll be able to run a full version of Microsoft Office, as well as being able to play an inevitable Windows 8 Angry Birds app.
Being able to work and synch more easily with your home computer or a work computer will be a boon to many of us, and particularly for business users.
However, the Windows RT tablet uses a more ‘stripped down’ version of Windows 8. This has been designed for tablets specifically, and it doesn’t allow you to install traditional Windows software. Instead, you’ll only be able to use Windows apps, though we expect to see a Microsoft Office app for the system.
2. Keyboard, kickstand and pen
The attachable Surface Touch Cover doubles up as a full keyboard, including a trackpad, instantly making the Surface easier to type on. Close it up and it protects the screen.
There’s a built-in kickstand at the back to prop up the tablet and hold it upright when not in use. This could also be handy when you are watching a video.
The Surface ‘Pro’ will also come with a stylus pen, and it features a ‘palm block’ interface that detects when you are using the pen and resting your hand on the tablet screen, letting it ignore the hand and focus on the stylus instead.
3. Processor and storage
The Surface tablets boast the technical specs to entice demanding computer users, and their feature-set (and likely price-point of around £900) mark them out as business or high-end devices, rather than products for the casual tablet screen-swiper.
With the Surface ‘Pro’ packing up to 128GB of storage, and a Intel quad-core i5 processor, it can rival the speed and storage of many consumer laptops.
The Surface ‘RT’ features an ARM-based processor, presumably quite similar to the hoards of Android tablets. This model will have less storage space, either 32GB or 64GB
It’s rare to see a full-sized USB port on any tablet, but the Surface models both have one to call their own. The Surface ‘Pro’ even features USB 3.0. In practice, this means easy file transfer and connection of peripherals.
You’ll be able to plug a USB memory stick or an external hard drive directly into the Surface tablets. Since the tablets are Windows-based, you’ll be able to play video files stored on a hard drive, or view an Excel file on a USB stick straight away.
The Surface ‘RT’ also has a micro-SD card slot, and the Surface ‘Pro’ has an SDXC memory card slot, letting you view digital photos directly from a camera memory card.
The one thing missing from the connectivity options is 3G (much less 4G). Both the Surface models connect to the internet via wi-fi only, which seems odd given that the Pro model in particular is intended for business on-the-go.
5. Thickness and weight
Understandably, whenever weight and dimensions on tablets are discussed, it’s the iPad that is drawn up as the point of comparison, and the Surface tablets are both heavier than their main rival, though in the ‘RT’ version’s case, not by much.
- iPad 3 (wi-fi only model): 9.4mm thick, 652g
- Surface ‘RT’: 9.3mm thick, 676g
- Surface ‘Pro’: 13.5mm thick, 903g
As you can see from the specs above, the ‘Pro’ model is substantially thicker and heavier than the latest iPad. In fact, it’s nearly 40% heavier and 44% thicker than the iPad 3.
Microsoft is entering a hugely competitive market with its first foray into tablets; the iPad is dominating sales, and Android has built up a head of steam among third party manufacturers. Unveiling the Surface tablets is a bold move on Microsoft’s part, and a call to arms for other manufacturers to release their own Windows 8-powered tablets before the end of the year.
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