Microsoft's Surface tablets are one of the most important technology milestones of the year. Yes, the Surface RT is Microsoft's first computing device, but it's also the perfect canvas for Redmond's boldest Windows OS release since Windows 95, if not Windows 1.0. Microsoft is taking a big leap with Windows 8 and it's dualistic UI that has both Live Tiles in the Modern UI (formerly called Metro) and the traditional, though updated, Windows 7 standard desktop UI. Modern UI is geared toward touch, because touchscreen tablets are the way of the future, not to mention a wildly profitable platform for Microsoft's competitor, Apple.
To showcase the touch experience and bring more attention to that aspect of Windows 8, Microsoft is offering two sexy tablets, the Surface RT we look at in this review, and the upcoming Surface Pro that will run on an Intel processor. Windows 8 RT runs apps from the MS Store, it doesn't run Intel apps like Photoshop CS 6. There are currently 3,600 apps at launch on the MS Store. This is Microsoft: more apps will come. MS Office 2013 is included along with IE 10 and most Windows built-in apps you've grown accustomed to (Paint, calcuator and etc.) but not Windows Media Player since there are Modern UI apps for media playback.
The Surface RT has a 10.6", 1366 x 768 display with ClearType technology and Gorilla Glass 2. It's a lovely display with 178 degree viewing angles and five points of multitouch. You can use a capacitive stylus with it but there's no active digitizer with digital pen like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 or older Windows tablets. Sadly, the digital pen is MIA in many of the first crop of Windows 8 tablets.
The tablet is 0.37" thin and it weighs 1.5 pounds, similar to the New iPad and Android 10" tablets. The design is gorgeous: modern, elegant and understated. Fit and finish are superb on this $499 tablet. It looks and feels like an expensive piece of hardware, right down to the sound the kickstand makes when you open and close it. The tablet has dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and front and rear 720p cameras that are good for Skype video chat but not much else. Quality is very good for Skype video, but the low resolution cameras don't take inspiring photos or video.
The Touch Cover ($99 additional when bundled with the tablet and $119 if purchased separately) is simply brilliant. I expected to hate it since it offers nearly no tactile feedback save for the sensation of molded key ridges) but it's really easy to use. Windows 8's auditory feedback really helps with the typing experience and I found I was typing well in just 5 minutes. The 3mm thick keyboard also acts as a smart cover, much like Apple's iPad cover. For those who want a more tactile and traditional experience, there's the Type Cover that has actual keys that move.
Here's our in-depth Microsoft Surface RT video review. Our full written review will follow soon.