Just a few days ago we did a comparison smackdown between the latest generation iPad with Retina display and MS Surface RT. But things get even more interesting when we compare the Surface RT tablet with some top Android tablets. Why? Because I suspect a lot of folks who buy Android tablets are looking for a productivity tool with access to the file system and a more customizable tablet. And then there are you Apple haters who just won't buy and iPad for "political" reasons.
Yes, both Surface RT and Android tablets are also good for content consumption: music and video playback, gaming and reading eBooks and webpages. But they really shine when it comes to relatively easy and direct access to the files on the tablet via microSD card and for many Android tablets, USB flash drives. To that end, we look at two 10.1" Android tablets with a nod toward productivity: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 with its digital pen that's great for note-taking, marking up documents and signing digital documents. We also bring in the Lenovo IdeaTab S2110 tablet with the transformer style keyboard dock for those of you who are looking for an instant-on laptop replacement with much better battery life than most laptops offer.
The Surface RT brings real MS Office 2013 RT rather than a watered-down mobile OS offering. For those of us who spend our day knee-deep in Word and Excel, that's a killer feature. Since it runs Windows 8 RT, you get the same desktop experience as on a standard Windows computer, minus the ability to run Windows 7 .exe applications. You do get the usual Windows Explorer, administrative tools and access to control panels for a very PC-like experience. It also supports USB flash drives, hard drives, optical drives and NTFS natively out of the box via the full size USB 2.0 port. Both platforms do an excellent job of syncing to Google services with push: email, contacts and calendar.
Android fights back with a large selection of apps. Though Android tablets catch some flak for having fewer tablet-optimized apps than the iPad, the selection of Android tablet apps still dwarfs the brand new Microsoft app store (5,000 apps). But the number of apps in the MS store is growing very quickly. Still, if you want something with a large selection of apps right now and not 6 or 12 months from now, Android has the advantage.
All three tablets start around the $500 mark (the Lenovo is a bit less expensive), offer similar battery life (not taking into account the additional battery in the optional Lenovo keyboard dock) and weigh 1.5 lbs. or less. All have high quality displays with wide viewing angles. The Androids are 10.1" running at 1280 x 800 while the Surface RT is 10.6" and 1366 x 768.
Here's our MS Surface RT vs. Android Tablet Comparison Smackdown video: