Tablet PC Buying Guide 2012

Microsoft Surface Tablet PC Preview

By Chris Messenger | Published 20/09/2012

 

We all knew something big was coming from Microsoft this year; we just didn't know it would be THIS big. Faced with the onslaught of an emergent market and thus more industry competition than ever before, Microsoft need a miracle...Can the Surface deliver it? We forced our intrepid reviewer to wear a wire and sent him undercover to take a look at the new kid in town...

 

What We Know So Far

The Microsoft Surface looks gorgeous, a pleasing aesthetic blend of Spartan professionalism and gaudy Crayola pop art. The design recalls classic Windows laptops of the past, yet also makes a cheeky swipe at the more ‘fun’ competitors of today.

 

We now know that the Surface will be a 10+-inch tablet and that the 10.6-inch (full HD) screen will have a 16:9 aspect ratio. We know that the tablet itself will weigh 676g (903g in the case of the Surface Pro), which is a little on the heavy side of light, weighing about the same as the New iPad.

The magnetic cover (which cleverly doubles as a keyboard) was designed by noted Microsoft engineer Steven Bathiche (sort of the Howling Mad Murdoch of the computer industry) and demonstrates a new image, of sorts, for Microsoft.

 

Coming in a wide range of bold, primary colours and featuring heavily in the Surface’s gimmick-centric marketing campaign, the keyboard cover (‘coverboard’? -Just a thought) is gearing up to be a major selling point. It is clear that Microsoft is taking the fight to Apple in more than one way. In fact, this whole product can be seen as a riposte of sorts to Apple’s recent success.

 

On the inside, running the brand new Windows RT (Windows 8 Pro for the Surface Pro) will either be a plus or a minus; depending on how good Windows 8 turns out to be. Some people will be cautious or even apprehensive about this new OS, as the painful memories of Vista are still fresh in the mind even after all these years. However, Windows 7 proved that even when it stops to lick its wounds, Microsoft is still a powerful beast indeed – it's not usually a good idea to bet against them.

 

We now know that the Surface will be a 10+-inch tablet and that the 10.6-inch (full HD) screen will have a 16:9 aspect ratio. We know that the tablet itself will weigh 676g (903g in the case of the Surface Pro), which is a little on the heavy side of light, weighing about the same as the New iPad.

Potential Price

There are two models of the Surface being released (one with ‘Pro’ in the title, yet another example of MS learning from their competition) this makes it a very clear possibility that the Surface will be released at an affordable price. The standard Surface may feature less functions that the Pro, but if that drives the price down, so much the better. Microsoft needs this model to be cheap, as they need to make it as ubiquitous as possible. The secret to the success of Windows, in any era, is familiarity via ubiquity.

 

If Microsoft are going to break open the tablet PC market, they are going to have to make a pretty big impression on it, as well as beating out Android, Blackberry and of course Apple. With an iPad 2 available at around £300 and the Kindle Fire for half that, this order is certainly a tall one, the gauntlet is, as they say, laid down. However, an affordable high end Tablet, together with the right marketing, could very well achieve this lofty goal.

 

Performance (RT Vs Pro)

Everything about Microsoft's new baby is going to be state of the art, with the Surface Pro running dual Intel Core i5 processors and having a memory of up to 128GB (the standard model will utilise 64GB and both will have an SD card slot). With specs like that, you can pretty much guarantee smooth running time and the ability to operate multiple programs at once.

 

The touch screen function will likely be precise and responsive and the same goes for the pen and palm block options. Microsoft have worked too hard and for too long to fall at a hurdle like that. I remain confident that the device itself will at least handle well.

 

What I can't guarantee, however, is good WiFi connectivity, a user-friendly OS or even a strong user support network, as one does not yet exist for such a new product. In fact, Microsoft can't even be absolutely sure of strong Industry support, as the corporate giants have put this entire project together, from proposal to inception, completely in-house.

 

Microsoft usually rely on other companies to actually manufacture the machines that run their software and, by cutting those companies out of the loop, they may have made a rather large mistake. As with all things, time will tell.

 

Our Verdict

Microsoft have not really made their presence felt in the Tablet market and, now that it has become a viable, bona-fide force within the consumer technology industry, they can be accused of jumping on the bandwagon (with some justification). The tablet marketplace has not really been subjected to Microsoft dominion either and it remains to be seen if Windows 8 will prove versatile and easy enough to compete with precision-adapted operating systems like MAC OS and Android. It also remains to be seen if the Surface will sell in large enough numbers to justify Microsoft's faith in it.

 

The biggest computer company ever to exist remained curiously tight-lipped as smart phones, tablet PCs and other portable computers proliferated, quietly turning an inchoate revenue stream into an enormous, bustling marketplace. This, then, is Microsoft's big statement on the subject. To their credit, they are making it loudly and confidently, but is it going to be a glorious comeback or an old dog trying in vain to learn some funky new tricks? Nobody knows right now, but watch this space so we can find out together.

 

You can pre order the Microsoft Surface Tablet PC from the Microsoft Store today. RT Prices start at £399.

 

Surface with Windows RT

OS:

Windows 8 RT

Thinness:

9.30mm

Weight:

1.5lbs

Battery:

31.5 W-h

Storage:

32GB, 64GB

Screen:

10.6”, 16:9, 1366x768

Ports:

Stereo speakers
Full-size USB 2.0
microSDXC card slot
Headset jack
HD video out port
Cover port

Surface with Windows 8 Pro

OS:

Windows 8 Pro

Thinness:

13.5mm

Weight:

2.0lbs

Battery:

42 W-h

Storage:

64GB, 128GB

Screen:

10.6”, 16:9, 1920x1080

Ports:

Stereo speakers
Full-size USB 3.0
microSDXC card slot
Headset jack
Mini DisplayPort 
Cover port

 

 

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Tags: microsoft surface tablet pc, windows 8 tablets, surface tablet preview

 

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