Introducing Windows 8
Introducing Windows 8
01/11/2012 15:45 | By David Phelan, contributor, MSN Tech

Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet review

Surface by Microsoft - we test the new Windows tablet

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Surface Windows 8 Pro coming to UK soon

What is it?
Microsoft’s first venture into computer hardware to go with its software, and this one runs the new Windows RT operating system.

What's great
Snazzy Modern UI tiles, slick, responsive touchscreen and full Windows environment. It has a cool built-in kickstand, too.

What's not
Limitation to apps from the Windows Marketplace and occasionally confusing overlap between old and new.

The bottom line
This is a handsome, powerful piece of kit that grows on you. Add a keyboard and it’s a highly competent, light and portable alternative to a regular laptop.

Microsoft Surface review, awarded 4 stars out of 5 (© MSN)

At last, the much-anticipated Surface is here. It’s the first time Microsoft has built its own hardware, apart from numerous mice, keyboards and accessories. It’s quite a debut.

Solid, well-built and attractive in its black glass and metal finishes, the Surface has a screen bigger than most other tablets at 10.6 inches. It’s an HD display, at least its 1366 x 768 resolution will be familiar to anyone who had an HD-ready, rather than a Full HD TV. That means it has 148 pixels per inch, proportionally lower than the new iPad mini, and a bit more than the iPad 2. That may not sound that impressive, but when it comes to playing back video, say, it’s more than reasonable. And the built-in kickstand means it’s easy to prop the screen up perfectly to watch this.

Microsoft Surface: User Interface

Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Turn on the Surface and log in to be greeted by the Modern UI. This is what you see on Windows 8 computers and is similar to the ribbon of tiles on Windows Phone devices. It’s bright, attractive and enticing.

In some ways it’s not as intuitive as, say, Apple’s iOS. You need to be told, for instance, that swiping the screen from the right bezel launches the Charms menu – the charms are five essential shortcuts to take you to Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings. Once you know it, it’s a cool and enjoyable way to navigate the screen, but you probably wouldn’t guess it without some help.

The Start charm takes you to the tiles screen, though the Windows logo on the front of the Surface will do that, too. It’s not a clickable button, but a capacitive one and works well to wake the screen.

Microsoft Surface review (© MSN)

The tiles can be coloured any which way you like, and they can be dragged round the screen so News is before Weather or whatever. Just don’t lose the Desktop tile as that’s the easiest way to get to the traditional Windows computer environment. This is what you’ll need if you want to write documents using Office, for instance. Unlike the iPad with its cut down version of Pages, this is a full office suite, though cleverly optimised for touch interface.

Microsoft Surface: Windows Marketplace

Apart from the programs like Office 13 that come installed already, the only way to put apps on the Surface is by downloading them from the Microsoft app store, called Windows Marketplace. So don’t go trying to install Windows 7 compatible programs. This Marketplace is still under populated, though it is growing fast.

See also: Top 10 Windows 8 all-in-one PCs 

The Modern UI tiles work splendidly and for many users, especially those familiar with tablets as media consumption devices, will work so well they may rarely need to nip across to the more traditional environment. The more apps there are, the more satisfying the live tiles will be, updating independently to give you the latest headlines, sports results, Facebook updates and so on.

Microsoft Surface: Accessories

There are optional accessories for the Surface, though one of them – the keyboard – is pretty essential. You can choose between a Touch Cover and a Type Cover. Both attach magnetically to the screen, protecting it when closed. The Type Cover has physical keys with decent travel and this is definitely the better option. The Touch Cover, though colourful, is less enjoyable to use at length.

There are the same neat features you find on other touch-enabled Windows 8 machines, like swiping from the left bezel to bring up previous apps or the facility to split the screen to have two apps side-by-side.

Touch Cover for Surface (© MSN)

The Surface is new: Microsoft’s first hardware and the first outing for Windows RT. As such it takes some getting used to. The tablet effect with Modern UI tiles are striking and enjoyable, the full-blown computer element of Office 13 is useful and recognisable. The two halves don’t always fit together seamlessly but this is a well-built, slick machine with an operating system that’s largely successful and will grow as it becomes more familiar.

4 stars

Essential info:
Camera: 1.2MP
Video: 720p @ 30fps
Display: TFT capacitive LCD touchscreen, 1366 x 768 pixels, 10.6-inches
Dimensions: 274.6 x 172 x 9.4 mm
Internal Memory: 32GB storage, 2GB RAM
Card Slot: microSD up to 64GB
Colour: Black
Weight: 680.4g
Touchscreen: Yes
Audio playback: 3.5mm ear jack & speaker
Processor: 1.3GHz quad-core processor
Operating System: Windows RT
Battery Life: 360h standby time
Keyboard: virtual or add-on accessory

07/11/2012 23:20
i like the surface it cool easy to use and great fun , better than the ipad i find that boring , yippee for microsoft
20/11/2012 15:49

I would imagine this will be become more tablet of choice for those needing a professional product that is flexible and compatible, or those who want to combine a professional work ethic with sitting on the sofa.


It will be handy professionally for people dotting locations, in and out of meetings etc. but only once it becomes more adaptable to 3rd party or heftier / domain orientated software.


I believe Microsoft will get there! ...And then I'll buy one.


25/06/2013 13:47
Because I do a large amount of video and audio, my RT is not a replacement for my trusty laptop; however, for a light tablet that can go where my laptop cannot due to space and quite frankly battery life, it is quite reliable and efficient.  The smaller amount of storage space is not a problem since I keep any of my important files on Skye Drive and am permanently inserting an SD card, is not an issue.  After testing both keyboards, I actually prefer the touch keyboard.  I must admit I had some trouble getting the "full" Office software to download, but that was easily remedied by manually downloading.  All other downloads/updates loaded readily.  I would advise having the RT connected to the power source when you do this since the updates are, as Microsoft downloads usually are, extensive and time consuming on a battery.
24/05/2013 18:46

I like the surface, it is quite easy to use, the screen if fantastic



I like it very much, have had it a few days now BUT the infuriating bit is that it won't work with a lot of 3rd party software that I use regularly... flash player, avs4u video software, citrix receiver (the app that is available doesn't work, I need it to run in the background while i access citrix system through IE) and I can't use Avast anti-virus with it... I have windows 8 on my desktop and they all work fine on thyat...


Come on Microsoft, pull your fingers out!!!!



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