Microsoft Surface Windows tablet (preview)

Microsoft Surface preview: Microsoft enters the tablet game with the 10.6in Surface.

Note: We have now completed our full review of the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet.

Microsoft has unveiled a tablet device that aims to compete with Apple's market leading iPad in the consumer space, as well as offer a solution to business and corporate users. The Microsoft Surface has a 10.6in display, is powered by the company's new Windows 8 operating system and boasts a magnesium case.

The Microsoft Surface tablet is constructed from magnesium and manufactured using liquid metal. Microsoft claims the magnesium, PVD finish is the first of its kind in the PC market. Called VaporMg, the case is melted down in the manufacturing process and then moulded to the details needed for the design. Bevelled edges have been utilised in order to make the tablet comfortable to hold.

The Microsoft Surface tablet utilises a built-in kickstand, which pops out from the back to stand on a desk or table. Microsoft says that putting a kickstand in the product wasn't an easy decision as it "breaks seamless lines". However, the company stressed it needed to take a chance and says the kickstand hinges attempt to feel and sound like closing the door of an expensive car.

Microsoft acknowledged that many tablet users "prefer to have a cover" so the Surface utilises a magnetic connector to attach to a keyboard dock. There are two covers available. The first is a 3mm thin accessory called the "Touch cover" that uses a full multi touch keyboard and also includes a trackpad. The Touch cover is available in blue, red, pink and white colours.

The second accessory is a "Type cover" which includes a full trackpad with clicking buttons, available in black only. Microsoft says it will appeal to users who prefer traditional tactile keys over touching a flat surface.

Microsoft will launch two versions of the Surface tablet. The first is an ARM-based device running Windows RT aimed at consumers, while the other uses an Intel-based chip to provide the full version of Windows 8 Pro for business and corporate users.

The ARM-based Surface is thinner (9.3mm) and lighter (676g) than the Intel based model (13.5mm and 903g, respectively), but both utilise a very similar design with the same sized display. The screen is coated with Gorilla Glass and both models also have a full sized USB port. The display on the ARM-based Surface has a resolution of 1366x768, giving it a pixels per inch (ppi) rating of 208. The Windows 8 Pro takes that one step further with a full HD resolution.

The Windows 8 Pro model of the Surface has a larger battery and comes with a stylus that magnetically clips to the side of the Surface when not in use. The tablet detects when the stylus is close to the screen and conveniently disables touch input, preventing you from accidentally touching the screen with your finger or palm.

Both the Windows RT and the Windows 8 Pro models of the Surface have a microSD card slot for extra storage. The Windows 8 Pro variant will come with 64GB and 128GB internal memory options while the ARM-based Surface will be sold in 32GB and 64GB variants.

Microsoft says suggested pricing will be announced closer to availability, but stressed the Surface will be priced competitively when compared with an ARM tablet or an Intel-based Ultrabook PC. Microsoft hasn't announced if or when the Surface will be released in Australia.

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World

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