Surface for Windows: RT Edition
Microsoft announced that it will bring two of its own tablets (no OEM branding in sight) to the masses in the near future. While the Pro model might not appear until 2013, the RT tablet will launch either alongside or shortly after Windows 8 this Fall. We got up close and personal with the RT model at Microsoft's Surface event today, and got some limited hands- and eyes-on time with the hardware.
Widescreen for Windows
Both the RT and Pro tablets have 10.6-inch displays, while the Pro has a 1080p panel and the RT is something smaller (our best guess is 1280x800). The 10.6-inch display is bigger than the iPad (9.7 inches), although it's hard to notice due to the 16:9 widescreen configuration.
Size and Weight
At 9.3mm thick, the Surface RT tablet is comparable to an iPad (9.4mm) in size and weight (676g versus 652g). It looks thicker than it actually is, thanks to its angled edges instead of a rounded design. It gives the Surface RT a sturdy, substantial feeling in your hands.
Shape: No Curves Here
The Surface RT has a 22 degree edge from front to back, giving it a trapezoid outline when viewed from the side. These straight, flat edges (as opposed to the more curvy sides of the iPad) allow for ports to be included without breaking any lines. A lot of newer laptops (especially Ultrabooks) have ports that bulge out of the side, but the Surface RT is not guilty of such design crimes.
One of the more interesting hardware features on the Surface RT is its integrated kickstand. The hinge sits about halfway up the back of the tablet, and has a hearty "click" when popped in and out of place. It's thin, which leaves us worried about durability, but there wasn't much flex to the kickstand. It's made with the same magnesium alloy that's found in the rest of the device.
Here's a closer look at the kickstand, as well as a five-pin proprietary connector, presumably used for docks and other accessories. While Microsoft didn't publicly show off a dock, they did use one (or some sort of video connector) during the Surface presentation.
Surface RT Display
The display on the RT has great viewing angles, roughly on par with the iPad or any Android tablet currently available. No specifics were given, but it should be a 178-degree panel, like everything else currently on the market.
VaporMg: Magnesium Alloy Casing
The RT and Pro are both made using a process called VaporMg, or "Vapor Mag." The magnesium alloy is brought down to a molten state, and that material is injected into molds to create pieces for the body. It seems like there are two major pieces to the body: the backplate (which is one big piece), and the ring that gives the tablet its shape. This ring is pictured above, and you can see the spaces where the USB and five-pin port pop out.
Kickstand and Touch Cover
Here's the complete package: A Surface RT tablet with a Touch Cover. Speaking of which...
Touch Cover, Explained
The Touch Cover is one of two covers that will be available for the Surface tablets. The Touch model has no moving parts, as it uses pressure-sensitive pads to register keystrokes. The trackpad and left- and right-click work the same way. Much like the Smart Cover for the iPad, the Touch Cover attaches magnetically, and can be flipped around to the back. You won't have to worry about unintentional keystrokes, as the cover deactivates when it's flipped around.
Touch Cover or Smart Cover?
The 3mm-thick Touch Cover from the side. You can hardly tell the difference between this and a Smart Cover!
More Cover, Less Touch
There are no flaps on the Touch Cover, so you can't fold it up to use as a stand (that's what the kickstand is for, obviously). The built-in kickstand is for landscape mode only, so there's no way to prop it up in portrait. It seems like the Surface tablets are designed with landscape in mind, so you won't be using these in portrait mode at all, aside from eBooks and a smattering of other apps.
The Touch Cover Insides
The insides of the Touch Cover - no rubber domes or keys here!
Touch Cover and Type Cover
The Touch Cover (left), and the Type Cover, which is designed with the Surface Pro tablet in mind.
The Type Cover
The 5mm-thick Type Cover uses rubber dome switches, so these are keys that depress and pop back up when you type. The same goes for the left- and right-click buttons. It's magnetic like its little brother, so there's no sitting hinge like you would find with the Asus Transformer keyboard.
Microsoft Surface Tablets: The Specs
Here we have the RT and Pro tablet specifications side by side. You can tell there's going to be some significant differences between the two devices, be it on the outside or with the internal hardware. Nvidia confirmed that some version of Tegra 3 is powering the Surface RT tablet, while the Pro is using an Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge platform. The Pro handily beats the RT when it comes to power, from the more powerful chip and 1080p display to the USB 3.0 and SDXC support. The RT is thinner and lighter, however, and Tegra 3 is no slouch (see: Asus Transformer Prime).