Microsoft Surface RT review
A unique, superbly designed tablet that’s ideal for mobile professionals, but it comes with too many compromises to make it a must-have
Review Date: 8 Feb 2013
Reviewed By: Barry Collins
Price when reviewed: £332 ((£399 inc VAT), 32GB; £399 (£479 inc VAT), 32GB with Touch Cover; £466 (£559 inc VAT), 64GB with Touch Cover inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
UPDATE: Our Microsoft Surface RT review has been updated with information about the new, out-of-beta Office RT. Scroll to the end of the review to read all about it.
When Microsoft dropped the bombshell that it was launching its own tablet, the company not only risked alienating its PC partners, but detonating its credibility if it failed to show them how to do it properly.
There’s no doubt that the Microsoft Surface RT is a serious tablet, but is it good enough to tempt people away from their iPads, their Android tablets, or even their laptops? Or is it a mere stopgap until the fully fledged Windows 8 versions of the Surface tablet arrive to complement this ARM-based version?
The Surface hardware
Microsoft made clear right from the outset that the Surface was intended to set an example to the PC manufacturers, and it’s immediately apparent that this isn’t a piece of boilerplate hardware. Two things make the Surface stand out from the uniform slabs of glass we’ve witnessed over the past couple of years: the kickstand and the detachable keyboards (which you can read about here).
The mechanics of the kickstand are beautifully simple. The bottom half of the back of the tablet casing flicks out to create a stand, turning the device into a pseudo-laptop when used with one of the keyboards. When you’re finished with the stand, it flips back into place, perfectly flush with the back of the tablet, and with the satisfying clunk of an expensive car door.
However, the stand is set at a fixed position, leaving no means of adjusting the angle of the screen as you would on a conventional laptop. That left the taller members of the PC Pro team awkwardly hunched over the Surface as they attempted to work with the device at a desk, although our more modestly sized colleagues had no complaint.
That slightly too upright angle would be a much bigger problem if the 10.6in screen wasn’t so sparkling. Viewing angles are excellent – perhaps a little too good for snoopers in an adjacent train seat.
A maximum screen brightness of 400cd/m2 is comparable to that of the iPad, and while the Surface has an impressive measured contrast ratio of 3,333:1, it's due to the presence of dynamic contrast.
Flick between dark and bright pages, and it's possible to detect the backlight raising and lowering brightness to compensate. Still, the IPS panel guarantees that the palette of bright colours that make up the Windows 8 Start screen zing off the display, and photos and video deliver sumptuous levels of saturation.
The 1,366 x 768 resolution isn’t going to give Apple’s engineering department cause to shamefacedly return to the drawing board, but when you’re sitting a foot or so away from the Surface screen it doesn’t feel as though it lacks detail or sharpness.
The tablet feels delightful in the hand, too. There’s much marketing waffle around the so-called VaporMg material that forms the casing, but it feels robust and smooth to the touch. The charcoal black design is commendably understated, with only a subtle Windows logo adorning the rear.
The Microsoft Surface RT is the Engadget tablet of the year!
By rhythm on 20 Feb 2013
I've had the Surface RT for a week and its...
..rubbish (or disappointing if you want to be PC). The hardware is really nice but the software is incredibly limited (lack of apps) and Office 2013 is rubbish when using with a touch screen.
The performance is also iffy and the fact that you now can't use Google Calendars/Contacts is, for me, a real limitation
By Chatan on 21 Feb 2013
Beautiful Piece of Kit
No complaints here.
The big advantage over the iPad is a USB port.
A very positive start to usher in the new generation of Windows.
By 5735guy on 18 May 2013
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