The tablet wars are not a Google, Apple affair any more. At a press event in Los Angeles today, Microsoft took the wraps off Surface, a line of tablet devices powered by the company's next-generation Windows operating system.
The devices feature 10.6-inch touch-screens in a magnesium case that Microsoft calls VaporMg (pronounced "Vapor mag"). The unique feature of the new tablets is a magnetically-attached, 3mm-thick folding Touch Cover that can function as a full touchscreen keyboard.
Microsoft offers another cover option, the 5-mm thick Type Cover, with a built-in track pad. The keyboards power down on being folded back against the tablet thanks to a built-in accelerometer.
The Surface tablets are being offered in two versions, the Windows RT version -- which is effectively the "light" version of Windows 8 to launch in the fall, and run on an ARM CPU. It will not feature the full desktop version of Windows 8 (it will run only the "Metro" apps available through the Windows app store), and would include a version of Microsoft Office at no additional charge.
Surface RT tablet key specifications
- Operating System: Windows RT operating system
- Processor: Nvidia ARM CPU
- Size – Thickness: 9.3mm thick
- Weight: 676 grams/23.85 ounces
- Display: 10.6-inch ClearType HD Display
- Battery: 31.5 watt hour battery
- Ports: microSD, USB 2.0, micro HD video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
- Storage options: 32GB and 64GB for Windows RT
- Front and rear-facing "HD" cameras.
The "Surface Pro" version of the tablet that would follow will feature the full Windows 8 OS running on an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU (the same chips found in ultrabooks and other laptops). Apart from the beefier CPU and operating system, the Pro would be slightly thicker, feature a bigger battery, boast better peripheral support (USB 3.0 versus 2.0, DisplayPort, and SDXD expansion slot), and pack twice the storage capacity as the RT version. It would naturally cost more too.
Surface Pro tablet key specs
- Operating System: Windows 8 operating system
- CPU: Intel third-generation Core i CPU
- Thickness: 13.5mm thick
- Weight: 903 grams/31.85 ounces
- Display: 10.6-inch ClearType "Full HD" Display
- Battery: 42 watt hour battery
- Ports: microSDXC, USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort video
- Storage options: 64GB and 128GB
- Front and rear-facing "HD" cameras
The 10.6-inch touch screen would give the Surface a bigger display than the 10.1-inch Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and though Microsoft has not yet announced the specifics of the display resolution yet, but it has, however, confirmed a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Microsoft's introduction of its Surface tablet created a buzz not seen for any other device from the company. And the short answer to the million dollar question whether the offering lives up to the hype is, yes.
People who got up close with the product and exerienced limited action om it, said they were very impressed with what they got to see.
They say Microsoft has paid great attention to the details. The tablet is one of the few with a full-sized USB port. The Windows RT version of Surface features USB 2.0, with Windows 8 Professional version featuring USB 3.0.
According to a Microsoft spokesman, The Pro version can use USB 3.0 as it comes with Intel's Ivy Bridge chips which support the standard.
The Surface tablet's integrated kickstand is a work of sheer brilliance, is sturdily built and does not allow the device to come to any harm when lifted and held by it as people tend to do.