The Microsoft Surface RT (review here) is Microsoft's own-brand Windows 8 tablet running on an Arm processor. It's well constructed, performs well and is packed with utility. Here's our MS Surface RT video review.
Surface RT review: build quality
The build quality throughout Surface RT is sturdy and confident. The VaporMg material is silky to the touch, yet inflexible when torqued. And Surface RT is virtually identical to the iPad in thickness and weight - this despite the fact that it supports a slightly larger, 10.6-inch, widescreen display. Visit Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad comparison review.
With the Surface's full-size USB port, you can side-load movies and music directly into the Windows RT desktop. There are front- and rear-facing 720 HD cameras.
Surface RT review: kickstand, Touch Cover and Type Cover
The integrated rear kickstand props up the tablet at 22 degrees. That's just the right angle for some viewing positions, but the kickstand is not adjustable.
Made of the same injection-molded magnesium that's employed throughout the Surface chassis, the kickstand opens with a faint metallic ting and closes with a confident click.
The point of the kickstand is to turn Surface RT into an effective productivity machine, and to varying degrees that promise is fulfilled via the system's Touch Cover and Type Cover keyboard accessories. Regrettably, neither cover is included in the tablet's entry-level package.
At 3mm thick, the Touch Cover lacks physical keys, and instead uses pressure-sensitive touch pads to record keystrokes. The Type Cover features real keys with actual key travel, but extends the thickness to 5.5mm. The keyboard docking system is as sweet as Microsoft wants everyone to believe. Magnetic attraction attaches the two sides—perfectly, every time.
The Touch Cover is the less rewarding of the two keyboard options. Lacking physical keys, this quasi-keyboard doesn't offer any tactile feedback, and it is tricky to type with the right amount of finger pressure. The Touch Cover is insanely light. It's spill-proof. And it's also the cheaper of the two cover options at £99. But the Type Cover costs only £10 more and it's a real keyboard with real, moving parts. It yielded considerably faster typing speeds.
Surface RT review: Display
The Surface RT's display is nice. With a 16 by 9 aspect ratio, the 10.6-inch screen provides an HD video window that's 42 percent larger than what you'll see on the iPad's 4:3, 9.7-inch display. The Surface's widescreen proportions also accommodate Windows' new "snap screen" multitasking feature, which lets you run two apps side by side.
Surface RT's display doesn't match the clarity and beauty of the iPad's so-called Retina display, however. It suffers from mild pixel blur, whereas the iPad makes all content look like a continuous-tone photographic print. The difference in resolution is particularly noticeable in text rendering.
Surface RT review: performance
The Surface RT's quad-core Tegra 3 processor and 2 gigabytes of system memory handle their workloads without drama. Gesturing through the OS itself is fast and fluid.
With a frame rate of 6.9 frames per second, the Surface can handle HD games and movies. And in posting a time of 10.4 seconds in our own punishing webpage loading test, Microsoft's tablet proved it is a good we browsing device.
In our custom-designed battery-life test, Surface RT came in second to the iPad, playing a looping HD video for more than 9 hours before fading out.
Surface RT review: software
The Surface runs Windows RT, rather than Windows 8. They are very similar operating systems, but on this device you won't be able to install and run traditional Windows software programs. You are limited to Apps available in the Windows Store.
At this point you won't find official apps lots of big-name stalwarts of the mobile world, but this should improve quickly. And Surface RT comes with its own version of MS Office, as well as Mail, music, video and games apps.
Surface RT review: the verdict
The Surface RT is well constructed, performs well and packed with utility, and that's why it earns 4 stars.