Diving below Microsoft’s Surface

Steve Dinneen
Follow Steve
Microsoft this week unveiled the Surface tablet PC, its biggest hardware project since that launch of the Xbox in 2001. The device will be released to coincide with the release of its completely revamped Windows 8 operating system. These are interesting times indeed for the tech giant. At present, specific details – including, vitally, pricing – are thin on the ground. Here’s what we know for sure:

There are two versions of the Surface – the regular one, running RT (the mobile version of Windows 8), which features ARM chips, and the Surface Pro, which runs the full version of the OS. Most consumers will probably opt for the lighter, slimmer RT version, while businesses may favour the Pro.

The regular version is actually thinner than the latest iPad, at just 9.3mm, compared to 9.4mm. It is slightly heavier at 676g, compared to the iPad’s 662g. The Surface Pro is an altogether bulkier creature, at 13.5mm thick and 903g. Holding something that heavy in your hands for a long time is going to be an arm-ache.

First-off, the Surface has a bigger screen than the iPad, at 10.6 inches, compared to 9.7 inches. The iPad, though wins on resolution – its retina display sets the standard, squeezing in an incredible 2048x1536 pixel coverage (that’s a lot). The Surface comes with a not too shabby 1080p resolution.

The regular Surface is likely to house quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3, making it significantly nippier than the iPad (assuming the operating system lives up to Apple’s seamless iOS). The Surface Pro packs Intel’s Core i5 chip, making it, in theory at least, one of the fastest tablets on the market.

One of the most innovative developments is the brightly covered cover-cum-keyboard. It’s a great solution to the inescapable fact that typing long emails on a tablet isn’t very much fun. If it is as good as it looks, it could bring tablets closer to replacing laptops for most casual users.

The in-built rear stand is Microsoft’s solution for watching movies. While Apple would never allow something to spoil its clean lines and curves, it’s a rather nifty solution to holding the device in your arms for hours on end. It’s further evidence that Microsoft sees the tablet as the heir to the laptop throne.