Product Microsoft Surface RT
Specifications 10.6in 1,366x768 touchscreen, quad-core Nvidia Tegra 1.3GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB or 64GB internal storage, HD 720p front and rear cameras, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0 port, microHDMI port, microSD card slot, headset jack, Windows RT, 31.5WHr battery, 245x172x9.3mm, 676g
Price Starting from £399
THE SURFACE RT TABLET sees Microsoft making its first foray into the mobile hardware market in an effort to drive adoption of its Windows 8 operating system, albeit at the risk of annoying its existing hardware partners.
If our experience is anything to go by, Microsoft has a potential winner on its hands, as the Surface RT is lightweight, well designed and a pleasure to use. It also ships with features like Microsoft's full Office productivity suite preloaded.
However, the success of the Surface RT will depend as much upon buyer acceptance of the Windows 8 user interface with its Live Tiles and Windows RT "Metro-style" applications as anything else. And price is almost always going to be a factor, with the Surface RT priced to match Apple's Ipad.
We should point out there are actually two Microsoft Surface models - the Surface RT tablet tested here has an ARM processor and thus runs a special ARM-based version of Windows 8 known as Windows RT. The Surface tablet with Microsoft's standard Windows 8 Professional PC operating system has an Intel Core I5 processor, but is not yet available.
Potential buyers, especially business users, need to choose carefully when picking a Surface tablet, as the Surface RT will not run existing Windows PC applications, only the new "Metro style" apps available for Windows RT from the Windows Store.
The Surface RT also cannot be joined to a Windows Active Directory domain, which is a possible deal breaker for many large organisations. However, it can be managed using Microsoft's System Centre Mobile Device Manager or have some policies set via an Activesync connection to an Exchange mail server.
Microsoft has taken great care with the design of the Surface RT, producing a high quality device that feels reassuringly solid and well built despite its weight of 676g, which is in line with that of Apple's full-sized Ipad and many Android-based tablets.
At 9.3mm thick, the Surface RT is comparable in size to the Ipad, but not as wide, owing to the 16:9 letterbox ratio of its 10.6in, 1,366x768 display.
Meanwhile, the case of the Surface RT is slightly bevelled front to back, which Microsoft claims makes the device more comfortable to hold when using it, and has a metallic back panel that feels like it could absorb a fair amount of punishment.