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Microsoft Surface RT review

Wed Nov 14 2012, 11:38

When the Surface RT is looked at in landscape orientation, there are two tiny speakers on the upper left and right sides of the case, with an audio jack and volume controls on the left edge, plus a full-sized USB 2.0 port, a microHDMI output port and the power connector on the right side.

The power input is unusual in that it is a magnetic connector similar to the Magsafe power plug seen on Apple MacBooks, which is designed to easily come away if someone trips over the cord.

However, possibly the most notable feature of the Surface RT is its built-in kickstand, a flap that hinges out from the rear of the case and props it up at a convenient viewing angle when placed on a desk. This is such a simple yet useful feature that we are left wondering why every tablet does not have one.

Type Cover for Microsoft Surface

When used in this configuration with one of Microsoft's optional Touch Covers or keyboards, the Surface RT is transformed into a productivity device on a par with an ultraportable laptop PC, but much thinner and lighter.

The Touch Cover provides a full Qwerty keyboard and a laptop style touchpad for mouse pointer control, and snaps onto the bottom edge of the Surface RT tablet via another magnetic connector similar to the power cable, described above.

Two Covers are available: the £100 Touch Cover has flat pressure sensitive keys with a rather "dead" feel, akin to the experience of using Sinclair's ZX81, which some older readers might recall.

Meanwhile, the £110 Type Cover has moving keys that are as good as the keyboards we have seen on many laptops, making it comfortable to type even for extended periods.

However, while this setup works great on a desk or other flat surface, we found that when used on your lap, the Surface RT's screen either points more towards your chest with the kickstand deployed or else lies flat on your knees with the stand closed, neither of which is an ideal position.

Both the Touch Cover and Type Cover are remarkably thin, with even the latter only about 4mm thick, and can be folded over the screen to protect it while in transit, in a similar way to the Smart Cover accessories for Apple's Ipad devices.

It should be noted that Microsoft supplied us with a US keyboard layout for our tests, but anyone buying a Touch Cover or Type Cover here will get one with a UK layout, including the pound sterling symbol (£) instead of the dollar sign ($).

 

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