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Microsoft Surface RT review

Wed Nov 14 2012, 11:38

Hardware
Under the hood, Microsoft's Surface RT tablet has specifications similar to those of many other high-end tablets, with a quad-core Nvidia Tegra ARM processor chip, 2GB of RAM and 32GB or 64GB of built-in flash storage. The latter can be expanded via a microSD card slot tucked away behind the kick stand.

Windows RT seems swift and fluid on this hardware, responding instantly to touch gestures such as pinch to zoom in our tests, with the speed of the WiFi internet connection seeming to be the only thing slowing it down at times.

However, the Surface RT is a WiFi only device with no 3G mobile broadband capability, meaning that you need to be within range of a hotspot to be connected, a factor that is important for a mobile device, especially one that is so heavily tied to online services.

Microsoft Surface and Touch Cover side view

The Surface's screen has 1,366x768 resolution, which is large enough to support app "snapping", so you can see two app windows on the screen at once.

While this is nowhere near the 2,048x1,536 resolution of Apple's Retina display and is more like the screen resolution of a netbook, we found it adequate, and the display quality itself was excellent in all the lighting conditions we tested.

The only place the Surface RT really falls down is in its two cameras; both the front and rear cameras are HD 720p, or 1,280x720 resolution, which equates to less than 1MP. Not surprisingly, the images we captured using the Camera app were nowhere near the standard of other mobile devices, which often have cameras with 5MP resolution or better.

Like many other tablet vendors, Microsoft has built the Surface RT as a sealed unit, with an integral battery pack that cannot easily be replaced or swapped for a fully charged spare if necessary.

Microsoft claims that the Surface RT offers "all-day" battery life. We tested the Surface RT for up to four hours at a stretch, for running Office applications, email, watching videos, and trying out a sample game or two from the Windows store, and it lasted for several days like this between recharges.

We also found that the battery recharges quickly, within just a couple of hours in our tests.

In Short
It might surprise some readers, but overall we found Microsoft's Surface RT to be an impressive tablet that is worth considering, not least for the preloaded Microsoft Office suite of productivity applications. However the Surface RT tablet does have drawbacks, including a shortage of "Metro style" apps available for Windows RT and the fact that it won't run existing Windows PC software applications.

Those who are interested in buying a Surface tablet might want to wait a while until the other Surface tablet model with an Intel X86 processor comes out, and then choose the one that best fits their needs. µ

The Good
Lightweight, sturdy construction, preloaded Microsoft Office 2013 applications suite.

The Bad
Few "Metro style" apps available, no 3G connectivity.

The Ugly
No support for existing Windows PC applications.

Bartender's Score
7/10

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