Microsoft Surface: The Tablet.

So I decided to pick up the new Microsoft Surface tablet on Saturday after I got off work as there was no way I could have picked one up on launch day. I’ve been semi playing with it as much as possible to see how good the tablet really is.

So far it’s been pretty decent. Though it is running Windows RT and not the full version of Windows, it does comes with office 2013 built in. And with remote desktop capability I can remote log into my file server from anywhere and access the computer at home.

A short introduction to Microsoft Surface. It is Microsoft’s first attempt into the Tablet industry to compete with other popular tablets such as Apple’s iPad and ASUS’ EEE Pad Transformer. Or mainly to compete against iOS and Android in the tablet space. Running a version of Windows designed for the ARM processor, it is incapable of running any legacy Windows applications. Officially, like iOS, the applications available on Windows RT is restricted to what Microsoft approves into it’s Windows Store application. This way is to prevent developers from developing malicious tools which can be used against the users.

Because of the inability to load desktop applications onto the tablet, Microsoft has decided to give it’s Tablet version of Office 2013 to it’s consumers at no additional cost. As of right now however, Office 2013 is still in it’s preview stages and the full version will be available for download once it’s complete and released. Microsoft has stated it has started rolling out the final update of office to it’s users, however, I have yet to see it in Windows Update.

The construction of the unit feels very durability, unlike most other tablets which is made in plastic and feels like a toy, the Microsoft Surface is made of an alloy called VaporMg. Magnesium Alloy. The glass uses Corning’s newest Gorilla Glass 2 for the added protection to the screen, you don’t even need a screen protector.

Microsoft has opt to design the tablet with a built in kick stand, which is a first for any tablet maker normally reserved for accessory makers who might make a case for it with that ability. This allows the tablet to stand up in landscape mode, perfect for movie watching or document writing.

Microsoft has also released two different types of covers for it’s Surface tablet. The touch cover and the type cover; The touch cover is basically a protective cover for the screen, but once it’s opened you will see a touch based keyboard. The keyboard profile is so thin, you will feel like you are not even typing on anything. The response on it is a lot better than I thought it would be from just reading about it online. In fact, this whole article was written on the touch cover. Albeit, I made some errors along the way, but it was not too often.

The second cover they sell is the type cover. This is also a protector for the screen when it’s closed, but when opened will reveal a keyboard similar to the traditional laptop style keys. This unit is for people who prefer the tactile feedback of a proper keyboard when typing. The Touch Cover is available in Black, White, Cyan, Red and Pink.

I haven’t had a chance to extensively try the type keyboard, but after trying the touch keyboard, I don’t know if I’d want to spend the additional money on the type cover. Perhaps I’ll eventually buy the type cover just to have that option. The type cover is only available in the black color.

Moving on to some of the other features, it also includes the latest wifi technology support 802.11 a/b/g/n with 2xmimo antennas for extra coverage. Bluetooth 4.0, a full size usb 2.0 (due to the limitation of the Tegra 3 chip, there is no USB 3.0 support), and a hidden microSDXC slot capable of supporting up to 64gbs of additional storage. I should also note, due to the power limitations of the USB port, it cannot support a notebook size external hard drive as there is not enough power going through the single usb port. It will support a USB thumb drive and a desktop size external hard drive which requires it’s own power source. And it also supports the usual webcam options, 1 in the front, 1 at the rear.

With the kickstand however, the camera is angled at a way that it shoots at eye level at the front, perfect for video conferencing or video chat with programs such as Skype. At the rear, the camera is angled at a way it is point straight ahead instead of downwards therefore making it perfect for taking those group shots for when you don’t have you’re actual camera with you or have a stranger take it for you.

The HD video out as far as I can tell is a proprietary adapter which requires the official Microsoft accessory for the time being. If I am wrong feel free to correct me on that one. Comes in with HD Out to Vga or HD out to HDMI.

Battery life so far is rated at around 8-10 hours of battery usage depending on how you use your tablet. with 7-14 days of standby time. The battery, like all tablets are built in with no user replacement easily accessible. It has been that way for all tablet so there really is no point in mentioning it at all.

Currently the Microsoft Surface is only available through the Microsoft Online store, or if you are lucky enough to live near a Microsoft store or Microsoft pop up store, you can pick up locally. The price starts at $519CDN for 32GB without the Touch Cover, $619 for the 32GB with a Black Touch Cover and $719 for the 64GB with a Black Touch Cover. Accessory wise, if you purchase the Touch Cover separately it will cost $129.99 but will allow you to pick from a wide variety of colors though Red and Pink are unavailable in Canada for some reason. The Type Cover will cost you $139.99, HD out adapters are $44.99 each and an additional A/C adapter cost around $24.99

Microsoft also offers their warranty for the Surface called Microsoft Surface Complete. For an extra $99. It comes with 2 years of technical support and up to 2 replacements within the 2 years of it’s coverage. Most importantly, this is the reason I am mentioning it in this blog, is that it also covers accidental damage. Like all warranty, read the fine print before diving head first into it. lol

I’ll post another review about the software side of things later.

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