The Microsoft Surface RT is without a doubt an original tablet when it comes to design and also a very solid product, but when compared with other modern devices it pales. We’re dealing with the original Microsoft hardware, their first tablet, a model that was announced last summer and launched in November. It’s priced at $499 and it had a famous breakdance ad, plus its kickstand sound has become a trademark.
The design is very user-friendly and the format grows on you over time. The device is 9.4 mm thick and it weighs 680 grams, plus it incorporates a 10.6 inch display, with a big bezel. There are two cameras available, one at the front and one at the back and also the back, in the lower area we find the kickstand, that hides underneath the microSD card slot. On the side we find the two speakers at the top corners, volume buttons and audio jack, plus the full size USB port and side pins for charging connection.
There’s also TV Out (micro HDMI) on the sides and moving to the lower area, there you find some other metallic pins, that are used to connect to the keyboard. The design is original and the device may feel bulky and massive at first, but you’ll get used to it fast. The matter surface is also nice looking and elegant. This is a strong and durable product and its design was achieved with the aid of Vapor Mg process, involved in building it. The case uses magnesium and you should probably know that the USB port is a USB 2.0, not 3.0.
The screen is a 16:9 one, great for viewing movies and the kickstand only opens up at 22 degrees, not more and not less. Overall, I preferred the ASUS VivoTab RT design, if we’re talking about design preferences. Moving on to the hardware side, we find here a 10.6 inch display, with a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution and this is an IPS display, that’s scratch resistant and uses ClearType HD technology.
Inside we find a quad core Nvidia Tegra 3 T30 1.3 GHz processor and an ULP GeForce 520 MHz GPU, plus 2 GB of RAM, 32/64 GB of storage and also on the specs list there are two 1 megapixel cameras, with 800p 16:10 video capture. The cameras have no flash and the Surface RT also comes with Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, no GPS and an accelerometer.
It has a gyroscope, compass and a 31.5 WH battery, good enough for 9 hours of use. The slate uses a 24 W charger to juice up and it boots up in 20 seconds. It also supports 5 finger multitouch and if you really try to do some reasonable usage of the slate, you may even get 9 and a half hours of functioning time.
Moving on to the multimedia side, the audio was fantastic, with excellent voice, bass, high notes and great clarity. The volume is great and every type of song is a great experience to listen to on the device. Xbox Music is minimalistic and lovable. As far as video playback goes, the viewing angles are good, brightness is perfect and colors are vivid. The 16:9 widescreen aspect is great for films and Xbox Video is very nice to use, feeling really tied in with the Xbox 360 video experience.
You can already forget that this device has a camera, since it produces noisy ad grainy shots, it doesn’t have autofocus and also no flash. The HD video capture is decent at best and the only good thing about it is the audio capture. As far as benchmarks go, we did the Sunspider test and got 1003 points, while the iPhone 5 gets 900 points, so the web browser is pretty good. In Browsermark 2.0 we got 1751 points, which is a bit underwhelming.
The virtual keyboard on this tablet is comfortable, as shown in the video review and it offers 3 options of use: normal view, split view and handwriting. As far as Windows RT goes, you already know everything there is to know about it, stuff like the Charms bar and its options, the swipes and multitasking and I should mention that the tablet was updated recently, getting rid of its WiFi connectivity issues.
Windows Store is finally getting some decent games and apps, although it could to better, to be honest… Finally, at the end of the review we played with a CD writer connected via USB to device, that identified it as an optical drive, which is a pretty cool, yet outdated way to connect the old and the new. The Office suite is also packaged within the experience, however it has a cramped UI that requires a mouse, not your touch.
And now it’s time for the conclusions. Here are the Pro aspects of the device:
- great design, innovative one
- good battery life
- great display, brightness and colors
- nice speakers, very good volume
- has great gaming potential
- included Office
- user friendly
- fast charging and presence of Full USB port
And now the Cons:
- crappy camera
- big size
- price tag is kind of big for what it offers
- few apps that really appeal to the public
- no GPS
- no camera flash
- initial bugs
And now the grades! Microsoft Surface RT gets a 9.5 out of 10 for design, a 9 for the hardware, minus the camera and an 8.3 for the OS and UI, that feels unfinished and incomplete, compared to Windows 8 and other platforms out there. I frankly prefer the ASUS VivoTab RT as a Windows RT device and that’s why this model gets a trade of 8.93 out of 10.