Whenever a new bit of kit is released there's nothing we like more than pitting it up against its rivals - so the release of Microsoft's Surface RT gives us a great opportunity for one of our famous spec sheet smackdowns as we compare it to the Apple iPad 4, Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Asus Transformer Prime.

Which big-name tablet has the punchiest processor, the most dazzling display and the most awesome OS? Let's find out.

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: release date

Microsoft's Surface is on sale today, which is also when Apple starts accepting orders for its iPad 4. iPad deliveries start on the 2nd of November. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is already on sale, as is the Asus Transformer Prime.

Microsoft Surface
Microsoft's Surface is available with or without the snazzy cover: it's £80 extra or £99.99 if bought separately

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: price

The Surface RT tablet starts at £399 for the 32GB model, or £479 if you want a black Touch Cover too. The 64GB is £559 and a Touch cover is included. If you go for the tablet-only 32GB option and decide to add a Touch or Type cover at a later date, you'll pay £99.99 or £109.99 respectively.

The iPad 4 starts at £399 for a 16GB model, rising to £559 for the 64GB; Wi-Fi + Cellular iPads start at £499, rising to £659 for the 64GB model.

The 16GB Galaxy Note 10.1 has an RRP of £399, rising to £499 for the 3G model. At the time of writing the 32GB and 64GB models aren't available from Samsung or its approved online retailers.

The Transformer Prime is officially £399 without a dock and £499 with one, but heavy discounting means you should be able to pick up a Prime with a dock for around £410. The 64GB model is a rarer beast, and it's currently going for around £550 in tablet-only form.

Tablet sweet spot
£399 is the current tablet sweet spot, enabling you to pick any one of our four contenders

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: processor

The Surface tablet has an Nvidia T30 quad-core processor clocked at 1.4GHz, while the iPad has Apple's own A6X processor, which is a dual-core processor with quad-core graphics. Apple doesn't talk clock speeds but educated guesses say it's running at 1.5GHz. The Galaxy Note has an Exynos quad-core processor clocked at 1.4GHz, while the Transformer Prime has a quad-core Tegra 3 clocked at 1.4GHz.

Tegra 3
Bust open a Prime and you'll see one of these babies. Microsoft's Surface has an Nvidia processor too

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: memory

The Surface RT has 2GB of on-board RAM. Once again Apple doesn't publish detailed specs, but the iPad 4 is likely to have the same 1GB of RAM as the iPad 3, aka the new iPad. Which is now an old iPad. Er... the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has 2GB of RAM, and the Transformer Prime 1GB.

S-Pen
If you buy a Galaxy Note, you get a FREE PEN! Okay, okay, it's an S-Pen stylus

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: operating system

The Surface RT tablet runs Windows RT, the legacy-free version of Windows 8, so you get a bundled copy of Office RT but you can't run your old Windows programs. Apple's iPad 4 is running iOS 6, the Galaxy Note has Android 4.0 and the Transformer Prime has Android 3.2, which can be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Surface runs Windows RT
The Surface runs Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 that doesn't run old software

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: display

The screen on the Surface is a 10.6-inch ClearType HD display running at 1366 x 768, while the the iPad 4's Retina Display is a 9.7-inch IPS panel running at 2048 x 1536. The Samsung and Asus tablets both have 10.1-inch displays running at 1280 x 800.

Apple's Retina Display
Apple's Retina Display is still the screen to beat, although Microsoft's bigging up its ClearType displays

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: storage

The Surface RT tablet is available in two models: one with 32GB of storage, and one with 64GB. The iPad 4 has the familiar choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB - as does the Samsung Galaxy Note, although you can expand its storage with microSD cards. The Transformer Prime comes with 32GB or 64GB, and again that's expandable with flash media.