Microsoft Surface RT review

Microsoft heeds its competitors' lessons with its Windows RT tablet

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Microsoft Surface is a strong entrance to the world of PC hardware for Microsoft, and as a device it's certainly highly recommendable.

The solid build, kickstand, the associated rage of keyboards and big screen make it adept for both work and play, and it's the closest device we've seen to a true hybrid.

It's not the world's most advanced tablet and performs solidly without excelling in any particular area. A great example of this is the screen is bright and clear, but relatively low resolution compared to new kids on the block like the Sony VAIO Duo 11.

Another is the processor, which noticeably struggles at the highest graphical demand. However, the lack of Windows Store apps means that Surface is still firmly a device for early adopters.

Anyone who forks out the £399 basic price will have to lump the lack of big-name apps for the foreseeable future, and by the time this problem is overcome, we could see a refreshed Surface.

But Surface represents a great value tablet that will get stronger with time, so if you're looking for a superb all-round Windows tablet which can double as a work machine, with bags of potential and head-turning appeal, then Surface should be high on your list.

We liked

The great build and built-in kickstand is a key part of Surface, and provided us with plenty of pleasing moments when we momentarily searched for a place to prop up our tablet before remembering there was no need.

The detachable Touch Cover and Type Covers with their multi-touch mouse trackpads for working in the traditional Windows environment were also some of the best mobile keyboards money can buy, and the lack of hassle in linking via Bluetooth, and the associated power drain with wireless technology makes Surface a true laptop replacement.

We disliked

The Windows Store needs a lot of work, fast. With the potential of Windows 8 being able to run across PC, tablet and the allure of a well-received Windows Phone 8, it shouldn't be hard to attract developers.

However, here we are, with a predictable shortfall in apps which will slow the pace of adoption, which will in turn slow the pace of developer attention. Microsoft needs to break this cycle.

The loading time of Windows apps was also disappointing, as was the drop in frame-rate on our 1080p video tests. While the latter was barely noticeable and wouldn't catch the attention of 90% of Surface buyers, the time spent looking at app splash screens was a cause of irritation.

The interface and navigation of Windows 8 needs to be snappier on Surface, and then consumers will appreciate it.

Final verdict

Surface makes you want to pick it up and play, pleases you with the delivery of Windows RT and the live tiles make it feel personal and alive.

Performance is a real issue, but since Tegra is at the heart of high performing tablets, we hope that RT can be tweaked to iron out slowdown issues.

Microsoft's hardware designers should be applauded for delivering a solid tablet which delivers a great experience, but now it's down to the fortunes of the Windows Store to decide whether Microsoft Surface is remembered in history.


Tech Specs

Product TypeTablet
Flash Memory Capacity32 GB
Processor ManufacturerNVIDIA
Graphics Controller ManufacturerNVIDIA
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeNo
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Maximum Battery Run Time8 Hour
Product FamilySurface RT
Front Camera/WebcamYes
Operating System PlatformWindows
ColourDark Titanium
Operating SystemWindows RT
Brand NameMicrosoft
Form FactorSlate
Processor Speed1.30 GHz
Processor TypeTegra 3
Screen Size26.9 cm (10.6")
Screen Resolution1366 x 768
Standard Memory2 GB
Weight (Approximate)680 g
Processor CoreQuad-core (4 Core)
Memory Card ReaderYes
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Display Screen TechnologyClearType
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0 + EDR
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution900 Kilopixel
Height172 mm
Width274.6 mm
Depth9.4 mm
Screen ModeHD
ManufacturerMicrosoft Corporation
Product NameSurface RT Tablet
Product LineSurface RT
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberJ5Z-00005
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing InformationSleek. Slim.

Ultra-thin and light, Surface RT is on-the-go tablet. With 8 hours of battery life, it lasts the whole day. Or the whole flight.

Always. Connected.

With Connected Standby, you are always connected even when you Surface is asleep. See social networking posts, emails and text messages on the lock screen and keep up with all the people you care about most.

Get yours

Now's the time to buy your Surface RT. Pick a cover colour, personalise your Home Screen, and take it places you never thought you could go.
Package Contents
  • Surface RT Tablet
  • AC Adapter
Limited Warranty1 Year