Arriving just over a month from the launch of its new operating system, Microsoft’s impression on the Gadget Show Live Christmas floor was a quite considerable one. Dominating a hefty chunk of the floor space at the show (as well as its entrance), it was difficult to miss anything the computing giant had to offer; from the array of devices running its new OS, to the promotion of its first-ever tablet PC: Microsoft Surface.
We've shared our thoughts collectively on the Surface a couple of times here at NRM already, both in our immediate impressions at its announcement (where we praised Microsoft for merging the divide between tablet and full-fledged PC) to a stern defence of the price tag greeting the Surface RT - something we still stand by. Windows 8 might well have got off to a slow start (according to reports), but it's an OS that continues to impress. With its modern tile-based design cues and gesture control; it's at once stylish, fluid and intuitive, an OS evidently built from the ground-up for touch interfaces. Which might go some way to explaining the apparent hesitance by many consumers to jump Windows 7 ship in favour of its shiny successor, or for that matter, the reason why we believe that everyone should at least try the Surface before dismissing it out of hand.
“Companion hardware” to Windows 8, not only is this tablet phenomenally designed and produced – with a build quality and level of craftsmanship ready to rival Apple – but with its responsive 10.6-inch 1366 x 768 pixel display, integrated kickstand, Touch and Type covers (that attach to the tablet with a satisfactory 'click'), it's a device that manages to unlock the potential of its makers' latest OS like no other in both accessibility and productivity stakes.
With RT very much the 'iPad rival' when compared to the 'Pro' model coming in later months - which will run the full Windows 8 experience, the RT restricted in comparison by the library of Apps in the Windows Store – there's still a lot to get excited about here. Only slightly heavier than the iPad 4 at around 680g compared to the 652g of Apple's latest tablet, but with the kind of specs that will no doubt prove to be more than a match for any other tablet on the market (a quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor sits beside 2GB of RAM), Surface RT not only has the accessories to bring it more in line with a PC, it looks to have the performance behind it to be a great tablet in its own right.
The Surface RT and the Pro likewise are sure to integrate seamlessly into the Microsoft product ecosystem, with continued development of the Windows Store and the introduction of Xbox Smart Glass further proving Windows is one of the places to be at the moment.
Surface With Windows RT is available now, starting at £399 for 32GB tablet-only. Surface Pro is due for release early 2013, no UK pricing has yet been confirmed.