Has Microsoft's Surface Been Priced Out Of The Market?


'Tablet talk' is becoming ever-more regular around these parts. Sleek, black, slate-like tablet PC's seem to be everywhere these days. From the top-end range featuring Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 all the way down to the likes of ASUS's lovingly-refined Nexus 7 and Amazon's up and coming Kindle Fire HD, there's not a consumer electronic in sight that has appeared to have such an explosive arrival onto the scene.

Which might explain why none of the major technology manufacturers have chosen to avoid their quirky charms. Now, the tablet PC market is finally set to welcome the release of Microsoft's very first effort. Being so at the cutting-edge of technology, it's been a long gestation period for the Seattle-based company, but one that it'll hope can capitalise on its promise and deliver where so many others have failed.

With the Surface Windows 8 RT up for pre-order both domestically and internationally, it's also time the much-discussed pricing of Surface is finally unveiled to a public biting at the bit to know more. And its price really has been a contentious issue for many, as is always the case. Microsoft has confirmed the Windows 8 RT line starts at £399 for the 32Gb on its own (an important detail for many, myself included), £479.00 for the 32Gb with a black Touch Cover, and is a cool £559.00 for the 64Gb with black Touch Cover. The set prices are notable because at £399, £479 and £559 for the respective 32Gb, 32Gb with Touch Cover and 64Gb with Touch Cover, Microsoft has priced its RT tablets identical to those of the new iPad.

It's a bold statement of intent from a company many will already believe have arrived too late to the party. So the accessories are a little on the extortionate side (£34.99 for a Surface HD Digital AV Adapter, £34.99 for a power supply!?) but it's not anything we've not seen before from the Cupertino, CA-based company to which everyone will be all-too familiar, whether for good or bad. Those prices also come off slightly better for prospective Surface buyers when considering the latter two options come with the gorgeous Touch Cover's crammed into the package also – which so happens to be our favourite design choice of the Surface, even when competing against the sleek, metallic finish of the tablet itself.

With a screen size of 10.1 inches, you too get slightly more screen real estate for your buck when compared to the 'resolutionary' iPad display, while the ARM-based Tegra 30 processor and 2Gb of RAM when speaking of specs aren't to be sniffed at either. Microsoft has even been taking the fight to Apple in the resolution department, with Surface notably fewer pixels-per-square-inch (1366 x 768) than that seen on the new iPad's Retina Display (2048 x 1536), though we obviously can't dispute this fact until we get our hands on Surface RT ourselves. The same too can be said of the mooted battery life, with Microsoft claiming battery life is eight hours of “mixed activity” or 7-to-15 days of idleness. Still, a microSD slot and BlueTooth functionality, meanwhile, are very welcome indeed.

'Companion hardware' to the as-yet largely untested Windows 8, the Surface is so far everything we would have expected from Microsoft. While we still await more news and pricing for the 'Pro' version – a convergence of PC and tablet, running the full Windows 8 and Office packages and compatible with Windows 7 applications – the RT is nevertheless a wholly appealing pre-order for its price. Priced out of the market? On these terms, absolutely not.

Richard Birkett

Still can't decide between the Surface RT and the 'Pro'? Look no further than Microsoft's own side-by-side comparison. Pre-order the Surface here.