Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Microsoft Surface Tablet - Post-PC computing redefined

Microsoft announced its Surface tablet, and I was in awe. The tablet which will comes with two operating systems. The first is a Windows RT which will run on Nvidia's ARM based Tegra 3 processor. The second version is a Windows 8 which will run on x86 processor (Intel and AMD). 

Watching the presentation, Microsoft should have call Windows RT, Windows RWT: Really Well Designed. The Microsoft Surface tablet is so well designed I really had to spend a lot of time contemplating every aspect of its design.

Microsoft's Surface can look cool...
... or corporate.

Screen resolution. The Microsoft Surface has a 10.6-inch full HD display. Meaning is has a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. I am sure the first comment from Apple iPad owners is that it is not as "resolutionary" as the 2048 x 1536 display on the latest iPad. But the 1920 x 1080 display is actually the more practical resolution, which means it plays HD content full screen, whereas the "resolutionary" iPad will more than a third of its display when playing HD content. 

The choice of the 1920 x 1080 resolution, also means that it will perfectly mate with your HD TV should you decided to plug your Surface into it.

Errata: The Windows 8 version has a full HD display (1920 x 1080). The Windows RT version has a HD display (1366 x 768). The 1366 x 768 display resolution is based on Microsoft's mininum specifications for Windows RT.

Screen size. Unlike Apple and Google Android tablets, the keyboard is not an afterthought. Microsoft chose a 10.6-inch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. This makes is a bit wider than Android tablets with a 10.1-inch tablets with the same 16:9 aspect ratio and the iPad with a 9.7-inch display with a 4:3 aspect ratio.

This would allow for a wider, more comfortable keyboard to designed for the Surface.

Keyboard. The surface will eventually come with two keyboards. One with a standard shallow tactile keyboard, like you find on the Asus Transformer Prime or an Ultrabook PC. The other, the really amazing one, are the 3 mm and 5 mm thick soft touch keyboard, which doubles as a screen protector case. While not allowing much play, this should be much more comfortable than typing on a glass screen. Also being so flat, it also place yours hands in a more comfortable typing positing than your typical laptop.

 Kickstand. Some Android phones and tablets have incorporated kickstands for a long time. Microsoft improved on this with a full length kickstand which should be more stable or sturdy than the kickstands you find on Android models.

The kickstand also solves the issue of the keyboard dock having to be heavy enough to hold the table in place.

Construction. Microsoft did not go with plastic, a material which is a good choice for a mobile device, but often despised by buyers. It did not go with aluminum. While shinny aluminum products are very popular with buyers, they are very prone to scratches, hence all the MacBook and iPad protection cases which make your thin and light device, thicker and heavier.

Microsoft chose Magnesium, something used by sturdy ThinkPads and high end Sony laptops for some time now. Microsoft's magnesium case may be a bit different though, and the process has been dubbed VaporMg. There should be little need to protect the back of this tablet.

The display is protected by Gorilla Glass, and will also be protect by the Surface innovative soft touch keyboard cover.

The end result is that the ARM version of this tablet is 9.3 mm thick and weighs 1.5 pounds. This is actually a bit thinner and about the same weight as the current iPad. The x 86 version will be substantially thicker and heavier, at 13.5 mm and a bit under two pounds.

Stylus. In addition to the keyboard, the Microsoft Surface is also equipped with a stylus, which really is necessary to make a tablet a serious productivity device instead of one for content consumption.

Storage and ports. The ARM version of Surface comes with either 32 or 64 GB of storage, expandable via a MicroSD card, and two USB 2.0 ports. The x86 version comes with either 64 or 128 GB of storage, expandable via a MicroSDXC card, and two USB 2.0 ports.

For connecting to external monitors, the ARM version comes with a Micro HDMI port, with the x86 version comes with a Mini Display Port.

Windows 8. Many have complained about how the Windows 8 interface looks like on a traditional laptop or desktop. Imagining the same interface on a 10.6-inch, full HD display, and it all starts to make sense.

Availability, pricing and others. Microsoft did not make a definite statements on availability and pricing. We expect the Surface to launch together with Windows 8 this October. We do not expect it to be cheap, but in my opinion, it does not have to be. There are still a lot of things to consider like battery life and performance of the ARM version, but so far it all looks really good.

Post-PC redefined. Apple said the iPad heralded the end of the Post-PC era. Microsoft has redefined, or maybe more accurately, defined the Post-PC era. 

The iPad and Android tablets are really third devices. They are not going to replace you PC unless you really do not need on for productive work. Some, like the Asus Transformer series try. 

The Microsoft Surface is a full PC and tablet replacement. The device comes with a two USB ports which we are pretty sure will interface with all types of peripherals, as well as a port for plugging into external monitors or your HD TV. Basically, the Microsoft Surface is designed to replace your tablet, laptop and desktop. 

On the road you will use it with the stylus and soft touch keyboard. At home it will be mated to a HD TV and a Bluetooth keyboard, while plugged into your external hard drive. 

The new iPad may have been "resolutionary". I think the Microsoft Surface is revolutionary. It does not only put the iPad on notice, but should send a tingling sensation up the spine of Ultrabook makers too. 

I cannot wait and see how Windows Phone 8 fits into all this.


  1. This tablet is unique. It is run by two operating system. The screen resolution as well as the gadget's design are pretty cool! Great gadget!

    1. I believe the blog post meant that this tablet will have two versions, each version having different hardware and OS specifications; NOT having two operating systems in one tablet.

    2. That is correct: (1) Microsoft Surface = Tegra + Windows RT and (2) Microsoft Surface Pro = x86 + Windows 8.

  2. Now this is THE tablet that I've been waiting for! Since the announcement of Windows 8, I postponed buying a tablet because with the Metro UI, it was eventually going to be purported to tablets. I was considering Nokia- or Sony-manufactured Windows 8 tablets, but with Microsoft releasing their own hardware, I am definitely eyeing this instead!

  3. ...the end of the netbook is near! SO it's going to be an Alienware at home and this to bring around with me.

    1. Yup... I am starting to think it might replace my carry PC too.


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