Surface: How to choose, overview and how it was made

With Microsoft finally making Surface with Windows RT available for pre-order, now many future users of this device may be thinking if they should buy the ARM-based version or if they should wait until the Windows 8 Pro version comes out next year — in about three months? The decision between the two should not be difficult.

Below you can find a comprehensive Surface’s technical specs that can help you make the right choice. You should also note the following differences: Surface with Windows RT is ARM-based architecture, which means that typical desktop applications, designed for Windows 7 for example, will not work, except for Microsoft Office 2013 and most of the Windows Store apps (metro style). On the other hand, in the Windows 8 Pro version of the tablet, you’ll be able to install full-desktop applications designed for Windows 7 and all the Windows Store apps, because the device is Intel x86 architecture. At the end of the day you are basically trading-off light/thin and better battery life for features with Windows RT.

Additionally, some applications and features aren’t included in Windows RT. For example, Windows Media Center and Windows Media Player or Storage Spaces and BitLocker (data encryption). However, RT will come with its own device encryption feature and Windows Defender.

If you still can’t make up your mind, ask yourself the following:

  • Do you need to work with full desktop applications like Adobe Photoshop or Dreamweaver? If you cannot compromise and you have to say yes, then the Windows RT version of the device is not your option.
  • Will you be using the tablet in a corporate network and you need to connect to Microsoft Active Directory? If the answer is yes, you’ll need the Surface Intel based version.
  • Is Media Center part of your life? You cannot use MCE in Windows RT, for this feature to work you’ll need the Intel x86 based tablet with the Media Pack.

Furthermore, both tablets include the new power management called Connected Standby that allows supported devices to act much like smart phones do. This means that the device will not turn off completely, instead all unnecessary processes and services are shut down to save battery life, and Windows Store apps (metro style) are allow to run in the background for tasks like notifications, updates and emails. The problem is that while the new power management comes included in Windows RT, at the moment only Windows 8 PCs running the latest chipsets can utilize this feature.

As I mentioned before, Windows RT isn’t compatible with traditional applications you use in your desktop, although mice, keyboards, printers and other USB and Bluetooth devices work out of the box pretty well.

I think it is fair to say that Windows RT devices will be mainly use for media consumption and they will compete head-to-head with Android tablets and iPads. On the other hand Windows 8 devices will continue to be full-featured PCs, where you can get all your work done through the use of full desktop applications and more hardware compatibility. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to get any work done in RT devices; Microsoft Office 2013 is there and many productive Windows Store app are coming. 

Surface technical specs

ModelSurface with Windows RTSurface with Windows 8 Pro
Operating SystemWindows RTWindows 8 Pro
SoftwareSurface with Windows RT comes with Microsoft Home and Student 2013 RT Preview (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote).Runs current Windows 7 desktop applications and integrates with your existing enterprise management infrastructure.
ButtonsVolume and PowerVolume and Power
ColorDark TitaniumDark Titanium
Weight676g (1.5lbs)903g (Less than 2lbs)
Thin9.3mm13.5mm
Aspect Ration16:916:9
Resolution1366x768 pixels1920x1080 pixels
Clear10.6" ClearType HD Display10.6" ClearType Full HD Display
Pen InputCapacitive pens available for purchasePen input and pen (included with purchase)
Multi-Touch5-point multi-touch10-point multi-touch
RAM2GB4GB
CPU1.3 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (ARM)1.7GHz 3rd Gen Intel Core i5-3317U Processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000
WirelessWi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
Battery31.5W-h42W-h
AudioTwo microphones and stereo speakersTwo microphones and stereo speakers
CamerasTwo 720p HD cameras, front and rear-facingTwo 720p HD cameras, front and rear-facing
Device Angled22°26°
Power Supply24W power-supply48W power-supply (including 5W USB for accessory charging)
SensorsAmbient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, compassAmbient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass
PortsUSB 2.0, Micro HD Video out port, 2x2 MINO antennae, microSDXC card slot, Headset jack, cover portUSB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, 2x2 MINO antennae, microSDXC card slot, Headset jack, cover port
ProductivityOffice Home & Student 2013 RT, Touch Cover, Type CoverTouch Cover, Type Cover, Pent with Palm Block
PracticalVaporMg Case & kickstandVaporMg Case & kickstand
Warranty2-years limited hardware warranty2-years limited hardware warranty
Apps (included)Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote); Windows Mail and Messaging, SkyDrive; Internet Explorer 10; Bing; Xbox Music; Video, and Games.Windows Mail and Messaging; SkyDrive; Internet Explorer 10; Bing; Xbox Music; Video, and Games.
Storage32 GB, 64 GB64 GB, 128 GB
SecurityDevice encryption and comes with Windows Defender.Provides enhanced networking and IT management. BitLocker drive encryption, use Remote Desktop, Active Directory, and Client Hyper-V. Compatible with third party applications.
ConnectivityAlways connected, even when in standby mode. Connected standby keeps apps up-to-date.Connectivity off when hibernating/sleeping to preserve battery.
ChargeEnjoy up to 8 hours of battery life.Enjoy up to 5 hours of battery life.
Price$499 for the 32GB version without Touch Cover
$599 for the 32GB version with Touch Cover
$699 for the 64GB version with Touch Cover
$899 for the 64GB version
$999 for the 128GB version

Built though

Is Microsoft’s Surface durable? Yes! It is. If not convinced take a look at the image below. This is an image where Steven Sinofsky, President of Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft, tested it by turning the Gorilla Glass 2 and a magnesium chassis tablet into a skateboard.

Steven Sinofsky skateboarding Microsoft's tablet

Overview

If you want to know what Surface can offer, you should check out the video below from Microsoft highlighting all the main features of the device.

Gallery

Microsoft’s Surface with Windows RT is available now for pre-order and thousands will get the device delivered by October 26th, when it will also be on sale at the Microsoft Store and the temporary pop-up store throughout United States and Canada — check out the following list for availability in different countries –, and it also coincide with the release of Windows 8. The Windows 8 Pro version should come sometime January or February 2013.

Availability

Countries32GB no Cover32GB with Cover64GB with Cover
United States$499$599$699
United Kingdom£399£479 £559
Germany€479€579€679
France€489€589€694
Canada$519$619$719
Australia$559$679$789

Now that you have all the possible FAQs about the devices, which one are you going to choose? Let us know in the comments below.

Images credit Microsoft | availability credit The Verge | Steven Sinofsky pic via Twitter

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