It’s finally here, Microsoft wanted to show the world just what Windows 8 can really do and in order to achieve that, they decided to take manufacturing into their own hands to ensure that the device they launched with was exactly to their specifications. The Microsoft Surface Pro might not be hitting the market until next year, but the mobile-centric Surface RT is now available and we were lucky enough to come across one at the company’s Monday launch event, following a slew of announcements surrounding Windows Phone 8.
It’s important to explain that Microsoft have two iterations of Surface on the cards; one, the Surface RT runs Windows RT and is now available, whilst the slightly thicker Surface Pro is scheduled to arrive early next year and comes toting the full-blown Windows 8 operating system. The Surface RT is more of a direct competitor to the likes of Apple’s iPad, with a tile driven interface and apps downloadable from the Microsoft Store.
In the flesh this black metal slab is actually deceptively beautiful. In the hand the VaporMg (Microsoft’s fancy name for the magnesium they use) body has a wonderful feel, not dissimilar from the soft finish of the black HTC One S, with its micro arc oxidation ceramic coating and the strong, bold design is backed up what feels like an incredibly sturdy device. The masculine hard edges and strong corners might not be to everyones taste, but they certainly help make a statement.
The other key party piece of the Surface’s external design is its ability to connect to one of two keyboards magnetically. Microsoft have created to distinctive accessories for the Surface that offer two different typing experience. The Touch Cover is a 3.25mm thick fabric cover with a full QWERTY keyboard and trackpad integrated into it. To see it in the flesh, it’s a wonderful piece on engineering in its own right. What we particularly liked was its ability to sense finger input when typing on the keys, but if a user were to accidentally brush over the general typing area, it’s smart enough to ignore such input, help prevent unhelpful typing errors. Meanwhile the Type Cover is a thicker keyboard made of plastic, which allows for actual travel within the individual keys. Typing feels very similar to a full desktop and provides excellent feedback.
The Windows RT tile-based interface is intentionally similar to the Windows Phone tile interface, with large panels featuring application information which can update in real time. Navigating the UI, switching between applications and having two apps running simultaneously are all easily accessible functions, however there is definitely a learning curve when it comes to accessing more advanced menus and shutting down individual applications when using the touch interface.
If it isn’t clear, the Microsoft Surface RT got us really fired up and we’re looking forward to dissecting it and indeed all of the new RT device coming from manufacturers all over the world. Stay tuned for reviews on these products and more in the coming weeks.