A close look at the Microsoft Surface tablets

Over the last 30 years, Microsoft has created innovative hardware products such as the Kinect and Xbox 360, as well as some of the best peripherals for the PC, including mice, keyboards and webcams. Microsoft has, however, never built a full PC of its own before.

Now for the first time in its history, Microsoft has designed and engineered a brand new family of Windows PCs, named Surface. At a relatively small press conference in Los Angeles on Monday, Steve Ballmer unveiled a pair of 10.6-inch Surface tablets, one running Windows RT and the other Windows 8 Pro.

If the name Surface reminds you of the older tabletop computers like the Samsung SUR40, you will be interested to know that that product line has been renamed PixelSense. Here we cover all the details of the new Surface tablets:

Microsoft Surface tablets with Touch Cover and Type Cover

The Surface tablet for Windows RT is powered by an ARM processor and an Nvidia Tegra chipset. The device is super-slim at just 9.3 mm thick and weighs only 1.5 lbs. It has an optically-bonded, thin ClearType display, which provides comparatively longer battery life, and a full-sized USB 2.0 port. No screen resolution has been specified, but we can expect it to be 1366 x 768, the maximum resolution offered by most laptops today, and also the minimum resolution required to use two Metro style apps in Windows 8's Snap view. The tablet will come in 32 GB and 64 GB models.

Powered by an Intel Core third-generation (Ivy Bridge) processor, the other Surface tablet is an x86 machine running the full-blown Windows 8 Pro. This tablet, at 13.5 mm thick and weighing 1.9 lbs., is said by Microsoft to be as powerful as a high-end Ultrabook. It also has the same ClearType display as its Windows RT counterpart, but supports a higher resolution of 1080p. It will be available in 64 GB and 128 GB versions and also sports a USB 3.0 port.

The Windows 8 Pro variant has a few additional features. It has support for digital inking, sampled at 600 dpi, and comes with a stylus that can be attached magnetically to the side of the device for storage. The Palm Block technology built into Windows automatically stops taking touch input when you're writing. The tablet also has a feature called "perimeter venting", which basically involves air being uniformly distributed through the device via a groove on all sides, so it doesn't need fans for cooling. You can plug the device to a large monitor or TV via DisplayPort to attain higher resolutions.

Microsoft Surface tablets with integrated kickstand and VaporMg casing

The casing of both Surface tablets, made completely of magnesium, is the first of its kind for a PC and is created using a unique process called VaporMg (pronounced "Vapor-Mag") to make it extremely light, yet extremely strong at the same time. The two tablets also feature an integrated stand that is less than a millimeter thick, practically adding no weight or width to the device.

The tablets sport a display protected by the use of Corning's Gorilla Glass 2.0 and have a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. The edges of the devices are angled at 22 degrees so as to provide a comfortable feeling when holding one in your hands.

Touch Covers and Type Cover for Microsoft Surface tablets

Both versions of Surface support two covers that double up as keyboards. Whether a cover will come included with a tablet or as a purchasable accessory is not yet known. The covers attach to the tablet on its bottom edge using a magnetic connector.

The Touch Cover is only 3 mm thick and features a full multi-touch keyboard with shortcut keys to access Windows 8 Charms, and a touchpad with left- and right-click buttons. Typing is said to be "twice as efficient" as typing on an on-screen keyboard. The Touch Cover has pressure-sensitive keys, with a scan rate ten times higher than that of a regular keyboard. It even has an accelerometer built into it that senses when you fold the cover back and turns off the keyboard to prevent accidental key presses. This cover will be available in at least five colors: cyan, magenta, black, white and red.

The other cover, called Type Cover, also has the same keyboard and track pad as the Touch Cover, but features tactile, clickable keys instead. It is also pretty thin at 5 mm and seems like it will come only in black.

The Surface tablets are the first to include dual 2x2 MIMO antennae, which are expected to provide the very best Wi-Fi connectivity. The tablets are charged by way of a unique 5-pin magnetic connector. They also feature dual microphones, dual speakers and dual cameras i.e. front- and rear-facing cameras. Just like the tablets' edges, the cameras are also angled at 22 degrees to help capture a better frame without having to adjust the screen.

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Surface for Windows RT will be available for purchase at the time of Windows 8's final release, while Surface for Windows 8 Pro will launch another three months later. They will be sold through the physical Microsoft Stores in the US as well as through "select" online Microsoft Stores. No details about pricing were revealed except that the prices will be comparable with other ARM tablets/Intel Ultrabooks.

If you want to know about the precision and attention to detail that went into the making of this product, watch a recording of the event here. Don't miss the part presented by Panos Panay, the leader of the team that created Surface.

Image credit: Microsoft Surface Gallery (modified)

  Source: Microsoft News Center
  Via: The Verge
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