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
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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
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
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)