Microsoft unveils Windows 8 "Surface" tablets: More PC-like, not just another cookie-cutter design

By on June 18, 2012, 8:15 PM

One of the key changes in Windows 8 is, as you very well know, improved support for tablets. Microsoft has fully embraced this aspect of the operating system, unveiling its own tablet line during a "mystery" event in Los Angeles, California today. The "Surface" strives to be the perfect all-around mobile system, offering the flexibility of serving as a Windows 8-based tablet as well as an ultrabook-like computer.

The device features a 10.6-inch Gorilla Glass display and is said to be the first PC with a vapor-deposited magnesium chassis, which is described by Microsoft as being "rigid" yet "light" and "natural in the hands." The Surface will come in Intel (Windows 8 Pro) and ARM (Windows 8 RT) variants, with the former running a Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor and the latter packing an ARM-based Nvidia chip.

  Surface for Windows 8 Pro Surface for Windows 8 RT
OS Windows 8 Pro Windows 8 RT
Screen 10.6" 1920x1080 10.6" 1366x768
Processor Intel Core i5 22nm ARM-based Nvida
Storage 64GB, 128GB 32GB, 64GB
Thickness 13.5mm (0.53") 9.3mm (0.36")
Weight 903g (1.99lbs) 676g (1.49lbs)
Battery 42Wh 31.5Wh
Connectivity microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
Other Pen support  
Accessories Touch Cover, Type Cover Touch Cover, Type Cover
Est. Price ~$800+ ~$400-$600

Despite resembling the same cookie-cutter tablet we've seen recently, the Surface makes a convincing attempt to distinguish itself. Microsoft has added a seamlessly integrated kickstand that lets you rest the device on a table without an accessory. What's more, the company will offer two covers -- the "Touch Cover" and "Type Cover" -- which attach to the Surface magnetically and provide laptop-like features.

The Touch Cover measures 3mm thick and has a multitouch keyboard as well as a trackpad, while the Type Cover has a tactile keyboard and a full touchpad with clickable buttons. Having no moving parts, the former is inherently thinner, adding only 3mm to the Surface versus 5mm. With a Touch Cover, the ARM Surface measures just shy of half an inch (for reference, the new MacBook Air is 0.68 inches thick).

While adding a keyboard to a tablet isn't revolutionary, the hardware-software integration here could let you run all your desktop software (on the Windows 8 Pro version particularly) and it'll let you use USB devices as well as a larger screen via DisplayPort when necessary. In other words, the Surface could very well be your everyday "desktop" computer in addition to being an ultrabook and a tablet.

The Intel Surface goes a step further by adding pen support (there are two digitizers to tell if you're using the stylus or your finger). Much like the covers, the stylus attaches to the Surface magnetically (for storage). Pricing hasn't been shared yet, with Microsoft saying only that the Windows 8 Pro Surface will be competitive with ultrabooks (~$800+) and the Windows 8 RT Surface with ARM tablets (~$400-$600).

Microsoft has posted the full (~48 minute) video of the Surface tablet announcement here.




User Comments: 40

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Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

That has some potential, especially the i5 version.

m4a4 m4a4 said:

Hmmm... it's the first tablet that I actually wanted, but that feeling is gone.

treeski treeski said:

I hope the battery life on these things will really kick butt. So far, they're looking really good.

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I'd possibly be interested in the i5 version myself...

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Damn that's sexy.

I'm not so worried about battery life; Windows 8 is truly efficient. Like, ridiculously efficient. I assume it would perform better than the new iPad.

All I need to know is the pricing, then I'm sold.

Guest said:

Windows anytime, anywhere on everything. It's going to be huge.

nismo91 said:

I've gotten my hands on a samsung slate, the one with i5 2467M and Windows 7 preinstalled. it's not as thin as other tablet, but it's comparable to most ultrabook, and will make a ultrabook a run for its money. it seems that after the recent show all major manufacturers are coming with win8 tablets and once the price is right, I'll definitely get one. the slate that I got my hands on cost a whopping 1400$!

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Put Kinect in it.

mario mario, Ex-TS Developer, said:

This tablets do look interesting I might consider getting an ARM one when we know more about the devices. Any ETA?

fimbles fimbles said:

Intresting design..

Looks like tablets are going to evolve in to strange new breed... I shall call them laptops..

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I like the way MS has gone with it, instead of coming out with another iPad copycat (like most of the Android tablets) it has gone on a different path, and I think it could be a winner & first ever tablet I may buy

Guest said:

When Microsoft killed the Courier, I wasn't sure if they would ever field anything as interesting anymore.

When Microsoft debuted the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I wasn't sure if they forgot that being productive (and playing high production games) is why people still like the Windows ecosystem.

I'm glad this Surface tablet actually tries to rectify both problems. I'm not entirely sold on the ARM version until more programs and apps appear for it, but at least the Intel version I can see being seriously used in companies as more than just a display screen, while seamlessly working with existing infrastructures like Active Directory. And being able to install all my x86 software.

The Surface isn't revolutionary (and don't forget that the Surface has been around for a while in the form of those giant touch table computers that some restaurants and businesses have), but it sure does seem to hit the right notes for people who want something more than just a toy.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

The Core i5 version looks great, very keen to get one of these

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

What are the GPU specs?

Staff
Steve Steve said:

At a guess I would say Intel HD 4000 for the i5 and ULP GeForce for the Tegra 3 (assuming that's what the ARM version uses).

Arris Arris said:

My only issue with this is the completely flat keyboard. Not sure about anyone else but I really don't find typing on that sort of thing comfortable.

Guest said:

Then dont get that smart cover and plug pretty much any other keyboard you fancy into it.

Guest said:

I hope it does not cost an ARM for the windows RT Surface version.

if microsoft will sell the windows PRO surface version @500-600$ to compete with the android-powered samsung galaxy note I and II, then I'm gonna work extra to have it asap.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

My only issue with this is the completely flat keyboard. Not sure about anyone else but I really don't find typing on that sort of thing comfortable.

Agreed.

I must say though, kudos to Microsoft for not just banging out a carbon-copy tablet like most others have. This really does look good.

But I don't know, I'd still probably prefer a new laptop of some kind. I just haven't caught the tablet "bug" like most have.

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Well done on MS for being original (more so than the Android tablets anyway), the Pro version with the i5 is interesting for sure. Assuming the 64GB version is $800 that's actually not much more than a 64GB iPad but with 10x the functionality.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I like the dual option cover/keyboard. That's pretty innovative. But I'm not sure if I'm ready to plop down money on a 1st gen tablet. I'd probably wait until mid to late 2013 for the second gen Windows 8 tablets, once they iron out the bugs.

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

My only issue with this is the completely flat keyboard. Not sure about anyone else but I really don't find typing on that sort of thing comfortable.

Agreed.

I must say though, kudos to Microsoft for not just banging out a carbon-copy tablet like most others have. This really does look good.

But I don't know, I'd still probably prefer a new laptop of some kind. I just haven't caught the tablet "bug" like most have.

But did you guys see the Type Cover? It's a thicker, tactile keyboard. The Tocuh Cover is the one that's just 3mm thick. Either, its is a very interesting product.

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

Price is high but that's SRP though say $600 is more what it should go for retail an add another $100 for HSN, QVC and ShopNBC peddling fees. I am using SKYTEX SKYTAB 9.7" 2GB, 1080p HDMI port dual USB ports, got flex stand a Logitech Wireless K260 hooked via USB dongle with Windows 8 RPE for now the WiFi, WLAN, WWAN seem to plague us still like it did with all versions of Windows. Way oh why is MS still pushing these OS in a default code mode. Push it to the extreme and make these tablets fly off in sales. With my code name Jasper for Windows 8 and Jet for Windows 7 tablets you can full networking as it should be both found on STZ Forums II for SKYTAB. Still I am sure surface is going to be quick with the dual core it comes with. The Windows 8 Metro needs some more work it's not like Android GUI nor a Apple GUI still reminds me of Windows 7 except for the tile Overlay features.

But Windows 8 good breaking point for the really first end MS Tablets to run real OS for tablets than it did with with Windows 7. Right now MS Store seems very limited in apps to download but some of these apps from MS an others a really cool.

Staff
Jesse Jesse said:

That commercial was so sex!!!

Guest said:

Anybody with any sense is going to hold out for the soluble version.

Guest said:

One is a net-book with crappy battery life and the other one ultrabook, with sub par battery life.

The keyboard is no better than slamming your fingers from your desk. I'll get a ASUS transformer any day over this...

Guest said:

So far the android and Ipad tablets proved to be nothing more than toys with really low functionality. Depending on software, the Surface ARM version could turn out to be the first tablet that is actually usable for something more than video playing and internet browsing. Also adding a digitizer pen could open interesting possibilities.

As far as the i5 Surface, let's not forget that some alternatives already exist (Samsung series 9 slate and others). I guess that the battery life of the i5 Surface will be a heavy factor in deciding it's success. I hope some specs regarding this issue will surface soon.

For the Surface design however, Microsoft deserves a big round of applause. Besides the magnesium chassis, built-in stand, Touch Cover and overall clean design, the different connection ports on the ARM tablet is certainly a most welcome addition that many tablet manufacturers are grossly overlooking. (the addition of the MIMO antennae port is absolutely AMAZING)

The being said, I sincerely wish that Surface will rise to all expectations and who knows, maybe it will be the first tablet that I will buy.

psycros psycros said:

Ding ding ding, we have a winner. Nobody wanted a membrane k/b in 1983 and nobody wants it now - you might as well just use an on-screen QWERTY. The sad thing is, Microsoft has the right idea this time, because this is exactly where all tablets are headed (as I've been saying for two years). Unfortunately, metrosexual ****** are in charge of design in Redmond these days and this product will go exactly nowhere. Of course that goes for Windows 8 in general regardless of what its installed on.

psycros psycros said:

..and nice fail on the threading as usual, Techspot. Seriously your comment system reeks. Please get a new one - as long as its not Disqus!

Guest said:

Liking the pro version. This means you could download steam and play it just as you would on a desktop, while the specs aren't going to be amazing it is definitely a big selling point for me.

I have lots of lower spec games I regularly play (or would play more if portable) which are kind of wasted on my desktop since if I'm on my desktop I'm more likely to play something like BF, Skyrim and so on.

Having my steam library available on a tablet running ivy bridge would mean I'd play them a lot more and on the go and it won't be as bulky carrying around a laptop or ultrabook... Think Microsoft are onto something here. Not to mention anything that supports W8 could be used without hassle which gives it a lot of 'app' support out of the box before even considering tablet specific stuff...

Thought it would be a while before I was interested in getting a tablet but there we go, spoke to soon :P

Butch said:

I am excited about this. I am soooo bored with my Ipad and Android tablets. I am really looking forward to one unified solution for my desktop, laptop, tablet and phone. If MS can pull this off I am sold.

Opus Opus said:

Finally something innovative from M$. This one is supposed to be all in one solution that will sell well.

Guest said:

This actually looks promising. While I'm not upgrading from Window 7 for my desktop computer, this looks better than my Asus Transformer. Plus with Windows designed for touch screen, I'd take that over Android or iOS any day. I'm interested.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

The 32GB/64GB storage capacities will steer many customers away.

The RT should come with no less then 64GB minimum with an option for 128GB, the Pro should have no less then 128GB minimum and come with an option for 256GB.

I realize its only a 10" screen as well but 1366x768 on the RT....still? 900p is too much?

This is Q2 of 2012 right?

And Intel wonder why their products like this have trouble selling/making waves.

Butch said:

The 32GB/64GB storage capacities will steer many customers away.

The RT should come with no less then 64GB minimum with an option for 128GB, the Pro should have no less then 128GB minimum and come with an option for 256GB.

I realize its only a 10" screen as well but 1366x768 on the RT....still? 900p is too much?

This is Q2 of 2012 right?

And Intel wonder why their products like this have trouble selling/making waves.

Let me guess, you want a 256GB version with 1600000X1200000 resolution, 1 year battery life but you want it for $300 too right. Come on.

Guest said:

After reading a few sites on this tablet, Techspot is the first site to give full specs and pricing. Quite impressed. Only problem I see is MS would not let anyone play and test their tablet. And the downside is that the tablet will come out cold and could have some bad reviews and they would be too late to make changes in their tablet. Not a bright move on Microsoft.

sapo joe said:

If Stevie Jobs were alive, he'd be very worried now... =)

TJGeezer said:

Intresting design..

Looks like tablets are going to evolve in to strange new breed... I shall call them laptops..

I can see it now - people taking them on cross-country flights and getting actual work done. Set the thing on your lap and work away the time. Brilliant. You should patent the whole concept!

Guest said:

If Steve Jobs were alive now, he'd have done it with chickens.

Guest said:

TJGeezer said:

"Looks like tablets are going to evolve in to strange new breed... I shall call them laptops.."

how about laptabs? :)

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