Microsoft's first PC ever, the Surface tablet is set for launch this Friday, right after Windows 8 is also made available to the public. However until recently a few key aspects of the product remained under wraps, including pricing, which was disclosed last week to start at $499 for a 32GB Surface tablet without any of the keyboard covers – a major aspect of what makes the Surface an innovative device.
A first round of reviews has hit the web, with mixed reactions on whether the Surface is good enough at this stage to bring true competition to the iPad(s) and Android tablets alike. On the positive side, most reviewers seem to agree the Surface is a solidly engineered piece of hardware, the covers work relatively well, and surprisingly Windows RT is not the resource hog some expected. Office RT is also cited as one of the Surface's highlights, not only because it works well but because it's included in the price of the tablet.
By far the most common complaint came on the software side, due to a lack of quality apps on the Windows Store. This perceived weakness of the WinRT platform is considered a huge dealbreaker considering competing products, especially iOS devices that the Surface seems to be targeting, have a more ample library of applications you can try or buy. It's ironic how this was the exact same reason Windows was used to be favored over Macs a decade ago.
Ultimately, the lack of applications and thus the overall ecosystem was factored in to evaluate the Surface RT's 'value'. At $630+ with either of the keyboard covers, no one considers Surface RT tablets to be cheap but rather a steep entry for a tablet that holds a lot of promise but is not there yet to go against the defacto leader in the tablet market.
What the reviewers said:
Gizmodo: "The Surface, with an obligatory Touch Cover, is $600. That's a lot of money. Especially given that it's no laptop replacement, no matter how it looks or what Microsoft says. It's a tablet-plus, priced right alongside the iPad and in most ways inferior."
Anandtech: "If you're ok being an early adopter, and ok dealing with the fact that mobile devices are still being significantly revved every year, Surface is worth your consideration. If you've wanted a tablet that could begin to bridge the content consumption and productivity divide, Surface is it."
Engadget: "The Microsoft Surface with Windows RT's $499 starting MSRP means those thinking about making the investment here will be carefully cross-shopping against same-priced offerings from Apple, ASUS and others. Where does this one rate? Very well – but very differently."
LaptopMag: "Ultimately, the Surface will succeed or fail based on the quality of the apps around it. Right now, $599 (the minimum cost with Touch Cover) is a lot to spend on a fledgling ecosystem. However, with the power of Microsoft and Nvidia behind it, we believe we will see more compelling apps for Windows RT arrive within the next few weeks."