Microsoft Surface: It's a PC, it's a tablet

Microsoft just announced its own tablet, named Surface. If you want a play-by-play account of the announcement, you can read our liveblog, but here are the basics...

RT or Pro

There are two versions of Surface. The Windows RT version uses an ARM processor (Nvidia was mentioned, so it's probably Tegra 3), while the Windows 8 Pro version sports an Ivy Bridge generation Intel Core i5. Both are 10.6-inch tablets, though the RT version is a bit thinner and lighter (about as thick and heavy as the latest iPad). The RT version will come with either 32GB or 64GB of flash storage, the Pro version either 64GB or 128GB.

For all we know, there are a lot of specs left unknown. Front-facing and rear-facing cameras are clearly visible, but their resolution isn't yet known. Neither are specs like the amount of RAM, or 3G/4G connectivity. Microsoft mentioned that the tablets support 802.11n with dual antennas, and claimed they have the best wireless of any tablet. The Pro version will include both capacitive touch and a pen digitizer.

Kickstands and covers

The Surface tablets have a couple of unique features. There's an integrated kickstand; Microsoft made a big deal about how much attention went into the look and feel of it. The cover is perhaps more interesting. As with the iPad Smart Case, Microsoft’s offering snaps on magnetically. The stand-out feature with Microsoft’s Touch Cover is its built-in keyboard and touchpad.

What it costs

Pricing was not mentioned. Microsoft says the Windows RT version will be competitive with other ARM-based tablets, but with ARM tablets selling for $299 to $699 or more, that leaves the company a lot of wiggle room. The RT version of the Surface will be available at the same time as Windows 8 this fall. The Pro version will be priced to compete with Ultrabooks, and will be available about three months later.

Does this turn the Surface into a full PC? Perhaps it already is a full PC. Both versions will run all the same Metro apps you would run on a desktop, laptop, or all-in-one with Windows 8. Both versions let you go to the desktop to manage files in Explorer, and run Office apps. The RT version won’t run any other legacy desktop applications, but the Pro version will run anything you could run on a desktop PC with a Core i5.

Let’s let that sink in for a moment: Microsoft is now in the business, after all these years, of literally producing its own branded PCs.

For what it’s worth, the Surface tablets appear extremely well designed. They’re great to look at, thin, light, with nice lines and good materials. There’s a lot of obvious attention to detail there. We’ll have a lot more info, including hands-on impressions, on PCWorld.

This story, "Microsoft Surface: It's a PC, it's a tablet" was originally published by TechHive.

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