We were promised that The Microsoft Surface, as this device would be called, would represent an incredible new innovation in affordable computing. Did it deliver? Let’s find out.
By Chris Messenger | Published 12/11/2012
Microsofts first real push at Tablet PC's
16:9 screen aspect ratio ideal for tv/film
Much heavier than the ipad (nearly 200g!)
Cover keyboard is great. A must have!
Wifi only. No support for UK 3G or 4G
No "Retina" resolution. Basic 1366 x 768
Feels bulky. Awkard to hold at 10.6"
Same price as iPad but far from as good.
When Microsoft announced that they were releasing a new tablet PC in order to compete with the iPad, it sent shockwaves around the world of consumer technology. We were promised that The Microsoft Surface, as this device would be called, would represent an incredible new innovation in affordable computing.
Did it deliver? Let’s find out.
The outer casing appears thick and cumbersome, but that’s actually not the case. The Surface is just as thick as the iPad, it simply lacks the design finesse of Apple’s flagship product. Where the iPad’s edges taper down to a smooth, sexy curve, the surface’s edge is just squared off like a lump of wood, or a ‘Duplo’ brick. It is also very heavy.
However, the Surface starts incredibly quickly and is a real pleasure to boot up. Also, the interior specs are mostly state of the art. The Surface offers a whopping 64GB of memory, but lacks much diversity in its Internet connectivity options.
By the time you get started properly, you’ll soon come to realize that for every good thing about this tablet, there’s a disappointment waiting for you. For example: It accesses the Internet pretty quickly, but there are bugger all apps to download when it does.
So now we come to the reason why I (and a lot of reviewers, tech writers and would-be customers) were so damned angry this month. Microsoft announced the price for this new tablet as being somewhere in the £200 region. This announcement had us all thinking that the Surface would be the tablet to give the iPad a run for its money, (mainly by using the only advantage Microsoft still has over its nearest rivals). It seemed hard to believe that such a high spec machine could be put out at such a cheap price, but the information was verified officially.
Back in October, I wrote, “The Surface is going to be affordable and very, very high spec. It could possibly represent a serious alternative to the iPad 3 and do so at less than half the price.”
Later that same month, for a different site, I chirped,
“A brand new Surface should cost about half as much as a brand new iPad – advantage? Surface.”
So, as you can see, this was a major disappointment for a lot of people. This was no ‘last minute’ decision, no matter what anybody says. Its Microsoft, they know how much a processor costs, for goodness’ sake:
Having had time to calm down a bit, it doesn’t seem like an unfair price now. In fact (without the keypad), it costs about the same as the iPad and has twice as much storage space. So the price hike isn’t hugely unreasonable, but the overall cost is nowhere near as big of a selling point as once it was.
To be honest, the Surface is neither the fastest, nor the most capable tablet I’ve reviewed. The software is generally confusing and it doesn’t seem to know what sort of computer it wants to be, one minute you could be in comfortable, ‘Windows 7’ territory, the next you’re wandering, unarmed, into Vista country. There are a few more nasty surprises lurking in there even after that. After a few minutes with the Surface, you’ll find yourself longing for the playful simplicity of iOS or the easy adaptability of Android.
The screen is OK, but compared the iPad 3 & 4’s ‘Retina Display’, or even the far cheaper Kindle Fire HD’s screen, it is really nothing special at all. In addition, the user interface just feels, well, slow. It’s not so slow that you’ll be tearing your hair out in frustration, but it’s slow enough to make you pine for an iPad.
Oh, the keypad. You have to wait for a ‘click’ that lets you know that you’ve successfully pressed the right button, because sometimes (through no fault of your own, I might add) you haven’t. Surely that’s worth the money, right? Overall, the keypad is reasonable, but honestly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about.
What Other Users Say
The user response has generally been very positive. Online and print reviews are tripping over themselves to heap praise upon the little guy, even that bald fella who writes the really good tech column in ‘The Guardian’ gave it 5 stars.
Over on Amazon, the userbase is just as happy. Of the 11 reviews (its still quite a new device), 9 of them offer perfect 5/5 scores. The highlighted ‘critical’ review (which only offers 3/5) laments the fact that it would have been £40 cheaper at ‘PC World’ or direct from Apple. So no real complaints then.
There are those who are optimistically praising this new tablet and assuring us (as well as themselves) that we’ll all ‘get used to it eventually’ and there are others still saying that this is an overpriced pile of shit(e). However, I’m going to stay somewhere in the middle on this one.
The way I see it, the Surface is a high spec tablet PC that does a decent job, but fails to live up to the hype in any real way. It’s a fair/good all-rounder that never really lives up to its true potential.
Not quite a missed opportunity, then, but not the tablet PC saviour its parent company was praying for, either. The only way that this product compares to the iPad, then, is in the region of price.