Microsoft unveiled two new Windows Tablets, the Microsoft Surface for Windows RT and Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro, during its ultra-secretive event on Monday in Los Angeles.
The two new tablets offer a glimpse into what Windows 8 tablets will be once the operating system from Microsoft is finally released. The Microsoft Surface tablets, however, has also made the software giant a direct competitor to its original equipment manufacturers.
Nonetheless, the Microsoft Surface tablets include features which could make them hits in the tablet market which is dominated by the Apple iPad with a lot of Android tablets playing catch up. The tablets go beyond just upping the ante on specifications, as some observers put, and bring something new to the table.
Microsoft Surface for Windows RT
The Microsoft Surface for Windows RT is the ARM chip-powered tablet of the Surface duo. It will have an Nvidia Tegra-based processor. However, Microsoft did not reveal further specifications for this processor as well as how much RAM the device would have.
What is clear though is that the device is thin. At 9.3 millimeters, the tablet which has a 10.6-inch ClearType HD capacitive touch panel is svelte. No specific screen resolution was announced but because of the HD moniker, we’re thinking this display panel might have 720p resolution.
The Microsoft Surface for Windows RT weighs 676 grams and will have a 31.5Wh battery. Input/output (I/O) on the device will be MicroSD, USB 2.0, MicroHD Video and 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi antennas. The Windows Surface for Windows RT will have two cameras called LifeCam by Microsoft.
“The rear-facing LifeCam is angled to 22 degrees so you can flip out the Kickstand and record meetings and events hands-free. Stereo speakers and dual microphones tuned for Skype help you sound like you are right next door,” Microsoft said on its Surface website hinting that Skype will be available on both the Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro and Microsoft Surface for Windows RT.
Apart from coming with Windows RT, the Microsoft Surface for Windows RT will also be preinstalled with Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT.
Available accessories for the Microsoft Surface for Windows RT are the Touch Cover and the Type Cover which we’ll discuss later.
Storage for the Microsoft Surface for Windows RT will be 32GB or 64GB while pricing will be comparable to other ARM-based tablets with availability pegged to be “around” the launch of Windows 8 which is expected to be on October.
Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro
The Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro is the Intel-based tablet of the two Surface devices unveiled by Microsoft. It will be powered by an Ivy Bridge Intel Core i5 processor.
Like its less powerful brother, Microsoft did not specify clock speed for this Core i5 processor and the amount of RAM it will be getting.
The Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro, because it runs on a much more powerful processor, is thicker at 13.5 millimeters. That’s understandable though as the Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro is more powerful and will have to manage more heat than the Microsoft Surface for Windows RT.
The Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro will, however, get a 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD capacitive touch panel. This means that the resolution of the device’s screen will be 1080p or 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.
Because of the power, it will also need a bigger battery so it’s endowed with a 42Wh battery. Internal storage will be at 64GB or 128GB which can be supplemented with a MicroSDXC card.
Other I/O for the device will be USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, and two MIMO Wi-Fi antennas.
The Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro, just as the name suggests, will get Windows 8 Pro but unlike its thinner brother, it will not have Microsoft’s office Productivity suite.
Nonetheless, apart from being able to take the Touch Cover and the Type Cover, the Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro will also have a Pen with Palm Block accessory.
Those interested in getting the new tablet will have to wait three months after Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface for Windows RT are released as that’s when Microsoft will release the more powerful Microsoft Surface tablet. Price is also still yet to be announced but Microsoft says that the Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro will be priced like a comparably-specified Ultrabook.
The Microsoft Touch Cover and Microsoft Type Cover
Microsoft also announced during its event in Los Angeles the Microsoft Touch Cover and Microsoft Type Cover. These new protective casings for the Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro and Microsoft Surface for Windows RT actually live up to the name of being “smart” tablet covers.
What these covers offer is a keyboard you can use for controlling the recently-unveiled tablets. The 3 millimeter Microsoft Touch Cover uses pressure sensitivity to operate its keyboard and touchpad. It does, however, come with an accelerometer which tells the tablet whether it has been flipped for use.
The thicker of the two, the Microsoft Type Cover, will have actual conventional keys in a hard shell. It will also – like the Touch Cover – be able to tell the Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro and Microsoft Surface for Windows RT what color it is so that the operating system can switch its color scheme to match the color of the cover attached magnetically to the tablet’s body.
Furthermore, both the Microsoft Touch Cover and Microsoft Type Cover will detect whether a user is just resting his or her hands on the cover or is actually typing to lessen instances of accidentally pressing keys.
As of now, we’ve seen only a black and a white Microsoft Type Cover and cyan, magenta and red Microsoft Touch Covers.
Other Key Features
The chassis of the Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro and the Microsoft Surface for Windows RT are constructed using a distinctive process called by Microsoft as VaporMg (pronounced Vapor-Mag). According to Microsoft, this manufacturing process is a combination of material selection and process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a finish akin to a luxury watch.
“Starting with magnesium, parts can be molded as thin as .65 mm, thinner than the typical credit card, to create a product that is thin, light and rigid/strong,” Microsoft added.
The Redmond, Washington-based software giant said that the unique VaporMg process is what has enabled the company to integrate a built-in stand to the Microsoft Surface tablet duo. Both tablets have a kickstand at the back which users can extend to make the tablet stand on its own.
It’s important to note here that the two tablets run on the two distinct versions of the upcoming Windows 8 operating system. The Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro will run on the X86/64 version of Windows 8 while the Microsoft Surface for Windows RT will run on the Windows 8 on ARM version of the Microsoft OS.
Windows 8 on ARM will not be able to run legacy Windows applications but applications on the Microsoft Marketplace can be installed into any Windows Phone 7+ device, Windows 8 desktop, and Windows 8 tablet.
With the unveiling the Microsoft Surface tablets, Microsoft has shown the potential for Windows tablets but it has also made itself a direct competitor to Windows tablet OEMs in the future.