Microsoft's Surface a worthy iPad adversary?

The venerable tech company goes all out with its new keyboard-equipped, Windows-powered tablet.

By Oct 24, 2012 1:06PM

Copyright 2012 Apple IncThe booming tablet market has long been dominated by the iPad. But that's changing. Google (GOOG) and Amazon (AMZN) carved out a new niche with smaller, cheaper devices that forced Apple to pivot and offer its own iPad Mini. 

Still, when it comes to top-of-the-line tablets, the original iPad stands alone. Perhaps that's why tech critics were uncharacteristically effusive when Microsoft (MSFT) announced the Surface --an elite, Windows-powered machine that might finally give Apple (AAPL) some competition. 

Two versions have been announced: A model running Windows 8 Pro, and a Surface running a stripped-down Windows RT. Microsoft is betting big on the Surface, and the RT version goes on sale Friday. (The tablet costs $499, and another $100 for the optional Touch Cover keyboard.) 

Could the Surface make a real run at the iPad's throne?

It's a worthy challenger: "This is a great device," says Mat Honan at Wired. I spent several days using the Surface with a keyboard flap as my only computer and did fine, which is something you could never say about an iPad. The gesture-driven interface is "amazingly fluid," battery life is impressive, and the Touch Cover plus Microsoft Office means it can "pull double duty as a functional laptop." Of course, Surface is a "new thing, in a new space, and likely to confuse many of Microsoft's longtime customers." But once its app ecosystem gets more robust, it'll be "a viable alternative to the iPad."

Save your money: Microsoft's tablet is a huge disappointment, says Sam Biddle at Gizmodo. Don't buy it. Once you add the Touch Cover, this thing costs a jaw-dropping $600. Also: Its software is buggy, the "keyboard" is only a close approximation of the real thing, and its app ecosystem is so sparse it "feels more like a tundra" -- especially with no Twitter or Facebook apps. Maybe the kinks will be ironed out one day, "but those maybes aren't worth putting money on." Microsoft's vision of the future isn't quite here yet.

Sadly, the Surface is full of unmet potential: "I wanted to love this device," says Joshua Topolsky at The Verge. But it's not up to par yet. "The promise of the Surface was that it could deliver a best-in-class tablet experience, but then transform into the PC you needed when heavier lifting was required." But that's not what I experienced. As both a tablet and a laptop it functioned "half as well as other devices on the market, and it often makes that job harder, not easier." The Surface, instead of being a no-compromise hybrid device, often feels like a "more-compromise one."

(Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)

More from The Week

Oct 24, 2012 1:47PM

" Surface running a stripped-down Windows RT"


If you're going to write a critical article at least get your facts correct. Windows RT (X86) has all the functionality of Windows Pro (X86) except a WRT device obviously can't run applications complied for an X86 device.


Sam Biddle at Gizmodo. Once you add the Touch Cover, this thing costs a jaw-dropping $600. Umm, and what does an iPad cost without a keyboard, $600-700.  The "keyboard" is only a close approximation of the real thing - really buy the $499 Surface w/o keybaord and add the full keyboard for $129 - you're an uniformed critic.


Joshua at the Verge: "The promise of the Surface was that it could deliver a best-in-class tablet experience, but then transform into the PC you needed when heavier lifting was required." But that's not what I experienced".  Really, you might want to read others reviewers that say just the opposite. Why spend $600-700 on an iPad for half a touch based PC when you can spend the same on Surface RT and get a whole PC.


Additionally, the Surface RT runs on an Nvidia Tegra chip. The Surface Pro and many other Windows 8 tablets will run on the Intel Atom Ckover Trail chips and run all PC software for the same price as a Surface RT. How's that going to fit into all the critics BS.

Oct 24, 2012 4:39PM
Obviously 2/3 of these listed critics didn't bother to do their homework and just phoned it in because as an iFanboy the Surface just confuses their tiny iMinds. Many other critics are already saying that the price comparison vs what you get is very competive for the Surface and it can do more than just "consume" information.
Nov 5, 2012 6:02PM
I bought a surface a week ago. It took a couple of days before I figured it all out, it took my daughter (an Apple Lover) about two minutes. She loved it and wants one instead of a new Ipad. Once you figure it out its fantastic. it uses all of the Microsoft software that I am used to and I don't have to drag around my laptop anymore.
Nov 5, 2012 7:24PM

Ipad and Iphone were really awesome when they were introduced, Apple has not done much innovation since then other than changing screen sizes and charger. I waited for ipad 3 only to realize that there was not reason to wait. I have Apple products and feel no shame in admitting that I am done with i-Factor. I have lot of expectations from surface and can't wait to buy one. I updated my Win7 machines to Win8 and absolutely love the O.S.

Oct 24, 2012 1:29PM

ipad4 same price as surface.  Ipad is the hottest tablet out there.

Talk about cheaper tablet prices microsoft surface is not.

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