Pricing and Final Words

Last week Microsoft announced pricing for Surface. The base configuration starts at $499 with 32GB of internal storage, you can get a bundle with a black Touch Cover for $599 and finally there’s a 64GB model with Touch Cover for $699. All versions of Surface come with Office 2013 Home & Student Edition preview, and will be upgraded (for free) to the final build of Office 2013 once it’s available.

Whether or not Surface is priced appropriately really depends on how much you value Windows RT and getting Office 2013 for free. I suspect if you’re already a big Office user, you’ll see a lot of value in the bundle. On the Windows RT side, whether or not that platform has value really depends on how frustrated you are by the multitasking, task switching and lack of screen sharing (two apps on the screen at once) of other mobile OSes. Depending on your feelings on those two issues Surface will either feel like a bargain, or too much.

As a device, Surface is incredibly well executed. It makes sense that Microsoft’s OEM partners are feeling the pressure as there’s very little that I would change about Surface from a design perspective. The chassis is well built and the integrated kickstand is seriously one of the most useful features to ever meet a tablet. The optional Touch and Type Covers complete the package. While a full sized notebook is going to deliver a better typing experience, when paired with its Touch/Type covers Surface results in a more productive platform than any other tablet.

Surface is the most flexible tablet I've ever used. Through two seemingly simple additions to the design (but incredibly complex to actually develop and implement), Microsoft took a tablet and turned it into something much more. If you're frustrated by productivity limits of currently available tablets, Surface really seems to be the right formula for a solution. It's important to note that Microsoft's execution with Surface establishes the company as a competitive powerhouse in the mobile design market. I can only imagine what multiple revs of the design will give us, not to mention what could happen if Microsoft set its obsessive sights on smartphones or notebooks.

The Windows RT experience, in many senses, is clearly ahead of what many competitors offer in the tablet space today. Multitasking, task switching and the ability to have multiple applications active on the screen at once are all big advantages that Microsoft enjoys. For productivity workloads, Surface is without equal in the tablet space.

Content consumption is also great on the device. Surface's display isn't industry leading but it's still good.  Reading emails, browsing the web flipping through photos and watching videos are all good fits for the platform - just as good as competing solutions from Apple or Google. 

More impressive than the fact that Microsoft brought competitive parity to the Windows tablet usage model is the fact that power efficiency doesn't seem to be an issue for Windows RT. Microsoft has built a mobile OS that is capable of, at least based on what we've seen today with Surface, being competitive with Android and iOS solutions when it comes to battery life. With lower power silicon inside, Microsoft could do even better.

I don't believe Surface is perfect, but it's a platform I can believe in. What I'm most excited about is to see what happens after a second or third rev of the design. I would have liked to have seen faster hardware inside (I'd love to see an Atom based version). There are also some rough edges that could use smoothing out (e.g. the power connector and HDMI output come to mind) and Windows RT likely needs another round of updates (app launch times are far too long, more apps needed) but overall the device is easily in recommendable territory. The biggest issue I have with recommending Surface today is that you know the next iteration of the device is likely going to be appreciably better, with faster/more efficient hardware and perhaps even a better chassis. 

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.

Windows RT
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  • enealDC - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Any takers?? Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Early adopter = heartburn. Reply
  • daar - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Been using an Thinkpad X41 tablet for ages at work, will probably pick this up to replace it. I mean, this thing does have pen input yes? I didn't see much mention of it in the review. Missing a few benchmarks as well, which is kind of a shame as the Surface is the one of the most interesting computing device put out in the last while.

    Also would like to ask who makes the actual panel? I recall AT used to note this in reviews in the past but not as of late, I don't think I even saw mention of it in the iphone 5 review.
    Reply
  • gardocki - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    No pen input on the Surface RT, just on the Surface for Win 8 Pro, which will likely be about twice the cost and won't be released for another 90 days Reply
  • gcoupe - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I don't think this is correct. If you look at the "Help me choose" document published by Microsoft, then they state that "Capacitive pens available for purchase".

    True, these aren't active pens, with pressure sensitivity, but as far as I'm aware, WinRT will have handwriting recognition.

    It would be good to get some confirmation of this though, and a measure of whether it is as good as the handwriting recognition in Windows 8.
    Reply
  • This Guy - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    All capacitive touch screens work with capacitive pens. In my experience capacitive pens write like crayons.

    Running an older tablet with a worse input array I have perceived capacitive hand writting recognition on win 8 as being quicker and more accurate compared to win 7. That said, I still find it painfully slow compared to the on-screen keyboard.

    So yes, Surface RT supports capacitive pens, but the experience of capacitive pens is generally so poor on other devices most people don't consider them as pen inputs.
    Reply
  • nagi603 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Capacitive pen compared to an active pen is like comparing a baby tricycle and a jet airplane. Not even in the same league. But unless you have tried something remotely like the latter, you won't even know that.

    Trust me as someone who has actually tried both and has been using a wacom pen for years: throw that capacitive pen out the window!
    Reply
  • SleepyFE - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Most interesting computing device?????

    It's just a small laptop with all it's guts stuck in a poorly cooled space behind the screen.
    Reply
  • owned66 - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    ummm .... ?
    this is windows RT
    its using an ARM cpu
    Reply
  • SleepyFE - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    I know it runs on ARM, does that not make it a laptop, is a server using ARM not a server?
    No matter how u spin it, it either a tablet (of which there are many and 99.9% use ARM) or it's a laptop with less power and less headroom (regarding cooling).
    Thankfully a week laptop is at least sort of useful, but paying 100$ extra to get the keyboard? No thanks!!
    Reply

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