Microsoft Surface RT review

Jonathan Bray
16 Nov 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

A beautifully-made and fantastically flexible tablet which is great for working on the move, but it's not without its problems


Things are really heating up in the tablet market, and not only among compact, low-cost models; Microsoft's Surface RT tablet is bringing the fight straight to the iPad table as well. It's full name is the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT, as it comes with that version of the operating system.

It’s the first tablet that Microsoft has ever produced, and the first Windows product to feature an ARM CPU instead of an x86-based processor - in this case a quad-core 1.4GHz Nvidia Tegra 3. The Surface RT is available with 32GB or 64GB of storage; the 64GB model costs £559 inc VAT, but it comes with the Touch Cover keyboard, more on which later.

Microsoft Surface

This Windows 8 tablet has a few neat tricks up its sleeves

It's a ground-breaking tablet, then, and fittingly it's a beautifully made one too. The chassis consists of smart, gunmetal-grey aluminium, with chamfered edges all around, and half of the rear panel flips out to form a sturdy kickstand. The tablet has a USB port on the right, which allows the connection of storage, keyboards, mice and, so Microsoft claims, thousands of other peripherals, including printers and scanners.

Microsoft Surface

There's a volume rocker on the left, the power button sits in the top-right corner, and underneath the kickstand there's a slot for a microSDXC card, so you can add a further 64GB to the current 32GB or 64GB of included storage. You'll most likely need this slot if you buy the 32GB version, as after the operating system and included software have taken their chunk only around half of this is left.

The display is superb. It's a 10.6in, 1,366x768 IPS display, and we measured its maximum brightness level as 400cd/m2 - just behind that of the 3rd generation iPad. Colours leap out of the screen and the viewing angles are near-flawless, with almost no colour or contrast shift as you tilt the screen away from you.

Microsoft Surface

The screen is great, though not high-resolution like the iPad 4 or Nexus 10

We were initially impressed with the screen's contrast, as its deep blacks helped give punch to the colours. However, this is in large part due to the Surface RT’s automatic contrast system, which dims the backlight slightly when the image on the screen is largely dark and bumps it back up again when things brighten up. This makes still images look great but can be irritating when watching movies, and it can’t be switched off.

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