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Preview: Microsoft Surface Tablet

A Quick Look at Microsoft’s New iPad Competitor

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Preview: Microsoft Surface Tablet

The Microsoft Surface tablet.

Image © Microsoft

After stoking some Internet hubbub by teasing a super secret announcement, Microsoft finally took off the wraps from its new Surface tablet. (This, by the way, is not to be confused with that huge table-like “Surface” touchscreen, which Microsoft has since renamed Pixelsense). Now, I haven’t taken a survey about it myself but I have a feeling that the first question most folks will have about this device is “How does it compare to the iPad?” How indeed.

Just a few days after the official unveiling, there are still a lot of things about the tablet that remain unknown, though Microsoft has released some details about its new slate. Here’s a quick look at what we do know about the Microsoft-branded Surface so far.

Two is better than one: The tablet is slated to come in two flavors: one running the Microsoft RT operating system and the other one using the more full-blown Windows 8 OS. The former will also weigh 676 grams while the latter comes in at 903 grams. The Windows 8 version also will be a tad chunkier at 13.5 millimeters thin vs. 9.3 millimeters for its lighter brother. Lastly, the heavier version of the Surface will have a 42W-h battery while the other version will rock a smaller 31.5 W-h power source.

Display: Microsoft didn’t immediately release a resolution for both Surface tablets, only saying that they will sport high-definition 10.6-inch ClearType displays with a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Housing: The Surface’s outer shell uses material called VaporMg. VaporMg apparently uses a molding process and combination of materials that create a finish akin to the one seen in luxury watches. Microsoft also says VaporMg can be molded pretty thin while still maintaining strength and rigidity. This also allows Microsoft to integrate a kickstand into the Surface without adding much bulk or weight.

Brains and storage: The Windows RT version of the Surface will feature an ARM processor while the Windows 8 version will use an Intel processor — not exactly a surprise given that it will run a full-fledged OS and all. The former also comes in either a 32GB or 64GB configuration while the latter comes with either 64GB or 128GB of internal memory.

Touch Cover: Not to be outdone by Apple’s Smart Cover, Microsoft is pairing its own magnetic “Touch Cover” with the Surface that also doubles as a keyboard. Folks who prefer a more traditional typing feel can also throw in a 5-millimeter “Type Cover” that features moving keys.

Ports and other features: The Surface tablet will have slots for microSD, full-size USB 2.0 and Micro HD video as well as a 2x2 MIMO antenna. The Windows 8 version will switch the microSD slot with a microSDXC slot.

One thing Microsoft also did not immediately reveal about the Surface tablets are exact details about pricing and the line’s release date. The company did say that the Surface will be available once Windows 8 is released with a Windows 8 Pro version also hitting the market 90 days later. The tablets also will be sold at Microsoft Store locations nationwide in the U.S. and select online Microsoft Stores.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait and see how the Surface stacks up to Apple’s iPad juggernaut as well as slates that use Google’s Android operating system. For more details about tablets in general, don’t forget to check out our Apple iPad & Tablet Hub.

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