Microsoft's ARM-based Surface device delivers Windows 8 as a more appliance-like experience, closer to that of consumer media tablets. The combination of Exchange-compatible email and Office 2013 apps built-in make it an attractive option for a mobile productivity device, especially when combined with one of Microsoft's snap-on keyboard Cover accessories.
Lightweight, sturdy construction, built-in Office 2013 apps, all-day battery life
No support for existing Windows apps, no 3G broadband, low-res cameras
Processor: 1.3GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 T30
Memory: 2GB Ram
Storage: 32GB or 64GB flash
Display: 10.6in touch screen, 1,366x768 pixels
Camera: 720p HD front and rear cameras
Connectivity: 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports: USB 2.0, micro HDMI output, microSD slot, headset jack
Operating system: Windows RT
Battery: 31.5WHr, up to 8 hours of battery life
Microsoft's Surface devices are the first tablets to be produced by the software giant itself, in an effort to drive adoption of its Windows 8 platform, albeit at the risk of annoying its existing hardware partners.
If our experience is anything to go by, then Microsoft has a potential winner on its hands, as the Surface is lightweight, well designed and a pleasure to use. It also ships with compelling features like Microsoft's full-blown Office applications built in, while an excellent add-on keyboard for text entry is an optional extra.
However, the success of the Surface will depend as much upon buyer acceptance of the Windows 8 user interface with its live tiles and "Metro-style" applications as anything else. And price is almost always going to be a factor, with the Surface priced to match Apple's iPad.
We should point out there are actually two Microsoft Surface models; the Surface with Windows RT tested here is equipped with an ARM-based processor and thus runs a special ARM-based version of Windows 8 known as Windows RT. The Surface with the standard Windows 8 Pro has an Intel Core i5 processor, but is not yet available.
Potential buyers need to choose carefully when picking a Surface, especially business users, as the Surface with Windows RT will not run existing Windows applications, only the new "Metro-style" apps available from the Windows Store.
The Surface with Windows RT also cannot be joined to a Windows Active Directory domain, which is a possible deal breaker for many large organisations. However, it can be managed using System Centre Mobile Device Manager or have some policies set via an ActiveSync connection to an Exchange mail server.
Firms should ensure they are prepared for the Surface, as it is an obvious play to the "bring your own device" (BYOD) trend from Microsoft, and we can foresee many employees purchasing one in the expectation they will be able to use it for work.
Microsoft has taken great care with the design of the Surface, producing a device that exudes quality and feels reassuringly solid and well built, despite its weight of 676g which is in line with Apple's full-size iPad and many Android-based tablets.
At 9.3mm thick, the Surface is comparable in size to the iPad, but not as wide, owing to the 16:9 letterbox ratio of its 10.6in, 1,366x768 display.
Meanwhile, the case of the Surface is truncated front to back, which Microsoft claims makes the device more comfortable to hold when using it, with a metallic back panel that feels like it could absorb a fair amount of punishment.