Microsoft has announced their own Windows 8 powered Surface Tablets and have now positioned themselves nicely to become big competitors in the tablet market once Windows 8 is released, probably sometime around mid-October. Microsoft announced two different tablets, the Surface which runs Windows 8 Pro and a Surface that run Windows RT. While at first, you may not notice any differences between these two tablets, open closer inspection you will find that quite a few things are different.
The Operating System
We’ve already written quite an extensive post that explains the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems. However, we’ll briefly cover the key differences. Microsoft designed Windows RT which appears almost identical to Windows 8 as an operating system which is primarily for use on tablet devices which use cheaper, less power-hungry ARM processors. Windows 8 itself is the operating system that will be installed on pretty much all Laptops, Ultrabooks, and PCs as well as higher spec tablets which use x86 processors.
The main thing that you need to remember if you are buying a Windows RT powered laptop is that they can’t run legacy Windows programs. This means that unless the program you want to use was developed for Windows RT, you won’t be able to use it. You won’t be able to install any of the programs you are currently using on your current Windows 7, Vista or even XP machine. Windows RT will only really be able to run apps that you download from the Windows Store and not much else.
The Windows 8 Pro-powered Surface will support all types of software so you should have no trouble running your legacy applications on it. You can install any third party programs as well as the apps on the Windows Store. One plus with Windows RT, however, is that Microsoft will be including a copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student at no extra cost.
The Windows RT Surface tablet is, in fact, thinner and lighter than the Windows 8 Pro Surface tablet. The Surface Windows RT measures in at just 9.3mm thick compared to 13.5mm for the Windows 8 Pro Surface. Since the Windows RT Surface is thinner you’d assume it’s lighter, and it is, weighing in at 676 grams where as the Windows 8 Pro Surface weighs 902 grams.
If you were to just quickly glance at these tablets, you probably wouldn’t notice much of a difference in them, but when you’re holding the tablets and using them I’m sure the difference might be more apparent, but regardless these are both pretty thin tablets.
Both these tablets are pretty well equipped and shouldn’t have any problems running Windows 8 and a wide variety of programs, but there are a few differences. First off, the Windows 8 Pro Surface will be a more powerful tablet since it’s packing a next generation Core i5 processor. We don’t know details of the exact model as of yet, but it will be more powerful than the NVIDIA Tegra processor in the Windows RT Surface. Both devices feature 10.6-inch displays, however, the Windows RT Surface is a ClearType HD display, whereas the Windows 8 Pro Surface will have a slightly higher resolution ClearType Full HD display.
On the memory side of things, the Windows RT Surface will have a choice of 32GB or 64GB SSD’s where as the Windows 8 Pro Surface will have a choice of either a 64GB or 128GB SSD.
The battery in the Windows RT Surface will be packing 31.5 Wh-where as the Windows 8 Pro Surface’s battery is larger at 42Wh. Both devices will have a variety of ports. The Windows RT Surface will have MicroSD, USB 2.0 and Micro HD Video ports. The Windows 8 Pro Surface will support MicroSDXC, USB 3.0 and a Mini Display Port. Both tablets will come with a front and rear facing a camera.
Microsoft announced a few interesting and exciting accessories to go along with their new Surface tablets. Both of these tablets will support the Type Cover (A cover that doubles as a keyboard and trackpad and Touch Cover (A cover the doubles as a touch keyboard and trackpad).
However, the Windows 8 Pro tablet will support an additional accessory and that’s a Pen that can be used on the screen to draw etc..
Availability and Pricing
Microsoft kind of left us guessing in this department, but I’m sure they’ll reveal some more information closer to the release of these devices. The Windows RT Surface will be launched alongside Windows 8, which we reckon could be around mid-October. The Windows 8 Pro tablet will be launched 3 months after this.
In terms of pricing, the Windows RT Surface will be cheaper and priced in line with other Windows RT tablets while the Windows 8 Pro Surface will be priced in line with comparable Ultrabooks.
At the end of the day, both these tablets have their pros and cons. It’s good that Microsoft is offering us with a bit of choice and not producing just one piece of hardware. There will plenty of consumers who will be quite satisfied with a Windows RT powered Surface as they’ll have no need for the additional features offered by the Windows 8 Pro version. And of course, there will be those who must have the Windows 8 Pro version so that they can support legacy applications. We’ve put together a handy little table to make it easier to compare these two tablets.
Windows RT Surface
Windows 8 Pro Surface
NVIDIA Tegra (ARM)
Intel Core i5
676 grams 903 grams
10.6 inch ClearType HD
10.6 inch ClearType Full HD
31.5 Wh 42 Wh
Windows RT + Office Home and Student 2013
Windows 8 Pro
MicroSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video MicroSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort
Touch Cover, Type Cover
Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen
32GB or 64GB 64GB or 128GB
At Windows 8 Launch
3 months after Windows 8 Launch
In line with similar tablets
In line with comparable Ultrabooks