Microsoft’s recently-revealed Surface tablets are largely considered as viable competitors to the third-generation iPad, which could unseat Apple’s iconic device from the top of the tablet food chain. Of the two versions recently revealed by Microsoft, the ARM-based model that supports Windows RT is the most direct competitor against Apple’s offering.
While the iPad 3 has essentially the same form factor as its predecessors and is still a solidly designed device, the Surface presents a number of interesting design choices that make it distinct from most of the competition. For one, its magnesium-based chassis uses a physical vapor deposition finish to generate a premium appearance and texture. At the same time, it is 28-grams heavier and 0.1-mm thinner than the latest iPad. However, its Touch Cover adds an extra 3-mm of thickness to the device. Despite this, the accessory provides some unique functionality, doubling as a screen protector and a keyboard.
One area where the Surface for Windows RT definitely loses out is the display. The upcoming device only packs a 10.6-inch 720p screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio and uses Gorilla Glass for scratch-resistance. In contrast, Apple’s much-vaunted Retina Display on the iPad boasts 2048 x 1536 pixels of resolution in a 9.7-inch screen.
Meanwhile, the Surface’s microSD card slot gives it a leg up on its competitor. Both tablets offer 32GB and 64GB models, while iPad 3 also has an entry-level 16GB version. However, the Surface can have 32GB of extra space through a microSD card.
The iPad’s A5X chipset and the Surface’s Tegra 3 chipset have very similar computing cores that are derived from ARM’s Cortex-A9 processor. Apple has done an excellent job optimizing iOS to its hardware and Microsoft can accomplish pretty much the same thing, giving both devices at least comparable performance.
Apple’s venerable iOS platform has been lauded for its user-friendliness, and its latest revision – due in the fall – promises a range of new features. However, Microsoft’s Windows RT – the ARM version of its upcoming Windows 8 desktop operating system – promises to be a combination of the Windows Phone experience with regular Windows’ productivity capabilities. A Metro-style version of the core Microsoft Office suite would make the Surface attractive to the enterprise sector.
As such, it should be an interesting battle between the iPad and the Surface for Windows RT when the latter gets released. Microsoft’s offering could have the best possible chance to challenge Apple’s tablet dominance, while the Intel-powered Windows 8 version of the Surface could itself be an attractive alternative to ultrabooks.