What Is Microsoft Surface?

Microsoft doesn't want to take any chances with Windows 8—if it's going to be the best tablet OS ever, it's going to need some serious hardware. So Microsoft is getting serious and building its own tablet. Meet Surface.

The Microsoft Surface is a tablet and a PC at the same time...

Microsoft's home cooked tablet is a very thin cookie: the non-Pro version is only 9.3mm thick (a little less than the iPad), 1.5 pounds (a little more than iPad), and packs a 10.6-inch, 16:9 "ClearType" 1920 x 1080 display, available with either 32 or 64 GB of storage. ClearType is definitely aiming for a Retina connotation, although Microsoft's screen falls short of Apple's 264 pixels per inch at 208.

What Is Microsoft Surface?

Inside, Surface packs tablet standards like front and rear-facing cameras, an SD slot, and a full-sized USB port, along with some neat tricks: magnesium casing, DisplayPort out, Gorilla Glass, a kickstand (hmm) and a subtle groove around the entirety of the device to help keep the Pro version cool. Microsoft also claims Surface will have the best Wi-Fi reception of any tablet, ever, with 2x2 MIMO antennae—in plain english, wireless antennae that are harder to block while you're holding the thing.

...that comes in two versions...

This is an Ugh!/Yeah! depending on who you are, but Surface, like everything Windows, will come in two flavors. The aforementioned super-skinny variant runs Windows RT on an ARM processor (like the one in your phone, or most other tablets), while the Pro copy runs an Ivy Bridge Core i5 x86 processor, USB 3.0, and other ultrabook-y specs. It'll be a little thicker (13.5mm) and heavier, though not by much. The Pro Surface will be available with either 64 or 128 GB of storage.

What Is Microsoft Surface?

...and runs Windows 8...

Surface is designed specifically for Windows 8's best tricks: it'll support semantic zoom (awesome!), a stylus (not awesome!), while providing a perfectly superflat frame for the perfectly superflat Metro UI. It'll also runOnly the Pro version will run the standard Windows desktop, the full OS, meaning requisite software like Office and Photoshop are on the go with you. The RT brother will only roll with Metro "apps," meaning tablet standards like Netflix. The Pro should be the best of both computing worlds, we'd hope.

What Is Microsoft Surface?

...and uses one of the coolest accessories we've ever seen.

The Surface can be paired with a magnetic cover, just like the iPad's. They come in a Crayola box of colors, just like the iPad's. But the Surface's cover also doubles as a full, extremely thin keyboard and multitouch trackpad, whereas the iPad's is just... a cover. This is a brilliant move on Microsoft's part—one of the most clever things it's ever squeezed out, and something that instantly makes Surface one of the most exciting devices we've eyed in some time. Not just another black rectangle.

What Is Microsoft Surface?

Unfortunately, no word on pricing (beyond a meaningless claim of "competitive"). Expect to pay tablet-ish prices for the RT version, laptop prices for the Pro version—probably right around the MacBook Air. As far as availability, we only know the RT will launch alongside Windows 8, and the Ivy Bridge super-version 90 days later. Hey look, a company that isn't Apple just built something awesome. [Microsoft]