The price starts at $499 for a bare-bones Surface RT tablet with 32GB of storage and 2GB memory, but without a touch keyboard/cover. That puts it on a par with Apple’s iPad, or to put it another way: not cheap, but premium-priced.
The Surface RT is now available for pre-order in eight countries. Inevitably, this does not include the Netherlands, and there’s no word on whether availability here will come later, or, indeed, ever.
While both models have sensors (ambient light, accelerometer, gyroscope and compass) built in, neither model has a GPS sensor. This strikes me as a rather surprising omission, particularly since some iPad models have GPS. Using Bing maps on the Surface would seem to be a very limited experience if the Surface has no means of discovering your location. I suppose that, with the Surface Pro, I could always use my GPS Logger connected via Bluetooth. I could install the Windows driver for the logger onto a Surface Pro; something that I don’t think can be done with the Surface RT. Still, on further reflection, this lack of GPS capability may not be a showstopper. I rather think that 3G and GPS capabilities go together in the chipsets, and since neither of the Surface models come with 3G built-in, then GPS is also missing. And as for the Bing maps experience, perhaps the Surfaces can do Wi-Fi positioning to provide location coordinates. We shall see.
One other thing I notice in the specs for the Surface Pro (which will be available “soon”) is that it lists the CPU as “3rd generation Intel Core i5 Processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000”. That also is a bit odd: using a Core i5 processor, rather than the next generation Intel Atom processor, the Z2760, codenamed Clover Trail. The selling point of the Atom Z2760 is that it is able to take advantage of the new “Connected Standby” capability in Windows 8, which allows longer usage time between battery charging. While the Surface RT, like all ARM-based devices will be able to exploit Connected Standby, Microsoft’s Intel-based tablet, the Surface Pro, will not, because it uses the Intel Core i5. Other manufacturers will have Atom Z2760-based tablets on the market as early as next week, e.g. Samsung, with its Series 5 Slate.
I think I’ll wait and see how the tablet market develops. In the meantime, my desktop will get upgraded to Windows 8 next week.
Update: it’s clear that many people are totally confused about the differences between the Windows 8 operating system (used on the Surface Pro), and the Windows RT operating system (used on the Surface RT). For example, I saw a question on a photography forum where someone asked if the Surface RT would be powerful enough to run Adobe Lightroom.
Many people assume that Windows RT will run traditional Windows applications. Nope, it can’t; not unless the application developer recompiles the software code for the different hardware (ARM instead of Intel/AMD). In addition, this recompilation is not always possible, because the Windows programming environment for the ARM hardware is a subset of what is available for the Intel/AMD platform.
We will see next week just what the limitations are in detail. For example, one question I have is whether the Surface RT will have the same level of handwriting recognition that Windows 8 has. I suspect that it won’t.
Update 2: AnandTech has a comprehensive review of the Surface RT that is worth reading. I particularly like the fact that Anand compares the performance of the Surface RT with an unnamed (but shortly to be released) Windows 8 Tablet that uses the Atom Z2760. It’s interesting that the Atom out-performs the ARM-based Surface RT. Plus, of course, the Atom will run all the traditional Windows desktop application software and the Surface RT can’t.