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Microsoft Surface: Can a Windows 8 tablet compete?

On Monday, Microsoft took the wraps off a new tablet called the Surface. Here's a quick primer.

By Matthew Shaer / June 19, 2012

The Microsoft Surface tablet is shown at an event in California on Monday.

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Yesterday, we wondered what kind of device Microsoft would introduce at the much ballyhooed press conference in Los Angeles. Now, we have the answer: A Windows 8 tablet called the Surface. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the Surface and the Apple iPad are roughly the same size and shape – the iPad weighs approximately a pound and a half, and so does the entry-level Surface (although a more deluxe model may weigh closer to 2 lbs). 

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Meanwhile, the Surface will be equipped with a 10.6-inch screen, compared to the 9.7-inch display on the iPad. Both devices pack front- and back-facing cameras and both are pretty thin. The difference, of course, is what's inside: Unlike the iPad, which runs Apple's mobile operating system, the Surface will run the forthcoming Windows 8. (Windows 8, Horizons readers will remember, is still in beta.) 

Consumers will choose between one of two models, according to PC Magazine: The aforementioned entry-level tablet with a Nvidia Tegra processor and Windows RT. A "professional" edition of the tablet has an Intel Core i5 chip and runs the x86-optimized version of Windows 8. If that meant nothing to you, know that the former is made for the average consumer; the latter is aimed at "content creators." 

Much remains unclear: Release date, price, the kind of antennas onboard – 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi only?

In the run-up to the Surface unveiling (the Surfacing?), plenty of analysts speculated that Microsoft might try to undercut Apple on price, offering a tablet for, say, a base price of $400 – a hundred bucks cheaper than the cheapest iPad. But the Surface seems to be a full-featured machine, and it's hard for this blogger to imagine Microsoft selling it for a significantly lower price than the iPad. 

So hey, how does the Surface handle?

Well, over at Wired, Alexandra Chang got a chance to take the Surface for a test drive, and she praises the magnesium-based VaporMg chassis and the "crisp and bright" display. "From what I saw at the event, Surface is a serious, refined, clever piece of hardware," Chang writes. "The tablet is well-built, and comes with a lot of cool features – like the kickstand and available ports – that comparable tablets lack." 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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