After a big push to get the word out, it's almost here: Microsoft's new Surface tablet, designed to showcase its new Windows RT operating system, a simplified version of the upcoming Windows 8.
On Friday, everyone will finally have the chance to get their hands on Microsoft's first tablet offering: At least if you've pre-ordered one through Microsoft's online store, or plan on being in line at one of the four Canadian pop-up stores.
[ Related: Microsoft pop-up stores coming to Canada ]
As with all big tech launches, among the Microsoft fanfare are the voices of tech journalists who have actually had a chance to go hands-on with the device, and it seems like it's been met with some mixed reviews. We've got a round-up of what some of the biggest voices in tech are saying about the Surface, in case you're still on the fence about whether it's worth the $519 CDN (starting price, without the seemingly-integral keyboard cover).
For starters, here's a rundown on what it looks like and all the features it has from ABC News:
And now, on to the text reviews:
|The Good||The Bad|
|Feels more substantial than an iPad||Kickstand is really only good for when it's on a table|
|Keyboard works fairly well (although type cover works better)||Picture quality on the two cameras isn't great|
|Multi-touch response is good on both keyboard covers||Display is awkward when being held in landscape and "really awkward" when being held vertically|
|Tile interface is actually quite handy||Multi-touch gestures not immediately obvious|
|Built-in browser is quite responsive and performs well (except with Flash playback)||Some third and first party apps took a while to get going|
|Windows App store selection is currently "quite lacking"|
|No legacy support for Windows software|
|Form factor makes it awkward to use as both a tablet and a laptop|
|The Good||The Bad|
|Videos are colourful, sharp||Parts of Windows RT are outright broken|
|Lots of attention to details (including that satisfying 'click' when you open and close the kickstand)||Loading can be very slow for content on the web, or in apps|
|Comfortable to hold with a well-angled bezel||Responsiveness differs between the touchscreen and the trackpad|
|"Handsome"||Typos are "inevitable and constant" with the barely distinguishable buttons on the touch keyboard|
|Bright display||Can only use the "floppy" keyboard on a rigid surface|
|Makes using a tablet as a regular work assistant more viable||Poor selection in app store, built-in apps feel like "lite" versions of what they should be|
|Navigating apps feels seamless||Can't write on Facebook walls in the People app (the social media option meant to be the only one you'll ever need)|
|The new Metro interface for Windows is well-suited to the device and is something to love||Desktop mode is pointless since you can't install any of the legacy applications|
|The Good||The Bad|
|Sturdy kickstand which takes some real effort to break||Would me more convenient if the kickstand had a finger hold on the right (not the left)|
|Screen looks nice despite being a lower resolution than comparable tablets||Adjustment to the touch keyboard is tough (and sometimes painful)|
|An informal test showed more people preferred the Surface screen to the iPad one||Keyboard cover is a better keyboard than cover (and the type cover is even worse)|
|Body quality is excellent||Front and rear 720p cameras are "junk"|
|Battery lasted 11 hours on typical use||iPad far superior at displaying and zooming text|
|Windows RT is just as gesture-friendly as Windows 8||16:9 ratio isn't well suited to reading in portrait mode|
|Gestures work well and are extremely useful||Desktop Mode not very useful on the device|
|Web browsing works well||Not enough apps available|
|Microsoft Office apps included need the keyboard and trackpad to work well|
|No 3G or LTE|
|No Microsoft Outlook (although Mail is included)|
|The Good||The Bad|
|Distinctive look and feel from other tablets on the market||Charging connector could be more "grabby" (compared to Apple's MagSafe adapter)|
|Vapor Mg process for creating tablet's exterior makes it feel "amazing"||No USB 3.0 (but does have full-sized USB 2.0)|
|Slightly larger display than the average 9 to 10-inch tablet||Opening kickstand with only right hand can be tricky at times|
|Quality of display mostly makes up for the lack of resolution||No option for 3G or LTE|
|Kickstand is a "major part of the DNA of the device"||Built-in speakers only adequate|
|Has Bluetooth 4.0 and wide range of Wi-Fi options||Lower resolution than the new iPad|
|Uses Microsoft's ClearType sub-pixel rendering technology to eliminate jagged edges||Some occasional pauses when swiping between open apps|
|Shows slightly deeper blacks than the new iPad||Can't install and run legacy programs on the desktop portion of Windows RT|
|Tablet boots in under 25 seconds||Limited video playback|
|Apps boot "briskly"||Everything needs to be downloaded from the Windows Store (which still has very limited selection)|
|Nearly 10 hours of battery life||Kindle app is poor|
|Windows RT looks and feels like Windows 8 (aside from the lack of legacy apps)||Poor image quality from the dual 720p cameras|
|Good audio recording when shooting video||Pricey compared to other comparable tablets on the market|
|Less prone to glare than the iPad|
|Great for people looking to get work done on a tablet|
From all the reviews out there, there seems to be a consensus on two points: The hardware is solid and includes lots of well-thought-out innovations, from the solid kickstand, to the innovative touch keyboard, to the smooth exterior of the tablet. The software, however, is lacking, showing lag in some of the showcase features of Windows RT and a poor selection of content available from the Windows Store.
The Surface Pro is still on the way, so there's time to fix many of the things that reviewers had a problem with, but it might be too little, too late for Microsoft's first attempt at a tablet.
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