The Microsoft Surface reviews are in. We’ve taken portions of reviews from major publications, and put them in one easy-to-follow piece. The idea is that if you want to know a bit about the screen, read the screen section. You will see a roundup of reviewer opinions on the screen itself. We’ve done the same for the keyboard, battery life and some of the other features that people may consider when shopping for a tablet.
Mossberg: The screen on the Surface is 10.6 inches, larger and skinnier than the big iPad’s. It was sharp and vivid in my tests, but inferior to the Retina display on the third-generation Apple tablet, which has much higher resolution.
Gizmodo: The screen doesn’t hold up against the crispness of the iPad’s retina resolution, but still manages a lovely colorful pop to suit the colorful, poppy Windows 8.
Engadget: All told, the Surface’s display stands up well against the competition. We still consider the new iPad panel to be the best on the market, but there is noticeably less glare on Microsoft’s latest and, when placed side by side, the Surface also shows slightly deeper blacks.
Topolsky: The colors and blacks on the 10.6-inch screen do look stunning, but all the technology in the world can’t make up for pixels that aren’t there. At the size of the Surface screen, 1366 x 768 resolution leaves much to be desired — and even though things are sharp, text and some of the starker elements of the Microsoft’s new UI would clearly benefit from a higher res display.
iSmashPhone’s take: Opinions on the screen are generally positive. The iPad definitely seems to set the benchmark for what a tablet display should be, but the colors and deeper blacks were given the thumbs up here.
Mossberg: Surface, which is about as thin, but a bit heavier, than the full-size iPad, displayed much weaker battery life in my tests—about seven hours versus 10 for the iPad.
Gizmodo: No real mention outside of Microsoft’s advertised battery life: Battery: 8 hours reading/7.5 video (advertised)
Engadget: You caught the part earlier where we said this thing has robust battery life, right? How does nearly 10 hours sound? In our standard battery rundown test for tablets, which involves looping a locally stored video with WiFi on and brightness fixed at 50 percent, the Surface’s 31.5 watt-hour battery held out nine hours and 36 minutes, which puts it just short of the new iPad (9:52) and just ahead of ASUS’ high-end Transformer Pad Infinity (9:25).
Topolsky: The battery in the Surface is a hefty 31.5 watt-hours — that’s solid, but keep in mind the iPad is lighter and has a 42.5 watt-hour battery.
iSmashPhone’s take: Overall, the battery life is weaker than the iPad, but not by much in the hands of most of the reviewers. Mossberg’s standard test did yield some lower results than the iPad.
Mossberg: The cameras were a disappointment. They took only fair pictures. The rear camera has a mere 1 megapixel in resolution. Microsoft says it tuned the camera more for video, but in my tests videos were only OK.
Gizmodo: No real mention.
Engadget: The Surface has dual 720p cameras, but unless you’re in the mood for video chatting, you probably won’t be using them much. Even by tablet standards, the image quality here is pretty poor. Our full-res, 1,280 x 720 shots look awfully pixelated, even in brightly lit environments that shouldn’t have yielded any noise.
Topolsky: The device has two 720p cameras (one on the front and one on the back), which have surprisingly good low-light performance, but are otherwise grainy and unremarkable. You probably know how I feel about taking photos with a tablet, but for video conferencing the front-facing shooter is quite good, with a very wide field of view…
iSmashPhone’s take: The camera wasn’t the strongest feature of the Microsoft Surface. It’s better optimized for video, but this is a tablet. You’re unlikely to be lugging it around as a dedicated camera.
Mossberg: Microsoft has designed two clever, very thin, optional keyboards that snap on magnetically and double as covers. These are better than any of the add-on keyboards I’ve seen for the iPad.
Gizmodo: But it only approximates a real keyboard—the buttons are pressure activated, barely buttons at all, and spaced in such a way that typos are inevitable and constant. Unlike the first time you pinched an iPhone or gazed at E-ink, there’s zero that’s instantly intuitive about the Touch Cover.
Engadget: They’re comfortable — more so than many of the third-party offerings for iPad — but it remains to be seen how many tablet buyers will truly value the typing experience.
Topolsky: On a desk or other flat surface, the Touch Cover works reasonably well. It doesn’t come close to replicating a physical, tactile keyboard, but it does do a good job of reminding you where your fingers need to be. I was surprised that it often took a little more pressure on the keys to get input to register, but once I figured out the appropriate heaviness, it wasn’t too much of an issue.
iSmashPhone’s take: The keyboard was surprisingly well-received. Gizmodo didn’t seem entirely fond of it, but everyone else said it was nice once you got the hang of the keys.
Mossberg: All of the built-in apps worked fine for me, except Mail, which lacks common features like a unified inbox, and an unread-mail folder.
Gizmodo: But it’s Windows on Surface RT that’s the greatest letdown of all, the lethal letdown, because it’s not Windows 8, but Windows RT. You can’t tell the difference by looking at them, but you certainly will once you use it.
Engadget: We’ll be honest: we’re still a little unclear on how Microsoft plans to educate consumers on the difference between Windows RT (for ARM-based devices) and Windows 8 (for full x86 machines), especially since there’s going to be a whole lot of similar-looking tablet / laptop hybrids running Windows 8.
Topolsky: So let’s start by getting this out of the way: unless you are a heavy, professional user of Office, you probably won’t spend that much time in the “Windows” part of the Surface OS.
iSmashPhone’s take: The software seems okay, but one complaint voiced more than once is that it looks a lot like the full version of Windows. Great or not, offerings like the iPad don’t make it a point to emulate OS X on their systems. Microsoft’s tile interface seems more than ideal for a tablet.
Mossberg: If you can live with its tiny number of third-party apps, and somewhat disappointing battery life, it may give you the productivity some miss in other tablets.
Gizmodo: [Should you buy it?] No. The Surface, with an obligatory Touch Cover, is $600. That’s a lot of money. Especially given that it’s no laptop replacement, no matter how it looks or what Microsoft says. It’s a tablet-plus, priced right alongside the iPad and in most ways inferior.
Engadget: So, if gaming and music and movies and reading are what you’re looking to enjoy, then we might advise sitting this one out for a few months just to make sure that all your bases will indeed be covered. If, however, you’re looking for an impeccably engineered tablet upon which you can do some serious work, a device that doesn’t look, feel or act like a toy, then you should get yourself a Surface with Windows RT.
Topolsky: (Talking about how things can improve in the future and more app support arrives) But that time isn’t right now — and unfortunately for Microsoft, the clock is ticking.
iSmashPhone’s take: Overall, it seems that the Surface is almost there. It has some problems, and it needs the support. Most say it needs to get there soon.
As with anything the Surface is an alternative. Better or worse? That’s up to the user. It’s another device, it’s an alternative to devices like Android tablets and the iPad. It’s also Microsoft’s first piece of actual computer hardware.
We suggest you to read the full reviews for the complete impressions on the tablet: