By Frank Ling

The first Windows tablets have been released by Microsoft in October and the question on some people’s minds is this: "Should I consider buying one?" We’ll present some of the highlights and lowlights on these tablets so you can make a decision for or against purchasing one.

Windows RT
The first Surface tablets by Microsoft don’t really run the full-blown version of Windows 8, but a variant of the operating system. This is an important point because Windows RT will not allow you to run and install many of the Windows apps you are used to such as Photoshop, Facebook, Twitter, and Pandora, just to name a few.

For some, this may be a deal breaker, but if your needs are to remain tightly in the Microsoft ecosphere, and a small selection of available apps found on Microsoft’s App Store doesn’t bother you, you’ll be just fine. In addition, each Surface RT tablet comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Internet Explorer.

The Cover Keyboards
When the Surface tablet was first shown off in advertisements, it was always paired with the keyboard cover in the photos. This led most of the industry to speculate that the keyboard would be included with the price. But it turns out that the 32GB base model, retailing for $499, only has the keyboard available as an option for an additional $100, pushing up the price to $599 for the full Surface experience.

There are two versions of the cover keyboard; one is a flat membrane called the Touch Cover, and the other called the Type Cover, with actual keys that depress. Initial reviews of both models indicate that the flat Touch Cover is easy to adapt to, but for serious typists or those who prefer the traditional feel of a keyboard, the Type Cover is the way to go.

Feelings are mixed about the Windows 8 format. The boxy tile-based look is appealing to some, while others feel it is too utilitarian and boring. Added to this, learning the new Windows 8 operating system takes some work and getting used to. Commands and navigating around Windows 8 isn’t always intuitive and there is a certain learning curve before a user can fully appreciate Windows 8.

The look and feel of the Surface tablet has been virtually unanimous in reviews for its solid construction, sleek look, and overall quality. The keyboard covers click onto the tablet via a magnetic latch. The 10.6-inch touchscreen is high definition; there are 2.0 USB ports, an HDMI port, and support for microSD cards. There are front-facing and rear-facing cameras with 720p HD resolution, two microphones, and stereo speakers.

The whole unit is powered by a NVIDIA T30 processor with 2GB of RAM.

Final verdict
The pre-orders for the Surface tablet were sold out within a few days, indicating that there is high interest for the device. Should you buy one? The Surface is a unique device that takes the best features of a tablet and laptop and combines them into one easy to use hybrid. If you are a user who wants this flexibility and are primarily interested in using the Surface for Microsoft’s Office software, the Surface may be for you.

Frank Ling is the National Technology Examiner for He is a writer, professional photographer, and video editor. One of his all-time favorite jobs was working at a large video game publisher as a QA trainer for testing game software.

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