Beneath The Surface: 7 Key Attributes Of Microsoft's New Tablet

Microsoft: It's Game Time

After keeping the tech world on the edge of its seat for days in anticipation of a "major" secret announcement, Microsoft unveiled Monday the Surface, its first-ever homegrown tablet PC.

The new gadget, which has unexpectedly hurled the software giant into the midst of a competitive tablet battleground, introduces a set of never-before-seen features and design considerations that distinguish it from its rivals.

Here’s a look at the top seven.

It Comes In Two Flavors

The Microsoft Surface tablet will come in two distinct models: the x86-based Windows Pro and the ARM-based Windows RT.

The Windows RT version hosts a trimmed-down version of Windows, running just the tiled Metro UI rather than a full-fledged Windows 8 desktop. A version of Microsoft Office, however, will be included natively. The Windows RT model weighs 1.5 pounds and measures 0.36 inches thick.

The alternative Windows Pro version runs a full Windows 8 OS, boasts twice the storage capabilities and is powered by a third-generation Intel Ivy Bridge processor. It’s bulkier, though, weighing in at 1.9 pounds and measuring 0.5 inches thick.

The new iPad, as a point of comparison, weighs 1.46 pounds and is 0.37 inches thick, so it still takes the cake when it comes to lightweight.

It Stands Alone

It’s likely that at least one tablet maker kicked itself for not thinking of this one before.

The new Surface comes with a built-in "kickstand," allowing users to prop it up on a desk or table for a more optimal (and less neck-straining) view of its 10.6-inch HD display. When coupled with the Touch Cover keyboard, the kickstand enables the Surface to resemble a full-on laptop PC. Plus, it eliminates the need for users to purchase a separate tablet stand, since it’s supplied right out-of-the-box.

It Has A Keyboard (That's Also A Cover)

According to Microsoft, some activities simply "call for a keyboard." That’s why the Redmond, Wash.-based software veteran equipped its new Surface lineup with a pressure sensitive cover that doubles as a fully functioning keyboard and trackpad.

Measuring just 33mm thick, the Touch Cover is a protective shield for the Surface that, when folded down and attached via a magnetic clip, transforms into a full-fledged keyboard. Like the kickstand, the Touch Cover comes with the Surface, eliminating users from having to make separate purchases for a keyboard or a cover.

It also comes in five different colors, ranging from black to blue to hot pink.

It's Made From Magnesium

The casing for the new Surface was created through a process called Vapor MG -- or "Vapor Mag," as Microsoft calls it -- which is said to deliver a super protective shell that’s still lightweight and easy on the eyes.

According to Microsoft, Vapor MG yields a magnesium casing that can be molded as thin as 0.65mm, or about the width of an average credit card. The unique combination of materials and distinct metal-modeling process employed by Vapor MG supposedly creates a finish "akin to a luxury watch," without compromising durability.

It Touts An Angular Design

Rather than sporting rounded edges like the iPad, the new Surface has edges angled in at 22 degrees, which Microsoft says is a more "natural position" for a PC, as it lets the hardware "fade into the background" so the Windows software can steal the show.

It Comes With A Stylus

The Windows Pro version of the Surface comes equipped with a stylus users can leverage as a digital note-taking device.

Similar to Samsung’s S Pen, Microsoft’s stylus can be used to take digital notes directly on the Surface’s screen. The short 0.7-mm distance between the tip of the stylus and the device itself is said by Microsoft to ensure extreme accuracy, while the Surface’s magnesium casing provides instant magnetic storage so the pen stays put when not in use.

It Has USB Ports

Both versions of the Surface come with two input/output ports. The Windows RT version comes equipped with USB 2.0 and MicroSD, whereas the larger Windows Pro version boasts USB 3.0 and microSDXC. Though Apple’s iPad has speaker and headphone jacks, it still lacks USBs.

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