Can the Microsoft Surface tablet topple the iPad?
Microsoft Surface v iPad
In a report released recently by market research firm IDC, it was predicted the iPad series of tablets will increase its share of the tablet market to 62.5% this year. That leaves all its many and varied competitors scrabbling around for just one third of the market.
Most of those competitors are currently Android tablets, but Microsoft has now entered the market with a big splash. Its announcement of the new Surface family of tablets sees it going head-to-head with Apple in the tablet market. But can it succeed? We stack Microsoft's Surface up against Apple's latest iPad to see how the two compare.
Surface for Windows RT
Two models of Surface have been announced by Microsoft: Surface for Windows RT and Surface for Windows 8 Pro. It's the former that will be a direct rival to the iPad. The Windows 8 Pro model, on the other hand, will be a more powerful (and more expensive) version that is pitched directly against the new wave of Ultrabooks, as well as Apple's MacBook Air.
Microsoft Surface v iPad: Screen Size
Apple's iPad has a 9.7-inch screen. A number of tablet manufacturers have chanced their arms with devices packing smaller screens, but (despite constant rumours of an 'iPad mini') Apple has seen no reason to follow suit. Microsoft would seem to agree that, when it comes to screen size, bigger is better. Its Surface for Windows RT has an even bigger screen than the iPad - a 10.6-inch display that offers plenty of space for doing anything from watching movies to working on spreadsheets.
Microsoft Surface v iPad: Battery Life
A remarkably long battery life is one of the key selling points of the iPad. Even the latest model, which manages slightly less battery life than the iPad 2, will still keep chugging along for up to 10 hours. Microsoft's Surface will need to at least match that kind of performance - the portablility of tablets means that a long battery life is a must. The iPad features a 42.5-watt-hour (Wh) battery, while the battery in the Surface for Windows RT is 31.5Wh. It will need some clever power management to stretch as far as the iPad.
Microsoft Surface v iPad: Screen Resolution
Another headline feature of the new iPad is its Retina display. With a screen resolution of 2048x1536, this offers a pin-sharp, incredibly clear visual experience. The exact resolution of the Surface for Windows RT is one of a number of details yet to be released by Microsoft. It says the device will be HD (not full HD, though the Surface for Windows 8 Pro will be), which would suggest the resolution of its screen could be 1366x768.
Microsoft Surface v iPad: Connectivity
One place where the iPad continues to lag behind its rivals is in terms of connectivity. Apple's focus on retaining control of its products means there are no USB inputs and no microSD slots on an iPad, so you cannot boost the storage of your device and you can't easily plug in an external device. Microsoft's Surface for Windows RT, by contrast, has a single USB port and a microSD slot - offering it far more flexibility in this particular area.
Microsoft Surface v iPad: Size and Weight
Both the Surface for Windows RT and the new iPad have undeniable 'wow' factor when it comes to looks - and there is little to separate them in terms of size and weight. The new iPad (non-3G) weighs in at 652g, while the Surface for Windows RT tips the scales at 676g. Both are super-skinny - the iPad just 9.4mm thick, the Surface for Windows RT just pipping it at 9.3mm.
Microsoft Surface v iPad: Networking
Wi-fi connectivity is a given on any tablet, and both Microsoft's new Surface and Apple's iPad offer it. However, higher-end models of the iPad also offer 3G connectivity (and 4G if you happen to find yourself in a country that supports it). There's currently no mention of either Surface tablet offering either 3G or 4G.
Microsoft Surface v iPad: Storage
The Surface for Windows RT offers either 32GB or 64GB of storage space. Apple's iPad comes with either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage. Microsoft's product edges it here, however, since it also has a microSD slot - making it possible to easily boost the tablet's storage space.
Microsoft Surface v iPad: Casing
The iPad doesn't come with a case or cover straight out of the box, though Apple's own Smart Cover can be added, keeping the iPad scratch-free and enabling it to be stood up. However, the cover of Microsoft's Surface for Windows RT looks to take things up a step. As well as keeping the tablet safe, it houses a touchpad and physical keyboard - effectively turning your tablet into a mini laptop. A super-slim kickstand in the rear of the device makes it easy to make the whole thing stand up for watching movies or video calling.