tablets
  • Editors' Choice

Microsoft Surface RT Tablet Review

Microsoft introduces its first foray into the tablet race: Surface.

October 26, 2012
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Science Introduction

Despite the flashy exterior, there's nothing brilliant about the performance of the Surface RT outside of battery life.

Screen Performance

The Surface RT gets left behind with an outdated screen.

Measuring in at 9.3125 x 5.25 inches, and with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, the Microsoft Surface RT 32 GB has a pixel density of ~145, which is the lowest of the current generation high-end tablets. The Surface also has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which resembles a TV more than a traditional tablet. Still, while it may have the shape of an HDTV, it definitely doesn't have the performance of a good one.

If it seems we're being harsh on the screen performance, it's because it falls way, way behind the pack in almost every category. Contrast, for example, is damaged greatly by a high black level of 0.5 cd/m2, and a gamma of 1.8. What does all of this mean? In addition to having a bad contrast ratio, there will be a rather perplexing set of errors and loss of detail in shadows: Pictures will often look washed-out or weird when they shouldn't.

To its credit, the maximum brightness of 376.44 cd/m2 is bright enough to be seen in many lighting environments, and helps bail out the overall contrast ratio when considering the high black level. Be sure to turn the auto-brightness setting off, as it will ignore the user's brightness designation.

While the contrast was bad, but the color gamut is just abysmal, as it is severely impacted by a bad screen. Blues, reds, and greens are severely undersaturated, and the blue values are shifted significantly towards cyan. Additionally, the maximum red value is so bad, it doesn't even show up on the area of rec. 709 potential values. You'll probably not notice this so much in regular web browsing, but movies and photos with deep colors will look really weird.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Battery Life

One of the better batteries we've seen, and certainly the best of the large tablets.

Since subjecting a Surface RT tablet to the existential terror of remaining alone in a darkened room with a finger poking at it for hours, we have discovered that the tablet is likely to run for 8 hours, 8 minutes on average when reading an eBook. After running all of our horrifically brutal battery tests, the Microsoft Surface RT 32 GB actually fared quite well, as it was also able to play the worst movie ever made back-to-back for 8 hours and 54 minutes straight.

It is important to note that we run all of our battery tests with the backlight cranked to 11 and all wireless disabled, as well as additional processes terminated, so you can expect to see different results if you change the brightness, stream your content, or deviate from what we did in our laboratory.

Other Tests

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Compare Prices
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

What's Your Take?

All Comments