IT Pro Verdict
The Surface with Windows RT has undoubted limitation for a business – it won’t be replacing your laptop fleet just yet as there are niggles when it comes to using it on the move – but it’s well worth investing in one or two even now so you can see the potential for the version running Windows 8 Professional.
If you've been struggling to see what Windows 8 could bring to your business then you need to take a close look at the Microsoft Surface.
Designed in-house at Microsoft, in tandem with the Windows 8 team, it's there to take full advantage of the new operating system's features with the one caveat that the version we review here runs Windows RT. If you want Windows 8 Professional then you'll have to wait until the release of the Surface Pro early next year.
But make no mistake: as a piece of hardware design, the Surface is brilliant. For the first time, users can start thinking about replacing an ageing laptop with a tablet. This is a tablet with benefits.
Designed from the ground up, the Surface RT is a great first effort from Microsoft
From a business point of view, the prime benefit stems from the keyboard built into the cover. At the time of purchase, you've got two choices: an ultra-slim Touch Cover with a pressure sensitive membrane keyboard, and a slightly thicker Type Cover which includes fully functioning keys with 1.2mm of travel.
Although 1.2mm may not sound like much, it's about the same as a keyboard on a modern laptop. And whilst it can feel a little cramped, in our tests we found we could type just as quickly on the Type Cover as a full-sized keyboard.
We much prefer using the Type Cover (right) and business users are likely to opt for this too
Combine that with the inclusion of Word 2013, Excel 2013, PowerPoint 2013 and OneNote 2013, and you can see that the Surface could feasibly be rolled out to mobile workers instead of a laptop. Although note that Windows RT doesn't support Visual Basic for Applications, so macros won't work.
Your mobile staff will surely appreciate the weight drop compared to a traditional laptop too: with the Type Cover in place it weighs 896g; with the Touch Cover, 882g. With no cover at all, it weighs 682g.
Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro, the UK's biggest selling IT monthly magazine. He specialises in reviews of laptops, desktop PCs and monitors, and is also author of a book called The Computers That Made Britain.
You can contact Tim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.