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Tech Talk

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Being a gadget geek, I always manage to find myself caught up in the world of technology. This highly-competitive, billion-dollar market has generated some of the most amazing devices we use on a daily (and most likely, hourly) basis. Here’s a run-down of some cool tech that recently made its debut into the world: Microsoft Surface.

This is Microsoft’s first foray into the world of portable tablets as we have come to know them. If anyone recalls the early 2000s, when Microsoft tried to make a run with tablet PCs, it was basically a mediocre attempt at best. Then there is the very interesting PixelSense Tablet which is a whole new ballgame in itself. Queue several years later and tablets (such as the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab) are pushing the limits and wallets of mobile consumers.

The Surface is a fantastic piece of hardware. A 10.8-inch screen, 2GB RAM, Quad-Core Cortex-A9 processor, micro HDMI port, 720p front and rear cameras, and the usual assortment of goodies (WiFi & USB) that includes a microSD slot for expandable memory; this device looks like it’s ready to challenge any and all contenders…until you get to the software.

This device runs on a mobile version of the brand new Microsoft Windows 8. Now I’m not saying that the operating system is garbage; actually, it looked pretty fancy shmancy. The model that I had a chance to play with ran smoothly and appeared simple when explained by the Microsoft rep. When I had the chance to fiddle with the device on my own, it felt much too involved for a tablet device. Instead of just a screen filled with particular apps, the home screen is busy with different sections and filing systems for particular types of options. It all seemed really confusing. Being a longtime Microsoft Windows user, I think I just needed more time playing with the OS to get used to it. That said, it loses the simplicity that Apple and Android can bring to the table.

Another positive for The Surface is the accessories, namely the Touch Cover and the Type Cover. Both connect to the device using a magnetic strip and serve as protective covers when folded on top of the device. When unfolded, both act as keyboards with the Touch Cover being pressure sensitive and the Type Cover being an actual keyboard.

As with any new product, the Windows App Store – oops I mean the Windows Store – lacks the variety of apps that people crave. This is to be expected with any new device, but the basics such as Netflix, Facebook, Skype, and Twitter are all there. With approximately 10,000 apps currently available, it won’t be long until the Surface can become competitive with the current options available for other devices.

Microsoft has made ordering a Surface rather interesting. You can either attend a “Microsoft” store, with very few in Canada, or you can order online at Prices for The Surface fall within the same range as your usual tablet suspects. As of December 2012, listings included a basic 32GB version to be $519.00 and one with a cover jumps up to $619.00. Since the device comes with a microSD slot, I don’t see a point in purchasing the higher end 64GB version for $719.00

As a whole, The Surface looks magnificent. I’ve always enjoyed bigger tablets to get that laptop feel. It has all the right hardware included (except for a cellular data option, which I’ve never been a fan of) and a good base to expand on. The OS needs a little work, but with Windows Mobile Phone, XBOX, and Windows 8 operating systems all going to roughly the same format, it seems that the consumer will have to adapt to Microsoft and not the other way around.

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