October 25, 2012, 9:38 PM — NEW YORK -- The Surface RT tablet goes on sale starting at $499 for the 32 GB version at 12:01 a.m. Friday, and it seems to be a rough-and-tumble device.
After a Microsoft official intentionally dropped a Surface RT tablet onto a carpeted floor without damaging it, reporters at the Windows 8 event were allowed to try the tablets for a few minutes. Several reporters did just about everything but drop the devices, but there was still a lot of poking and prodding.
The Microsoft Surface tablet comes with a built-in kickstand.In pictures: Microsoft Surface -- 'A PC, a tablet and new'
The metal case of the Windows RT is a big change over Android tablets. It's not nearly the elegant, sleek design of the iPad either. I'm not sure I like the sharper edges of the Surface, as I wrote back in June. But if you add either the Touch or Type cover that doubles as a keyboard, with the magnetic hinge, you can't tell if the edges are sharp.
The metal kickstand on the back of the tablet opens and closes with a click and is essential for using the Surface and cover/keyboard to make it stand upright.
I tried out both cover keyboards for touch typing (sold separately) as well as the on-screen touch keyboard. For my typing skills, which are pretty fast, only the Type cover would work. I found that the keys on the Type cover kept track of my typing, while the Touch cover's keys don't give much. I found that trying to type fast was an effort just to avoid leaving out spaces between words.
The touchscreen keyboard was no better for me, even though it offers some impressive shortcuts for finding other symbols and letters. For example, by striking a lower right key like the question mark, a user can slide off to the right in a gesture (since it's a touchscreen) to type the important @ symbol. That's impressive, but I'm not sure I'd ever use those shortcuts.
A big question for buyers will be whether to buy the Windows RT machine to use at work, but IT managers might advise against it because the tablet won't run older Windows apps. It ships with OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint in the Office Home and Student 2013 edition. That edition excludes Outlook email, but it can be set up to contact an enterprise email server, Microsoft said.