October 17, 2012, 11:04 AM — Before you head online to pre-order Microsoft's Surface with Windows RT (Surface RT) device starting Tuesday at noon Eastern, you'll want to make sure this is the right device for you. Do you need to run traditional Windows programs? Would you rather have a device that has a heftier keyboard dock? Have you looked at the other Windows 8-powered devices headed your way? Buying a Windows RT slate is not going to be as simple as buying an iPad or Android tablet, so before you buy here's a look at five things to consider.
Surface with Windows RT pre-orders begin at noon Tuesday Eastern time at Surface.com with prices starting at $500 and the new tablet will start shipping on Oct. 26, the same day as Windows 8. The device features a 10.6-inch display with 1366-by-768 resolution at 148 pixels per inch, Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB or 64GB flash storage, microSD card, USB 2.0, micro HD port, and comes loaded with a beta version of Office 2013 Home and Student that is expected to get an upgrade to the final version later in the year. The tablet measures 0.37-inches thick and weighs close to 1.5 pounds. You can also pick up a cover with built-in keyboard with prices starting at $120.
No Intel inside
Windows RT is the version of Windows 8 for ARM processors. That means the device should have pretty good real-world battery life since ARM chips are popular among mobile device makers because of their power efficiency. The bad news is that software written for x86-based chips can't run on an ARM machine, meaning Surface RT cannot run legacy apps written for Windows 7 or older versions of the OS. Yes, Surface RT has the familiar desktop interface, but the desktop is really only there to run Office 2013 and a desktop version of Internet Explorer. If you need, or want, to run older Windows programs on a Surface tablet, you'll have to wait until early 2013 when Microsoft releases Surface with Windows 8 Pro (Surface Pro) powered by an Intel processor.