Microsoft’s perspective on tablets is a bit more utilitarian than Apple’s and Surface’s design reflects that reality. Where the iPad is curvy and without any I/O expansion, Surface is squared off with 22-degree beveled edges. The iPad features a light aluminum finish while Surface contrasts with its dark Magnesium surface. Not better or worse, just different.
Honan of Wired goes out of his way to complement the sturdy and unbreakable nature of the Surface’s distinctive “kickstand”:
The backside kickstand can serve as a metaphor for the entire device. Close it, and it sits flush with the back of the tablet. It’s so tightly integrated, if you didn’t know it was there, you’d think it was just a seam for the battery compartment. … We wanted to see how easy it was to break one. It’s very possible, but you have to really try. We did manage to break off the kickstand by gradually leaning onto it, but I had to put nearly my full weight onto the tablet before the kickstand snapped off.
So everyone with a Surface and a review embargo agrees: the Surface looks and feels like nothing we’ve ever seen from Redmond, or from anybody, in a good way. Moving on to the other half of the semi-laptop Surface:
The cover-as-keyboard: Touch Cover ($120) and Type Cover ($130)
The reviewers’ opinions on the feasibility of actually typing on the Touch Cover (3mm thick, with flat, pressure-sensitive keys) and the Type Cover (5.5mm thick, with actual “key travel”) are as varied as they were consolidated on the design.
Wired is out on an enthusiastic ledge. The Touch Cover, Honan writes, is “actually quite fantastic,” and the Type Cover “spectacular.” Both have a notable caveat:
I struggled mightily with typos and finger placement for the first 24 hours. My left wrist hurt like hell. The pinkie and ring finger on my left hand were cramped. But by day three, my hands began to relax and I was typing quickly and, for the most part, accurately.
TechCrunch likes the keyboards too, but also prefers the Type Cover, and has reservations about how deep and wide the Surface is, compared to other portable keyboard setups.
To summarize the other reviews: the Type is better than the Touch, both have a learning curve of a few days, and the trackpad on both Touch and Type is nothing great, or even good.
Jon Phillips at PC World with a good summary: