I won't mince words: Surface RT's 10.6-inch, 1366-by-768-pixel display doesn't match the clarity and beauty of the iPad's so-called Retina display. Microsoft has provided excruciatingly detailed data that explains why a great tablet display doesn't need a resolution of 2048 by 1536, but my eyes don't lie.
Peter Bright at Ars, explaining exactly how the newer iPads win out:
There are certainly situations where Microsoft's screen looks better than Apple's—and these situations might even be commonplace if we were comparing laptops—as a tablet screen it would be better served with more resolution.
Wired ran a series of blind side-by-side screen tests with staffers, and found that videos were hard to tell apart, but showing a New York Times page, with different fonts and text weights, gave the clear advantage to the iPad.
The Surface doesn’t look bad, per se, but it’s not optimal for actual tablet use. Moving on.
The front and back cameras
They are, in every review, by all modern standards, pretty bad. Usable for video chats with low expectations, but otherwise nothing you’d use to record important things or moments.
Using Windows RT for work and fun
And here we have come to the heart of the matter. As noted earlier, Windows RT runs almost exclusively on apps from the Windows Store. Almost exclusively, that is, because there is a “Desktop” included in Windows RT that serves mostly to remind you that Windows RT can’t actually run desktop Windows applications. Every reviewer I’ve read thinks the “Desktop” needs to die a quick death.
One consensus point is that Microsoft has done some rather remarkable work in creating a cohesive touch-based interface, when you’re holding the Surface as a tablet and using your fingers. TechCrunch’s Burns thinks Windows RT is a “smooth, versatile, and smart take on a mobile tablet OS,” but seeing apps that launch in traditional Windows-style windows makes it seem as though Microsoft “didn’t fully commit” to touch.
The other agreement is that the Surface tablet can feel a tad underpowered, or at least not as “smooth,” but the custom tuning and requirement for all apps to work well with ARM and Nvidia chips means the battery life is very, very good.
As for productivity: Honan at Wired believes the Surface RT hits the mark Microsoft called out. You can use it as a “real PC,” if you don’t rely on Outlook too much, but do need Office apps: