Microsoft Officially Debuts Surface at $499, the Devil’s in the Details

Apple fans have long ooed and ahh’d over the fine details in Apple products, and Steve Jobs famously obsessed over every design and manufacturing tidbit, but Microsoft rivals that level of detail with the Surface, which use over 200 custom components.

Panos Panay took the stage to demo the Surface at a press event today, and the theme of the day was attention to detail. For example, the Touch Cover is just 3mm thick, but it features a touchpad and a pressure-sensitive keyboard, and it attaches securely to the Surface. Panos actually held the Surface upside-down, secured only by its magnetic connection to the Touch Cover. The bank of magnets keeping the two together includes a “flux mountain of magnets” that uses both clamping and alignment magnets.

Microsoft Surface event

The kickstand that props up the Surface received due attention, as well. It uses three custom hinges that were built to give users the same caliber of experience as opening and closing a high-end car door. Microsoft also configured the front and rear cameras to sit at angles (roughly 22 degrees) that are ideal for video chatting or recording, for example, a classroom lecture, so the video looks nice. There’s also a microSD slot behind the kickstand for additional storage.

The display is built to not only look good, but it’s strong--strong enough to survive a drop on stage, which Panos did purposefully to prove his point. Made from Gorilla Glass 2.0, the display is optically bonded for low reflectivity and features high contrast for darker blacks and brighter whites.

Microsoft Surface event

Further, the team decided on a 10.6-inch display (16:9 aspect ratio) to make it easier for apps to run side-by-side; Windows 8 and RT let users multitask with one app front and center and another windowed off to the side.

Other features include up about 10 hours of battery life even when playing movies, 2x2 MIMO WiFi antennae for superior WiFi performance, and one-touch media sharing between devices through Xbox using Smart Glass

Microsoft Surface event

Is the Surface also a bona fide notebook? We’ll say no, because Microsoft made it seem like almost an afterthought in the presentation. Still, with the secure keyboard/Touch Cover, Office apps on board, and powerful multitasking, it certainly can offer notebook-like experience.

The Surface tablet is available tonight online or at Microsoft stores for $499 for the 32GB version.