Microsoft Surface tablet computers announced

Finally, a Windows tablet that's not a wash-out as Microsoft primes its own hardware, called Surface, to go head-to-head with the Apple iPad

Microsoft has announced its first tablet (that's not a giant table) and it's got nothing to do with Barnes & Noble. Like the giant table, the Windows tablet is called Surface and – like the Asus Transformer Prime – it's both a tablet and a computer. But not just because of the detachable keyboard – there’s going to be a serious power offering too.

Microsoft Surface will come in two forms: one running Windows 8 Pro on an Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor, and a more mobile version running Windows RT on an Nvidia (probably Tegra) processor. Both tablets have bezeled edges angled at 22 degrees, with shells made from VaporMG – a new material that apparently offers the tactile finish of a high-end luxury watch. They will both come sporting 10.6in screens, front and rear cameras, integrated kickstands, full sized USB ports and dual Wi-Fi for the best connection.

The Windows RT tablet is the thinner and lighter of the pair at 9.3mm and 676g (compared with 13.5mm and 903g). It features a ClearType HD screen (resolution not yet announced) while the Windows 8 Pro version has a 1080p ClearType Full HD resolution display. Storage, using microSD can be up to 64GB on the RT and 128GB using microSDXC on the Windows 8 Pro Surface. The Pro also has a stylus with up to 600dpi precision and is powerful enough to hook up desktop monitors and even run Adobe Lightroom.

But the really interesting announcements came in the accessories section. The Touch Cover is a 3mm, magnetically attaching cover that includes a pressure sensitive keyboard. There’s also the Type Cover 5mm version that features physical keys and a multi-touch trackpad.

The Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro should launch in the next few months with the RT version coming three months later. Pricing is vague but expect to pay between US$600 (£380) and US$1000 (£635). Does the iPad need to worry? We'll have a better idea come the expected autumn release.

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