Microsoft Surface RT team: Yes, you can type on your lap, use Xbox controllers

The Microsoft Surface team has taken to Reddit to answer questions about the new Surface RT tablet. Microsoft’s first tablet hits the streets October 26th, but it went up for pre-order today for $499 and up.

While the tablet’s specs have been available for a while, the folks who built the tablet are telling us much more about how it actually works today.

Microsoft Surface RT

Here are a few new things I picked up from the Q&A:

  • You can use the kickstand and a keyboard cover to type while the Surface RT is on your lap.
  • The tablet lets you play games while using Xbox 360 USB controllers.
  • Many other peripherals including printers, keyboards, and cameras will work out fo the box.
  • Windows RT, Office RT, and several other apps use about 12GB of space, so there’s 20GB of user available space on a 32GB model.
  • You can’t install apps to an SD card, but you can store any other data on a removable card and you can swap cards while the tablet is in use.
  • The Touch Cover and Type Cover have sensors that turn off the keys when not in use.
  • The kickstand props up the tablet at a 22 degree angle.
  • Microsoft doesn’t plan to offer an Ethernet adapter.

The support for a wide range of USB peripherals is something that helps set the Surface RT (and other Windows RT tablets) apart from the Apple iPad and many Android tablets.

While Android supports USB keyboards, mice, and game controllers, support for printers and cameras isn’t nearly as good. And in order to connect any peripherals to an iPad you need a special adapter.

But Microsoft has an advantage since most USB peripherals on the market are already designed to work with Windows. It sounds like the company is bringing similar driver support to its Winodws RT products.

  • me

    Is there a video on this lap use claim without having to sit perfectly still?

    • CyberGusa

      Not yet, though there is a short scene in the promo video they released with people placing it on their crossed legs while sitting on a park bench.

      It’s fairly reasonable to assume it is usable in that way because the keyboard cover is pretty stiff and the kick stand isn’t prone to close unless you push it back into place. So should only require the effort needed to keep it balanced.

      You’re also not exactly going to shake it all that much while typing anyway as that requires keeping the system pretty stationary anyway.

  • Ml

    I can type with it upside down… Nthe question, much like the lap comment is would you want to?

    Im guessing the experience will suck compared to the $300 laptop I just bought my wife… Except for the vapor mag, it also has the same or better specs too. So I hope their tablet experience is More compelling than the iPad, because they aren’t doing themselves any favors with the price or component selection… The T30 has a rep for getting memory starved and just throwing more dram onto the end of a too narrow easily saturated bus isn’t going to fix that.

    • Tim

      Yes, if I wanted to type a good amount and I didn’t have a table, I would want to use the keyboard and tablet on my lap without having to do some sort of balancing act.

      • CyberGusa

        Aside from adjustable screen angle, you’d have to balance a laptop too. So let’s not exaggerate the compromise, it’s not like typing on our laps is exactly natural any way you do it.

        Also, you’d likely want a larger screen for laptop usage anyway.

        10.6″ is more suited for tablet usage and that’s likely what will be the main usage of the Surface. The keyboard is just nice to have because it’s better than relying on the onscreen keyboard and doesn’t get in the way when you don’t need it as you can just fold it behind the screen without needing to take it off like you would with a keyboard dock, which also adds weight and bulk.

        While ARM is still 32bit, some are starting to get 64bit memory bus but it isn’t standard yet.

        ARM is just the cheapest solution with the longest run times. You’d pay hundreds more for a Core i-Series processor, never mind the higher cost of the rest of the system to support it.

  • pablo

    $399 would be a game changer. $499….Meh.

    • CyberGusa

      They may reduce the cost later or offer promotional deals or subsidize options.

      However, keep in mind this is a completely custom tablet and not a off the self mass produced design. So there’s only so low they could have gone.

      Also, unlike Amazon, B&N, and Google… MS has to rely on hardware sales for their profit. So couldn’t go down to at cost… along with how that would further anger their partners that definitely could not go that low and still produce high quality.

      However, this also means someone else could come up with a lower cost design and sell a non-custom version for less later on, once the market for these new range of tablets are properly established.

      • http://www.facebook.com/carlos.osuna.roffe Carlos Osuna-Roffe

        The Windows Store makes profit by charging a commission. I think MS could have gone lower but at the current state of the Win Store it would have been a risk.

        On the other hand, MS is going spec wise, since the 32Gb Surface (sans keyboard) has the same price as the 16Gb iPad, but the need for the keyboard negates that advantage since at the end people will not think “wow, they gave me away a keyboard for the same price”, but rather “this thing sucks without a keyboard and they gave me this flimsy ‘smart-cover’ instead of a real keyboard (like the Asus Transformer Prime)”,

      • CyberGusa

        Well, it would not only have been a risk because of the state of the Store but also how it would have effected MS partners.

        It’s one thing releasing a product that sets the standards they want everyone else to follow but another to release a product at a price no one else can compete with…

        Besides, most of the app store is still free, about 87%, and that doesn’t give them much to profit on yet. Even with over 5000 apps now…

        While, mind that RT is going to focus mainly on the modern UI and tablet usage. The desktop is more for additional functionality, especially because you won’t be able to install any 3rd party or other legacy apps.

        I also wouldn’t over emphasize the Transformer keyboard advantage too much. Remember, the Surface also offers the Type Cover for physical keys.

        While the usual cut off for a uncompromising keyboard layout/size is for 11.6″ size systems, but the Transformer series is 10.1″ in size.

        Mind that could explain why they went with 11.6″ for the Vivo Tab that runs Windows 8 on Clover Trail but 10.1″ for the Vivo Tab RT that runs Windows RT on ARM, along with providing the Windows 8 Tab a digitizer Pen but the RT model only gets touch.

        Having a dock keyboard also doesn’t ensure it’s a good keyboard either, the reviews on the Acer Iconica W510 for example indicated rather low build quality for the keyboard dock. At least one reviewer compared it to a 2008 netbook.

        While the Surface keyboards have yet to be reviewed…

    • me

      Since Microsoft isn’t Apple, the price has a higher chance to drop over time even before the next version comes out.

  • Tom

    The problem with this claim is that the kickstand is fixed at 22-deg incline (from vertical). When tablet is in your lap, you’d want a much higher angle of incline for the optimal orthogonal eyeball-to-display relationship.

    So, yes, it may be usable in your lap, but I doubt you’d like it.

    • CyberGusa

      Something to consider is that the screen is IPS, meaning very wide viewing angles and that alleviates needing to view it head on like you would for a TN screen.

      While, I don’t know about you, but I usually use a bag or something to prop up my netbook when using it on my lap anyway. People make due with what they got usually…