Before commencing this post I must warn you…I am not an ICT technician so have a very limited knowledge when it comes to hardware and its specifications. However, I’m keen to learn and wanted to explore the Microsoft Surface from a hardware perspective before I launched into posts about software, etc…
What has definitely impressed me about the Surface is how solid it feels in comparison to any other tablet device I have seen. This is due to the special type of magnesium that has been used known as “vapor MG”. You can read more about this material here or watch the video explanation below. Although I have a limited understanding of the scientific principles behind it, one thing’s for sure, it is rock solid! 🙂
The Surface has a micro HDMI port, USB port and micro SD card slot. (The micro SD card is very cleverly hidden behind the flip out stand!) In order to connect this type of device to a projector to use in a learning space, we need to use a mini HDMI to VGA adaptor (shown above). One possible issue I have run into when connecting the Surface to a projector is if you need audio along with the visual. Unfortunately, the headset outlet is on the opposite side making the cabling a little awkward, particularly if you would like to hold the Surface in your hand rather than set it up on a table.
When using the mini HDMI or USB port I found I had to use a fair bit of force to insert the cable/USB device properly. They are certainly a “snug fit”!
This particular model of the Surface with Windows RT does not come with a stylus/tablet pen. As I’ve been using a tablet PC for a number of years now and grown used to using the tablet pen for writing, annotating, etc… I think it is something that I would really miss. I am sure that many of my colleagues would feel the same. The Surface with Windows 8 Pro that is soon to be released, will come with a pen. In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with a Targus Stylus for Tablets which works beautifully, although not suitable for writing purposes. I was lucky enough to receive one of these at this year’s Expanding Learning Horizons Conference. The Targus Stylus sells for around $20 and you can read more about it here. An alternative that might appeal to students (or those who like a bit of colour!) would be the Smiggle Stylus Pen.
Overall, from a hardware perspective, the Microsoft Surface is an impressive device!