Microsoft Surface

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This article is about the Microsoft Surface series of devices. For the first tablet in the series, see Surface (2012 tablet). For the digital table, see Microsoft PixelSense.
Microsoft Surface
Microsoft Surface logo.png
Surface Pro 3 with accessories.jpg
Surface Pro 3 with accessories
Developer Microsoft
Manufacturer Pegatron[1]
Type hybrid tablets, 2-in-1 detachables, interactive whiteboards, all-in-one PCs
Release date
Operating system Windows 8, 8.1; Windows 10
Windows RT (Surface/Surface 2)

Microsoft Surface is a series of touchscreen Windows personal computers and interactive whiteboards designed and developed by Microsoft. The devices are manufactured by Pegatron and are designed to be premium devices that set examples to Windows OEMs.[4][5][6] It comprises four generations of hybrid tablets, 2-in-1 detachable notebooks, a convertible desktop all-in-one, an interactive whiteboard, and various accessories all with unique form factors.[7][8] With the exception of the first-generation Surface and Surface 2, all Surface PCs use Intel processors and are compatible with Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system.

The Surface family features five main lines of devices:

  • The Surface line of hybrid tablets, with optional detachable keyboard accessories, and optional stylus pen. The latest model, the Surface 3, uses an Intel Atom SoC processor.
  • The Surface Pro line of professional hybrid tablets, use similar optional detachable keyboard accessories. The latest Surface Pro 4 uses a 6th generation Intel Core i Series processors and includes a stylus pen.
  • The Surface Book, a notebook with a detachable screen. The base is configurable with/without discrete graphics and an independently operable screen with support for the included stylus.
  • The Surface Studio, a 28-inch all-in-one desktop that adjusts into a digital drafting table with stylus and on-screen Surface Dial support.[9]
  • The Surface Hub, a touch screen interactive whiteboard designed for collaboration.[10]


First announced on June 18, 2012, by former CEO Steve Ballmer at a Los Angeles event in Milk Studios, Surface was the first major initiative by Microsoft to integrate its Windows operating system with its own hardware, and is the first PC designed and distributed solely by Microsoft.[11]

The 2012 Surface tablet launched alongside the general availability release of Windows 8 on October 26, 2012.[12] Surface Pro became available on February 9, 2013.[13] Surface devices were initially available only at Microsoft Stores and online, it was later expanded into other vendors.[14]

Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows and Windows Live Division at the time, stated that pricing for the first Surface would be comparable to other ARM devices and pricing for Surface Pro would be comparable to current ultrabooks. According to then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the "sweet spot" for the bulk of the PC market was $300 to $800.[15] On October 16, the pricing was revealed for the Surface,[16] and pre-orders opened to ship, "for delivery by 10/26".[17]

In November 2012, Steve Ballmer described the distribution approach to Surface as "modest".[18] On November 29, 2012, Microsoft revealed the pricing for the two versions of Surface with Windows 8 Pro (64GB and 128GB).[19] The tablet would go on sale on February 9, 2013, in the United States and Canada.[20] A launch event was set to be held on February 8, 2013, but was cancelled at the last minute due to the February 2013 nor'easter.[21] The 128GB version of the tablet sold out on the same day as its release. There was less demand for the 64GB version, because of the much smaller available storage capacity, but supplies of the lower cost unit were almost as tight.[22]

On September 23, 2013, Microsoft announced the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, which feature hardware and software updates from the original. The Surface 2 launched October 22, 2013, alongside the Surface Pro 2, four days after the general availability of Windows 8.1. Later, Microsoft launched a variation of the Surface 2 with LTE connectivity for the AT&T network on March 18, 2014. Microsoft then announced the redesigned Surface Pro 3 on May 20, 2014, which went on sale on June 20, 2014.

The following year, on March 30, 2015, it announced the Surface 3, a more compact version of the Surface Pro 3. On September 8, 2015, Microsoft announced the "Surface Enterprise Initiative", a partnership between Accenture, Avanade, Dell Inc., and HP, to "enable more customers to enjoy the benefits of Windows 10." As part of the partnership, Dell will resell Surface Pro products through its business and enterprise channels, and offer its existing enterprise services (including Pro Support, warranty, and Configuration and Deployment) for Surface Pro devices it sells.[23][24]

Microsoft announced the next generation Surface Pro 4 and the all new Surface Book, a hybrid laptop, at Microsoft October 2015 Event in New York on October 10, 2015.[25] Microsoft began shipping Surface Hub devices on March 25, 2016.[26] In June 2016, Microsoft confirmed production of the Surface 3 would stop in December of that year.[27] No replacement product has been announced. Reports suggest this may be a consequence of Intel discontinuing the Broxton iteration of the Atom processor.[28] On October 26, 2016 at Microsoft's event, a Surface Studio and Surface Book with Performance Base was announced.[29] A wheel accessory, the Surface Dial, was announced as well, and became available on 10 November 2016.[30]


Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover
Surface 3 with Type Cover
Surface Pro 3 kickstand
This section only concerns the Surface tablets, not the Surface Hub or the Surface Book

Screen and input

The first two generations of both Surface lines features 10.6 ClearType Full HD display with 16:9 aspect ratio. With the release of the third generation Surface and Surface Pro, Microsoft increased the screen sizes to 10.8 inches (27 cm) and 12 inches (30 cm) respectively, each with a 3:2 aspect ratio, designed for a comfort use in a portrait orientation. The fourth generation increased the screen further to 12.3 inches (31 cm). The screens feature a multi-touch technology with 10 touch-points and scratch-resistance Gorilla Glass. All generations of the Surface Pro and third generation of the Surface also features an active pen, but it is not included in the box with all models.

The display responds to other sensors: an ambient light sensor to adjust screen brightness and a 3-axis accelerometer to sense Surface orientation and switch between portrait and landscape orientation modes. The Surface's built-in applications support screen rotation in all four directions, including upside-down.

There are three buttons on the first three generation of Surface, including a capacitive Windows button near the display that opens the Start Screen, and two physical buttons on the sides: power and volume. The fourth generation removed the capacitive windows button on the screen.

The Surface has front and rear cameras, the resolution of which has been increased to 3.5/8 and 5/5 megapixels for the latest generation of the Surface and Surface Pro, respectively.


The first generation Surface uses a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 of the ARM architecture, as opposed to the Intel x64 architecture and therefore shipped with Windows RT, which was written for the ARM architecture. The second generation Surface 2 added an Nvidia Tegra 4. The architecture limited Surface and Surface 2 to only apps from the Windows Store recompiled for ARM. With the release of the Surface 3, Microsoft switched the Surface line to the Intel x64 architecture, the same architecture found in the Surface Pro line. Surface 3 uses the Braswell Atom X7 processor.[31]

With the Surface Pro line, Microsoft uses the Intel x64 architecture which can run most software designed for Microsoft Windows. Both Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 had one processor variant, the Core i5, though the Surface Pro runs the Ivy Bridge iteration, and the Surface Pro 2 runs the Haswell iteration. The Surface Pro 3 added the Haswell Core i3 and Core i7 variants.


The Surface devices are released in six internal storage capacities: 32, 64, 128, 256, 512 GB and 1 TB. With the release of the third generation, the 32 GB model was discontinued. All models also feature a microSD card slot, located behind the kickstand, which allow for the use of memory cards up to 200 GB.

Surface devices have a different amount of non-replaceable RAM, ranging from 2 to 16 GB, attached to the motherboard.

External ports

On the right side of any Surface device there is a full-size USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort (or a HDMI Micro port on older models), and a magnetic charging port or micro-USB.

Cellular connectivity

While all Surface devices come in the Wi-Fi only models, some generations also feature the Wi-Fi with a cellular support. The cellular variants, however, do not support circuit-switched voice calls and texts, allowing only data connectivity. The cellular models have a micro-SIM slot at the bottom of the device, next to the Type Cover connecting pins.

External color

The exterior of the earlier generations of Surface (2012 tablet, Pro, Pro 2) is made of VaporMg magnesium alloy giving a semi-glossy black durable finish that Microsoft calls "dark titanium".[32] Originally, the design of Surface was to feature a full "VaporMg" design, but the production models ditched this and went with a "VaporMg" coating.[33] Later devices moved towards a matte gray finish showing the actual magnesium color through the semi-transparent top coating.[32]

External design

The Surface and Surface Pro lines feature a kickstand which flips out from the back of the device to prop it up, allowing the device to be stood up at an angle hands-free. According to Microsoft, this is great for watching movies, video chatting, and typing documents. According to some reviewers, this kickstand is uncomfortable to use in one's lap and means the device won't fit on shallow desks.[34] The first generation has a kickstand that can be set to a 22 degrees angle position. The second generation added a 55 degrees angle position which according to Microsoft makes the device more comfortable to type on the lap. The Surface 3 features three angle positions: 22, 44, and 60 degrees. The Surface Pro 3 is the first device to have a continuous kickstand that can be set at any angles between 22 and 150 degrees. The Surface Book has what Microsoft calls a "dynamic fulcrum hinge" which allows the device to support the heavier notebook/screen portion.[35] The Surface Studio uses a "zero-gravity hinge" to be placed at multiple angles, from standing up to a drafting table position at 20 degrees.[36]


Main articles: Windows 10 and Windows RT

Surface devices (except the Surface and Surface 2 models) sold since July 29, 2015, ship with the Windows 10 operating system. Also, up to July 2016, older models which shipped with Windows 8.1 were eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10.

The original Surface and Surface 2 models use Windows RT, a special version of Windows 8 designed for devices with ARM processors and cannot be upgraded to Windows 10. However, there were several major updates made available after its initial release that include Windows RT 8.1, RT 8.1 Update 1, RT 8.1 August update, and RT 8.1 Update 3. These older, ARM-based models of Surface are not compatible with Windows 10, but received several new features including a new Start menu similar to that found in early preview builds of Windows 10.[37]

Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book support Windows Hello biometric authentication out of the box through its cameras.[38] The Surface Pro 3 can utilize the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover with Fingerprint ID to gain Windows Hello support.[39]

Tablet mode

The Windows 10 user interface has two modes: desktop mode and tablet mode. When a keyboard is connected to the Surface, Windows 10 runs in desktop mode; when it is absent, Windows 10 runs in tablet mode.

When running in tablet mode, the start menu and all the apps run in full screen. All running apps are hidden from the taskbar and a back button appears. Swiping from the top closes the app while swiping from the left evokes the Task View and swiping from the right evokes the Action Center.


Several of the included apps updated with Windows 10 are: Mail, People, Camera, Calendar, Microsoft Edge, Xbox app, OneNote, Photos, Voice Recorder, Phone Companion, Reader, Reading List, Calculator, Scan, Alarms & Clock, and the Windows Store. Other apps include Maps, Movies & TV, Groove Music, Microsoft Solitaire Collection and the MSN apps: Money, News, Weather, Sports, and Travel.

Surface devices come preloaded with the OneNote app for taking handwritten notes. Windows 10 also features a text input panel with handwriting recognition which automatically converts handwriting to text.

The new Microsoft Edge browser features an inking function which allows handwritten annotations directly on webpages.

Microsoft has ported its Office suite for use on Windows 10 devices, including the Surface devices running Windows 10. As the screen size on these devices exceed 10 inches, the apps require an Office 365 subscription to edit documents, although it is not needed to view and print them.

Surface devices have an internal microphone and speakers optimized for the Cortana intelligent personal assistant feature included on Windows 10 devices.

Specialized software

Prior to the release of Windows 10, on Surface Pro 3 Microsoft made the Surface Hub app available, which allowed the adjustment of Pen pressure sensitivity and button functions.[40] The Surface Hub app was renamed "Surface" following the launch of the Surface Hub device. Additionally, toggles to control sound quality and to disable the capacitive Windows button on the Surface 3 and Pro 3 devices were included.[41]

With Surface Pro 3 and the Surface Pen based on N-Trig technology, Microsoft added the capability to launch OneNote from the lock screen without logging in by pressing the purple button at the top of the pen.[42] Microsoft added sections to Windows 10 settings that have the ability to control the functions of the buttons on the Surface Pen. One such function is to launch OneNote with the press of the top button of the Surface Pro 4 pen.[43] With the introduction of the Surface Dial, Microsoft added a Wheel settings section to the Settings app in Windows 10 under Devices.[44] The Windows 10 Anniversary Update added the ability to adjust the shortcuts of each of the Pen's buttons performed.[45]


Surface with Touch Cover 2
Surface Pen for the Surface Pro 3
Surface Pro 3 with Docking Station

Keyboard covers

With the release of the first generation Surface, Microsoft showcased two covers: a Touch Cover and a Type Cover. These covers attach to the Surface device using a magnetic strip that positions itself against a magnetic strip at the bottom of the Surface called an "accessory spine". When closed, the cover functions to protect the Surface's screen and when opened, the cover features a keyboard, a multi-touch touchpad, and a gyroscope and accelerometer sensor to know when the cover has been flipped around which will, in turn, disable the keys and enable tablet mode. The original touch cover came with 80 touch sensors and was pressure sensitive.[46][47]

With the release of the Surface 2 a Touch Cover 2 was announced which increased the number of sensors to 1,092 and added backlit keys while being 2  built inmm thinner than the original Touch Cover. In addition, the Touch Cover 2 also supported key gestures and was backwards compatible with the first generation Surface devices. With the release of the first generation Surface Pro, Microsoft launched the Type Cover which has tactile keys. It was upgraded along with the second generation Surfaces to the Type Cover 2 which substituted the plastic material for the felt-like material found on the Type Covers. The Type Cover 2 is thinner and features back-lit keys.[48]

With the release of the Surface Pro 3, a newer cover called the Surface Pro 3 Type Cover was released to fit the bigger screen. The Surface Pro 3 Type Cover features a second magnetized strip that can be rested against the screen to prop the keyboard up at an angle. The Surface Pro 3 Type Cover has a trackpad with glass beads replacing the felt-like material used in previous generations. When the Surface 3 was announced, a smaller version, the Surface 3 Type Cover was released. Both Surface 3 and Pro 3 Type Covers have a loop to house the Surface Pen. Other accessories for the covers included a Power Cover, which included a built-in battery to extend the Surface's battery life, and a Wireless Adapter for the keyboards so that it can be used at a distance.[49]

On October 6, 2015, Microsoft updated the Surface Pro Type Cover with a new teal color in addition to the existing black, red, blue, and bright blue colors. Also introduced was a function lock light, separated keys, and a 40% larger trackpad than previous models. A "Fingerprint ID" version was also announced but is only available in the color black. Both are backwards compatible with the Surface Pro 3, though both are designed for the Surface Pro 4.[50] A Signature Type Cover designed out of Alcantara was announced on April 12, 2016.[51]

Surface Pen

Main article: Surface Pen

Most Surface tablets have an active pen that allows users to write directly onto the screen of the tablet. The Surface Pen for the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 use Wacom technology, while the one for the Surface Pro 3 and newer devices uses that of N-trig, which has since been acquired by Microsoft. The Surface Pen was specifically designed to minimize latency (lag time), eliminate parallax issues, which occur when the point where the tip touches the screen doesn’t match up with the spot where the ink actually appears on the device, and provide a more natural-feeling 'pen-on-paper' user experience.[52] The Surface also features palm rejection which allows the user to rest his or her palm on the screen while using the Surface Pen without triggering an unwanted input.

Surface Dial

With the introduction of the Surface Studio on 26 October 2016, Microsoft announced a new type of computing device called the Surface Dial. The promoted Surface Dial's purpose is to be used to control functions that artists might find useful, such as pen color or thickness. The Surface Dial is set with standard commands that can be used without being program or app specific.[53] These commands include toggling sound volume, scrolling, zooming, brightness, and undo/redo. However, an app developer can customize the wheel's abilities, when developing apps.[54]

The Surface Dial only works on the screen of the Surface Studio, but it does still work off-screen with other Windows 10 devices (that support Bluetooth 4.0 LE[55]) as well including the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4.[56][57] Microsoft's Terry Myerson told Engadget that a firmware update will be released in early-2017 for the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 that will allow the on-screen functions to work with those devices.[58]

Surface Dial, like the Surface Pen, utilize non-rechargeable batteries, though the Dial requires the two included AAA Akaline batteries, and the Surface Pen requires a single AAAA battery.[55] Surface Dial requires the Windows 10 "Anniversary Update" in order to function.[59]

Docking accessories

There are various Docking Stations for different Surface devices, which are optional non-included accessories. They each extend the Surface with a number of USB ports, additional audio sockets, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a Mini DisplayPort to connect external displays.

With the announcement of the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, Microsoft revealed a new Surface Dock accessory in the brick form factor, which is compatible with the aforementioned devices and the Surface Pro 3. This new docking accessory connects to the side port, which got the new name – Surface Connect.

The Microsoft Garage incubator team experimented with ergonomic VESA-mounted portrait docking station prototypes as part of the Company hackathon and released open-source plans on GitHub.[60]

Other accessories

There are many other accessories for the Microsoft Surface. Among these is the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter for Miracast display mirroring. Microsoft launched and Surface HD Digital A/V Adapter which works with micro-HDMI to HDMI for the Surface and Surface 2 and a Surface VGA adapter which also works with Surface and Surface 2 going from the built-in micro-HDMI to VGA. For the Surface Pro series, a Display Port to HD A/V (HDMI) and a Display Port to VGA adapter was created. For the first generation Surface, a 32 watt power supply was included, which was upgraded with the Surface 2 to features a larger indicator light to indicate the Surface was charging. The Surface Pro and Pro 2 features a 48 watt power supply with a USB (power only) port on the charging brick. As with the Surface 2's power supply, the Pro 2's power supply features a larger indicator light. Microsoft redesigned the power supply for the Surface Pro 3 with a new "fin" connector and a 36 watt rating. The Surface 3 launched with another redesigned power supply using a micro-USB connector and having a 13 watt rating. Two Ethernet adapters have been released to work with the Surface Pro line including the Ethernet Adapter for USB 2.0 with a speed rating of 100 Mbit/s and a Surface Ethernet Adapter for USB 3.0 with a speed of 1 Gbit/s. Two mice have also been released for the Surface including the Wedge Touch and Arc Touch mice.[61][62]

Remix project

In 2013, Microsoft announced that they were going to design other covers for the Surface accessory spine (code named "blades"[63]) based on the Touch Cover 2's sensors. The only product that was shipped was the Surface Music Cover and the Surface Music Kit app.[64][65][66][67]

Surface Studio

Main article: Surface Studio

On October 26, 2016, Microsoft announced a 28-inch all-in-one desktop – the Surface Studio, its first desktop computer.[68]

Surface Book

Main article: Surface Book

On October 6, 2015, Microsoft unveiled a 2-in-1 detachable of a new kind – the Surface Book, a first device in the company's history, marketed as a laptop. The device has a teardrop design and the "dynamic fulcrum" hinge, which shifts the center of a gravity so that the screen module (dubbed the "clipboard") is more stable when it is attached to the bottom keyboard module. Another unique aspect of the Surface Book is the discrete graphics adapter, available in some models. It is contained in the keyboard module, which can be detached while the Surface Book is running, and the system automatically switches to the integrated graphics in the clipboard.

On October 26, 2016, Microsoft unveiled a second generation called the Surface Book with Performance Base which has an Intel i7 processor and a longer battery life.[69]

Surface Hub

Main article: Surface Hub

On January 21, 2015, Microsoft introduced a new device category under the Surface family: the Surface Hub. The Surface Hub is a 84-inch 120 Hz 4K or 55-inch 1080p multi-touch and multi-pen screen wall-mounted device, aimed for collaboration and videoconferencing use of businesses. It will run a variant of the Windows 10 operating system.[70]

Model comparison

Surface line

Comparison of Surface specifications
Specification Surface[71] Surface 2[72] Surface 3[73][74]
Date announced June 2012 October 2013 March 2015
Operating system Version Pre-installed Windows RT 8.0 Windows RT 8.1 Windows 8.1
Newest upgrade Windows RT 8.1[75] Windows 10
version 1607[76]
Physical specifications Dimensions
cm (in)
height 17.2 (6.8) 17.3 (6.8) 18.7 (7.4)
width 27.46 (10.81) 27.5 (10.8) 26.7 (10.5)
depth 0.94 (0.37) 0.89 (0.35) 0.87 (0.34)
g (lb)
680 (1.50) 622 (1.371)
Memory Internal storage capacity
32/64 64/128
2 2/4
Expandable storage MicroSD, up to 200 GB
Display Aspect ratio 16:9 3:2
Diagonal size
cm (in)
26.9 (10.6) 27.4 (10.8)
Pixel density
148 208 214
1366x768 1920x1080 1920x1280
Technology LCD
System on chip Nvidia Tegra 3 (T30) Nvidia Tegra 4 (T114) Intel Atom x7-Z8700
Battery Capacity
Technology Lithium-ion
Cameras Front camera megapixels 3.5
video resolution HD (1280x720) FHD (1920x1080)
Rear camera megapixels 5.0 8.0
video resolution HD (1280x720) FHD (1920x1080)
Sensors Ambient light sensor Yes Yes Yes
Accelerometer Yes Yes Yes
Gyroscope Yes Yes Yes
GPS No Cellular version Cellular version
Magnetometer Yes Yes Yes
Proximity Sensor No Yes Yes
Number of microphones 2
Connectivity AV Connectors 3.5 mm audio socket
Micro HDMI Mini DisplayPort
Bluetooth 4.0
Cellular No Optional Optional
USB 2.0 3.0
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Miscellaneous Pen input None N-trig active pen
TPM Yes No Yes

Surface Pro line

Comparison of Surface Pro specifications
Models Surface Pro[77] Surface Pro 2[78] Surface Pro 3[79] Surface Pro 4[80]
Date announced February 2013 October 2013 June 2014 October 2015
Operating system Surface Pro Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4
Version Pre-installed Windows 8 Pro Windows 8 Pro Windows 10 Pro
version 1507
Newest upgrade Windows 10 Pro
version 1607[76]
Physical specifications Surface Pro Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4
cm (in)
height 17.3 (6.8) 20.1 (7.9)
width 27.5 (10.8) 29.0 (11.4) 29.2 (11.5)
depth 1.35 (0.53) 0.91 (0.36) 0.84 (0.33)
g (lb)
910 (2.01) 900 (2.0) 800 (1.8) 766 (1.689)
Memory Surface Pro Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4
Internal storage capacity
64/128/256 64/128/256/512 128/256/512/1024
RAM capacity
4 4/8 4/8/16
type DDR3 LPDDR3
Expandable storage MicroSD, up to 200 GB
Display Surface Pro Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4
Aspect ratio 16:9 3:2
Diagonal size
cm (in)
27.0 (10.6) 30.0 (11.8) 31.2 (12.3)
Pixel density
208 216 267
1920x1080 2160x1440 2736x1824
Technology LCD
CPU and GPU Surface Pro Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4
Generation Intel 3rd generation
Ivy Bridge
Intel 4th generation
Intel 6th generation
CPU model
i5-3317U i5-4200U
Base frequency – turbo frequency
1.7–2.6 1.6–2.6
L3 cache size
3 3
Intel HD integrated graphics HD Graphics 4000 HD Graphics 4400 HD Graphics 4200
HD Graphics 4400
HD Graphics 5000
HD Graphics 515
HD Graphics 520
Iris Graphics 540
17 15 11.5
Battery Surface Pro Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4
42 38.2
Max. claimed Wi-Fi browsing time
9 9
Technology Lithium-ion
Cameras Surface Pro Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4
Front camera megapixels 1.2 5
video resolution HD (1280x720) FHD (1920x1080)
Rear camera megapixels 1.2 5 8
video resolution HD (1280x720) FHD (1920x1080)
Sensors Surface Pro Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4
Ambient light sensor Yes Yes Yes Yes
Accelerometer Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gyroscope Yes Yes Yes Yes
GPS No No No No
Magnetometer Yes Yes Yes No[81]
Number of microphones 2
Connectivity Surface Pro Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4
AV Connectors 3.5 mm audio socket
Mini DisplayPort
Bluetooth 4.0 4.0 LE
Cellular No No No No
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Miscellaneous Surface Pro Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4
Pen input Wacom passive pen N-trig active pen
Surface Dial support No No No Yes (with firmware update)
Integrated Windows Hello support No No No Yes (via backlit IR camera)
TPM Yes Yes Yes Yes
Models Surface Pro Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4

Surface Book line

Comparison of Surface Book specifications
Models Surface Book (without dGPU)[82] Surface Book (with dGPU)[82] Surface Book with Performance Base[82]
Date announced October 2015 October 2016
Operating system Surface Book (without dGPU) Surface Book (with dGPU) Surface Book with Performance Base
Version Pre-installed Windows 10 Pro
Windows 10 Pro
version 1607
Newest upgrade Windows 10 Pro
version 1607
Physical specifications Surface Book (without dGPU) Surface Book (with dGPU) Surface Book with Performance Base
cm (in)
height 23.2 (9.1)
width 31.2 (12.3)
depth 2.3 (0.91)
g (lb)
1,516 (3.342) 1,576 (3.474) 1,647 (3.631)
Memory Surface Book (without dGPU) Surface Book (with dGPU) Surface Book with Performance Base
Internal storage capacity
128/256/512/1024 256/512/1024
type PCIe SSD
RAM capacity
type LPDDR3
Expandable storage MicroSD, up to 200 GB
Display Surface Book (without dGPU) Surface Book (with dGPU) Surface Book with Performance Base
Aspect ratio 3:2
Diagonal size
cm (in)
34.3 (13.5)
Pixel density
Technology LCD
CPU and GPU Surface Book (without dGPU) Surface Book (with dGPU) Surface Book with Performance Base
Generation Intel 6th generation
CPU model
i5-6300U i5-6300U
Base frequency – turbo frequency
2.4–3.0 2.4-3.0
L3 cache size
3 3
Intel HD integrated graphics HD Graphics 520
Nvidia GeForce discrete GPU No Custom variant of Nvidia GeForce 940M GPU with 1 GB of GDDR5 memory Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M GPU with 2 GB of GDDR5 memory
Battery Surface Book (without dGPU) Surface Book (with dGPU) Surface Book with Performance Base
Display: 18
Keyboard base: 51
Display: 18
Max. claimed video playback time
12 16
Technology Lithium-ion
Cameras Surface Book (without dGPU) Surface Book (with dGPU) Surface Book with Performance Base
Front camera megapixels 5
video resolution FHD (1920x1080)
Rear camera megapixels 8
video resolution FHD (1920x1080)
Sensors Surface Book (without dGPU) Surface Book (with dGPU) Surface Book with Performance Base
Ambient light sensor Yes Yes Yes
Accelerometer Yes Yes Yes
Gyroscope Yes Yes Yes
GPS No No No
Magnetometer No No No
Number of microphones 2
Connectivity Surface Book (without dGPU) Surface Book (with dGPU) Surface Book with Performance Base
AV Connectors 3.5 mm audio socket
Mini DisplayPort
Bluetooth 4.0 LE
Cellular No No No
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Miscellaneous Surface Book (without dGPU) Surface Book (with dGPU) Surface Book with Performance Base
Pen input N-trig active pen
Surface Dial support Yes (with firmware update) Yes (with firmware update) Yes (with firmware update)
Integrated Windows Hello support Yes (via backlit IR camera) Yes (via backlit IR camera) Yes (via backlit IR camera)
TPM Yes Yes Yes
Models Surface Book (without dGPU) Surface Book (with dGPU) Surface Book with Performance Base

Surface Studio line

Comparison of Surface Studio specifications
Models Surface Studio[83]
Date announced October 2016
Operating system Surface Studio
Version Pre-installed Windows 10 Pro
version 1607
Newest upgrade Windows 10 Pro
version 1607
Physical specifications Surface Studio
Base dimensions
cm (in)
height 22 (8.7)
width 25 (9.8)
depth 3.2 (1.3)
Display dimensions
cm (in)
height 43.9 (17.3)
width 63.7 (25.1)
depth 1.3 (0.51)
kg (lb)
9.56 (21.1) max
Memory Surface Studio
Internal storage capacity
type Hybrid drive
RAM capacity
type DDR4
Expandable storage SDXC, up to 200 GB
Display Surface Studio
Aspect ratio 3:2
Diagonal size
cm (in)
71.1 (28.0)
Pixel density
Technology LCD
CPU and GPU Surface Studio
Generation Intel 6th generation
CPU model[84] i5-6640HQ
Base frequency – turbo frequency
L3 cache size
Nvidia GeForce discrete GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M GPU with 2 GB of GDDR5 memory
Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPU with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory (Intel Core i7 with 32 GB RAM variant only)
Cameras Surface Studio
Front camera megapixels 5
video resolution FHD (1920x1080)
Sensors Surface Studio
Ambient light sensor Yes
Number of microphones 2
Connectivity Surface Studio
AV Connectors 3.5 mm audio socket
Mini DisplayPort
Bluetooth 4.0 LE
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Miscellaneous Surface Studio
Pen input N-trig active pen
Surface Dial support Yes
Integrated Windows Hello support Yes (via backlit IR camera)
Models Surface Studio


A Surface advert painted on the side of a building

Television commercial

In October 2012, Microsoft aired its first commercial for the Surface product line. The first 30-second commercial is the Surface Movement which focus on Windows RT version of the first generation of Surface with detachable keyboard and kickstand.[85] It first aired during Dancing with the Stars commercial break.[86] This video is directed by Jon Chu, where he previously the director of the movie such as Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.[87]

Partnership with NFL

In 2014, Microsoft announced a five-year, $400 million deal with the National Football League, in which Surface became the official tablet computer brand of the NFL. As part of the partnership, special, ruggedized Surface Pro 2 devices were issued to teams for use on the sidelines, allowing coaches and players view and annotate footage of previous plays. The partnership was initially hampered by television commentators, who erroneously referred to the devices as being an "iPad" on several occasions. Microsoft has since stated that it "coached" commentators on properly referring to the devices on-air.[88][89][90][91]

Designed on Surface

On January 11, 2016, Microsoft announced a collaboration with POW! WOW!. It includes a group of artists from around the world that utilizes various Surface devices, such as the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, to create a total of 17 murals. The artists are filmed using their Surface devices and explain how they integrate Surface into their workflow. The final products are then posted to YouTube that accompanies a post on the Microsoft Devices blog.[92]

United States Department of Defense

On February 17, 2016, Microsoft announced that alongside the US Department of Defense's plans to upgrade to Windows 10, that it has approved Surface devices and certified them for use through the Defense Information Systems Agency Unified Capabilities Approved Products List. Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro 3, and Surface 3 have all been approved as Multifunction Mobile Devices, thus meeting the necessary requirements for security and compatibility with other systems.[93]


Reviews of the first-generation Surface RT by critics have ranged broadly. The hardware received mostly positive reviews, while the software and overall experience were mixed. Wired reviewer Mathew Honan stated that while "This is one of the most exciting pieces of hardware I’ve ever used. It is extremely well-designed; meticulous even," the tablets are "likely to confuse many of Microsoft’s longtime customers".[94] TechCrunch,[95] Matt Buchanan at BuzzFeed,[96] and Gizmodo recommended against purchasing the tablet. Gizmodo mentioned issues such as the high price tag and described it as similar but inferior to the iPad, but also praised the hardware saying, "You'll appreciate it every time you pick it up and turn it on. It's a simple, joyful experience."[97] David Pogue at The New York Times praised the hardware but criticized the software.[98] The Verge described the technology as fulfilling the role of a laptop or tablet "half as well as other devices on the market," adding "the whole thing is honestly perplexing."[99] Warner Crocker from Gotta Be Mobile described it as "frustratingly confusing."[100] Farhad Manjoo of Slate noted that the "shortcomings are puzzling" given how much time Microsoft spent developing the device.[101] Neil McAllister has noted the lack of a compelling case to switch from the iPad to a Windows RT device at the same price point, because Apple already has a strong network effect from their app developers and few Windows developers have ported their offerings over to the ARM processor.[102] The Surface RT had worse battery life than similar devices.[103] The first-generation Surface Pro has shorter battery life than the original ARM-based Surface due in part to its full HD screen and Intel Core i5 processor.

The Surface Pro 3 has received positive reviewers. David Pogue suggested "The upshot is that, with hardly any thickness or weight penalty, the kickstand and the Type Cover let you transform your 1.8-pound tablet into an actual, fast, luxury laptop". Pogue said that the Surface Pro 3's form factor works well as a tablet, in contrast to the Surface Pro 2, whose bulk and weight limited its appeal as a tablet. Pogue also stated that the new multi-stage kickstand, 3:2 screen aspect ratio, and new Type Cover 3 detachable keyboard made it a competent laptop. Another advantage of the Surface Pro 3 is that it is considered a tablet by the FAA and TSA, despite its hardware which makes it capable of running all x86 Windows programs. This is advantageous in air travel, since a tablet can be used during takeoff or landing, and a tablet can be left in a bag when going through a TSA scanner machine, neither of which apply to a laptop.[104] It has been suggested that the Surface Pro 3 comes closest to the Microsoft Tablet PC concept that company founder Bill Gates announced in 2001,[105][104] being the first Surface to become a credible laptop replacement.[106] Time magazine included Microsoft Surface Pro 3 in the list of the 25 best inventions of 2014.[107]

The Surface 3 (non-Pro) has received generally positive reviews from computer critics. They praised Microsoft's shift from ARM architecture toward x86, and therefore from Windows RT to a regular Windows OS. Most noted a well designed chassis and accessories produced of quality materials, and overall premium feeling of use. While less powerful, the Surface 3 was a lighter and cheaper alternative to the Surface Pro 3. More importantly, the Surface 3 could compete at the high-end of Android and iPad tablets, with the advantage of being a device running a full desktop OS instead of a mobile OS for a similar price.[108] Reviewers also note that 37 GB[109] of the total storage space in the low-end Surface 3 is available to the user, while its close competitor, the low-end iPad Air 2, has only 12.5 GB of user-available storage space for the same price.[110][111] The most common downsides are relatively low battery life, slower performance compared to devices with Intel Core processors[111][112] and a high price since accessories like Surface Pen and Type Cover are not included.[111][113][108]

Industry response

When Surface was first announced, critics noted that the device represented a significant departure for Microsoft, as the company had previously relied exclusively on third-party OEMs to produce devices running Windows, and began shifting towards a first-party hardware model with similarities to that of Apple.[114][115] Steve Ballmer said that like Xbox, Surface was an example of the sort of hardware products Microsoft will release in the future.[116]

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), whose products have traditionally run Microsoft operating systems, have had positive responses to the release of Surface.[117] HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Dell[118] applauded Microsoft's decision to create its own Tablet PC and said that relationships with Microsoft have not changed. John Solomon, senior vice president of HP, said that "Microsoft was basically making a leadership statement and showing what's possible in the tablet space".[119][120] Acer founder Stan Shih said that he believed Microsoft only introduced its own hardware in order to establish the market and would then withdraw in favor of its OEMs.[121]

However, others believe that OEMs were left sidelined by the perception that Microsoft's new tablet would replace their products.[122][123] Acer chairman JT Wang advised Microsoft to "please think twice".[124] Microsoft has acknowledged that Surface may "affect their commitment" of partners to the Windows platform.[125]

The need for the Surface to market an ARM-compatible version of Windows was questioned by analysts because of recent developments in the PC industry; both Intel and AMD introduced x86-based system-on-chip designs for Windows 8, Atom "Clover Trail" and "Temash" respectively, in response to the growing competition from ARM licensees. In particular, Intel claimed that Clover Trail-based tablets could provide battery life rivaling that of ARM devices; in a test by PC World, Samsung's Clover Trail-based Ativ Smart PC was shown to have battery life exceeding that of the first gen ARM-based Surface. Peter Bright of Ars Technica argued that Windows RT had no clear purpose, since the power advantage of ARM-based devices was "nowhere near as clear-cut as it was two years ago", and that users would be better off purchasing Office 2013 themselves because of the removed features and licensing restrictions of Office RT.[126][127][128]


First-generation Surface tablets for sale at a Microsoft Store
Surface Pro 3 promotion in front of a Microsoft Store

Sales of the first generation Surface did not meet Microsoft's expectations, which led to price reductions and other sales incentives.[129][130]

In March 2013, Bloomberg reported from inside sources that Surface sales were behind expectations, particularly of the ARM-based Surface model. Microsoft had originally projected sales of 2 million Surface units during the final quarter of 2012, a total of 1.5 million Surface devices had been sold since launch with Surface Pro accounting for 400,000 of these sales. The more expensive Surface Pro, with its Intel CPU that makes it a full-fledged Windows laptop PC, despite its compromises, was successful compared to other OEMs' first-generation Windows 8 Ultrabook hybrids which were larger and/or more expensive.

In July 2013, Steve Ballmer revealed that the Surface hasn't sold as well as he hoped.[131] He reported that Microsoft had made a loss of US$900,000,000 due to the lackluster Surface sales. Concurrently, Microsoft cut the price of first-gen Surface worldwide by 30%, with its U.S. price falling to US$350.[132][133][134][135] This was followed by a further price cut in August after it was revealed that even the marketing costs had exceed the sales.[136] On August 4, 2013, the cost of Surface Pro was cut by $100 giving it an entry price of $799. Several law firms sued Microsoft, accusing the company of misleading shareholders about sales of the first-gen ARM based Surface tablet, calling it an "unmitigated disaster".[137] In the first two years of sales, Microsoft lost almost two billion dollars.[138]

The poor sales of the ARM-based Surface tablet had been credited to the continuing market dominance of Microsoft's competitors in the tablet market. Particularly, Apple's iPad retained its dominance due its App store offering the most tablet-optimized applications. Most OEMs opted to produce tablets running Google Android, which came in a wide variety of sizes and prices (albeit with mixed success among most OEMs), and Google Play had the second-largest selection of tablet applications. By contrast there was a limited amount of software designed specifically for Surface's operating system, Windows RT, the selection which was even weaker than Windows Phone.[139] Indeed, OEMs reported that most customers felt Intel-based tablets were more appropriate for use in business environments, as they were compatible with the much more widely available x86 programs while Windows RT was not. Microsoft's subsequent efforts have been focused upon refining the Surface Pro and making it a viable competitor in the premium ultra-mobile PC category, against other Ultrabooks and the MacBook Air, while discontinuing development of ARM-powered Surface devices as the Surface 3 (non-Pro) had an Intel x86 CPU (albeit with lower performance than the Surface Pro 3).[139][140]

The resultant Surface Pro 3 succeeded in garnering a great interest in the Surface line, making Surface business profitable for the first time in fiscal year Q1 2015.[141] Later in Q2, the Surface division's sales topped $1 billion.[142] Surface division scored $888 million for Q4 2015 despite an overall loss of $2.1 billion for Microsoft, a 117% year-over-year growth thanks to the steady commercial performance of Surface Pro 3 and the launch of mainstream model Surface 3.[143]

Reported issues

Users on Microsoft's support forum reported that some Touch Covers were splitting at the seam where it connects to the tablet, exposing its wiring. A Microsoft spokesperson stated that the company was aware of the issue, and would offer free replacements for those who have been affected by the defect.[144][145] Other users reported issues with audio randomly stuttering or muting on the Surface tablet while in use.[146] Wi-Fi connectivity issues were also reported. Firmware updates that attempted to fix the problem were released, but some users still reported problems like blue screen errors while watching video and crash of display driver.[147][148][149] Microsoft has acknowledged a bug in the Windows key that does not always work, but has promised a fix.[150] The latest update, which promised to fix the issue, was not able to fix it.[151]

With the original Surface Pro, Microsoft acknowledged issues encountered by some users with its stylus pen, including intermittent pen failures, and with older applications that do not have complete pen support due to the different APIs used by Surface Pro's stylus drivers. In the latter case, Microsoft has indicated that it is working with software vendors to ensure better compatibility.[152][153] As for later models beginning with the Surface Pro 3, the N-Trig digital pen digitizer system has attained high pen compatibility with older applications thanks to a regularly updated, optional WinTab driver.[154] Issues had also been experienced with slow Wi-Fi connectivity, and the device not properly returning from standby.[155][156]

iFixit has awarded the Surface Pro its worst ever repairability rating, but CEO Kyle Wiens claims that it is due to incompetence rather than deliberate design choices.[157]


Surface Studio Surface Hub Surface Book Surface Pro 4 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro Surface 3 Surface 2 Surface (2012 tablet)

Source: Microsoft Devices Blog

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External links

  • Official website
  • Building of Surface
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