Apple has owned the 10-inch tablet market. Budget slates have done well on the low end, but other full-sized tablets have been utterly dominated by the iPad. Samsung, Google, and Microsoft hope to change that. Surface RT and Nexus 10 are the most compelling full-sized iPad challengers yet. How do they stack up? Read on.
The tablets are close in size, though Surface is a bit more oblong. The Nexus 10 is thinner, but not by a wide margin.
The Nexus 10 is significantly lighter. The best argument against 10-inch tablets is that they're too heavy, so this could be an important advantage for Samsung's tablet.
This is a tremendous advantage for the Nexus 10. It has the highest resolution of any commercial tablet. Images and text will be razor-sharp.
Microsoft's ClearType (sub-pixel rendering) tech helps Surface's display to look sharper than its resolution would suggest ... but that isn't enough to put it in the same league as the Nexus 10's display.
Both tablets have great processors, so there shouldn't be any performance issues. The Nexus 10 should have the edge, with its speedy Samsung chip.
Multitasking performance will be great, as both tablets have 2 GB of random-access memory (RAM).
These numbers are deceiving. Windows RT takes up a lot of space. That leaves the 32 GB model of Surface with roughly the same amount of useable storage as the 16 GB Nexus 10.
Unlike the Nexus 10, though, Surface has a microSD card slot. You can use it to expand its storage.
Neither tablet offers cellular data, so you'll need to connect to Wi-Fi (or your phone's mobile hotspot) for internet access.
Take these estimates with grains of salt, but the Nexus 10 looks to have the advantage.
The Nexus 10 has far superior cameras. Both standard photography and video chat will look much sharper than they will on Surface.
This is another big advantage for the Nexus 10. Its base model ships for US$100 less than Surface. Also remember that Surface's keyboard – its killer feature – tacks another $100 onto its price.
Hardware is important, but a tablet is nothing without apps. This is where both tablets stumble.
Android's Google Play Store has all the apps you want … if you have a smartphone. There's still a shortage of quality tablet apps. Sure, those smartphone apps will run on the Nexus 10, but they might look like the Twitter app pictured above. Lots of wasted space, and an unattractive layout.
Surface has its own issues. Windows RT is a brand new platform, and doesn't run desktop Windows software. So don't be surprised if you see some tumbleweeds blowing around. With Surface sales starting slowly, the Windows Store may not be booming anytime soon.
The software story isn't all dismal. The Nexus 10 ships with the latest version of Android, 4.2 Jellybean. It will also receive future updates immediately.
Despite its lack of apps, Windows RT is a bold new operating system. It's basically Windows 8 without the desktop apps. Surface also includes Microsoft Office RT, a selling point for some shoppers.
Surface also has a couple of nifty keyboard add-ons. The Type Cover is a traditional keyboard attachment, but the Touch Cover is something new. It's like an iPad Smart Cover, only with pressure-sensitive keys. Reviews have been mixed, so you might want to try one before throwing down an extra $100.
Should Apple be scared? It's hard to say. Both new 10-inch tablets have compelling hardware and exciting new operating systems. Will that be enough to attract software developers? Will customers take the plunge with a lack of tablet apps?
It's a steep hill to climb, but the Nexus 10 may have better odds. It has a lower starting price, a rabid Android fan base, and Surface will soon be competing with its own sibling (Surface Pro).
For more options, check out our 2012 Tablet Comparison Guide.