What's new

Microsoft Surface RT Display Shoot-Out vs. the iPad at Gizmodo


Editor in Chief

The folks over at Gizmodo shared an excellent article from DisplayMate comparing the displays of the new Microsoft Surface RT tablet and several version of the iPad. Their "display shootout" is very detailed and thorough. In the end, the Surface RT display actually outperforms the iPad 2 in all categories but one, and equals or exceeds the iPad 3 in all categories but two. Those two categories were pretty important subjectively however. Overall, the iPad 3 wins out, but the Surface RT really held its own and trumped the iPad in several categories like low screen reflectance. It lost out to the iPad 3 in resolution and color gamut. Here's a couple of quotes with their conclusions, but definitely give their full article a read because they also compare the Surface RT versus the Android competition as well,

Here's their conclusion regarding the iPad,
The Surface RT out performs the display on the iPad 2 across the board except for the Color Gamut. The Surface RT is comparable or better than the iPad 3 in all test categories except two: Screen Resolution and Color Gamut. The iPad 3 has a much higher resolution of 2048x1536 and a much larger 99 percent Color Gamut. In terms of visual sharpness, the Surface RT with ClearType Sub-Pixel Rendering improves text sharpness significantly so that it is significantly sharper than the iPad 2, but not as sharp as the iPad 3. In terms of the Color Gamut, the new iPad 3 has significantly better color saturation and color accuracy. While the Surface RT Color Gamut is similar to the iPad 2, the iPad 2 has somewhat better color saturation because of its steeper Intensity Scale and Gamma (as explained in Figure 3 below).

Here's their overall conclusion,
The display on the Microsoft Surface RT outperforms all of the standard resolution full size 10 inch Tablets that we have tested in our Display Shoot-Out series. The Lab tests and measurements documented in the Shoot-Out Comparison Table below indicate that Microsoft has paid a lot of attention to display performance for the Surface RT. In particular, on-screen text is significantly sharper, it has a better factory display calibration, and also significantly lower screen Reflectance than the iPad 2 and all full size 1280x800 Android Tablets. But it is not as sharp as the iPad 3 or 4, nor does it have their large full Color Gamut. We’ll have to wait for the high resolution Windows Pro Tablets that will be launching in early 2013 for direct comparisons with the high resolution iPads and Android Tablets. This is a great start for Windows Tablets and brings much needed competition to the Tablet marketplace. In addition, many other manufacturers will be launching their own branded Windows RT and Pro Tablets – we’ll include the best of them in future Mobile Display Shoot-Outs.

It's pretty exciting to see that Microsoft has put forth the effort to make the display high quality. We can't wait to get our hands on one!

Source: Gizmodo
It sounds like a reasonably good display but not the best resolution. Not that I buy into the whole resolution war that is threatening to become the next MHZ/GHz war but screens should have a PPI in the low to mid 200s ("retina") to be considered top quality resolution. Going to extreme resolutions of 300+ PPI (2560x1600+ on 10") doesn't seem to be enough of a difference visually for the trade offs in lost power both processing and battery.

Microsoft is barely getting by here and insisting on specific resolutions on its devices (WP and Surface) that are really below the threshold. One of the reasons I had to ditch WP7.5 was because of the low resolution screen mandated by MS. Forget the whole Surface Pro is the premium product and will have better PPI argument, there needs to be a good quality display on a tablet regardless of its status in the product line up considering that even the "low end" Surface is a pricey and high end tablet not a Chinese knock-off. It would be nice to see them push this a little further and go with a very nice 1920x1200 as the standard giving the Surface tablets 214ppi.

By my calculations:

iPad 2 1024x768 @ 9.7" = 132ppi
Surface RT 1366x768 @ 10.6" = 148ppi
Nook Color/Tablet 1024x600 @ 7" = 169ppi
Surface Pro 1920x1080 @ 10.6" = 208ppi
Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD 1280x800 @ 7" = 216ppi
Nook HD 1440x900 @ 7" = 243ppi
Kindle Fire HD 1920x1200 @ 8.9" = 254ppi
iPad 4 2048x1536 @ 9.7" = 264ppi
Nexus 10 2560x1600 @10" = 300ppi

It seems to me there is a sweet spot there and there are number of resolutions MS could have chosen to hit it. Instead they are going weak and trying to say oh, but we have Clear Type. You know what MS, Clear Type will look even better at 215-265ppi ;)
Last edited:
I think your calculations are spot on. Regardless, I suspect that the average user will look at the Surface display and think it looks great! It will be interesting to see what type of display comes on the Surface Pro and the Xbox Surface.