Microsoft isn\u2019t Apple, and the Surface RT isn\u2019t the iPad.\n\tNow that we\u2019ve gotten that out of the way, can we talk about the Surface RT without the snarky, fanboy-driven venom that has characterized too many reviews of the new tablet?\n\tI didn\u2019t expect to like Microsoft\u2019s tablet. But I did. The hardware is simply excellent, and while the software offerings are limited, the Surface is designed to let you do something really important: get some work done. Should you buy it? Maybe. But I\u2019d probably wait for more apps to come down the chute and for Microsoft to launch a version running Windows 8 and see which you like better.\n\tTo be clear: the Surface RT runs a version of Windows called "RT," and that means it doesn\u2019t run traditional legacy Windows software such as Photoshop, Quicken and Windows Media Player. The only apps you can run are those that are pre-installed or that you buy from the Windows Store. Sure, that\u2019s a drawback, but don\u2019t forget: The iPad doesn\u2019t run standard Mac apps either, and when the iPad first appeared there were far fewer apps, particularly on the productivity side, then there are now.\n\tThe Surface looks good. Microsoft has gotten the message (thank you, Steve Jobs) that a consumer device should look and feel cool. You won\u2019t feel like a loser when you take it out in the caf\u00e9, and at 1.5 pounds it\u2019s easy to carry and to hold. You can read the exact specs here, but I\u2019ll note that the 10.6-inch screen is bright, with excellent resolution and good viewing angles; it\u2019s got two cameras and stereo sound.\n\tBut what really makes the Surface worth considering is the innovative Type Cover and the unglamorous USB 2 port on one side. Taken together, along with the pre-installed copy of Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student, you\u2019ll actually be able to get some work done on this tablet, as well as consume the various types of media any tablet will help you to consume. The USB port lets you connect an external drive or a camera or a mouse or pretty much any standard device.\n\tIf you buy the Surface today, it will come with a preview edition of Office 2013, but Microsoft will provide the full version by free download in the near future, the company promises. Annoyingly, Office feels awkward when you use it with gestures, so you may want to tote a mouse along if you're going to do any heavy editing.\n\n\tFirst Look: Windows 8 Surface RT\n\t13 New Windows 8 Machines That Aren't Surface RT\n\n\tThe Type Cover is really a very thin keyboard that acts as a cover when you\u2019re not using it and clicks into place on the Surface when you want to write something. It costs a hefty $130, but it has real keys that travel and click when you type, making it much easier to use than a virtual keyboard, or the $120 Touch Cover keypad that you can also buy for the Surface. The Touch Cover keyboard has keys printed on cloth-like material that don\u2019t travel and feel awkward when you type. I don\u2019t recommend it.\n\tThat does bring up an important downside: price. The 32 GB version of the Surface costs $499, add $120 for the keyboard and you\u2019re spending as much as you would for a decent laptop.\n\tThe Surface RT is the first major piece of hardware Microsoft has ever manufactured. It\u2019s built around an ARM-type processor from NVIDIA, another departure for the software giant. In a few months, Microsoft will introduce the Surface Pro, built around an Intel processor and running Windows 8, but not until January.\n\tThe Surface Pro will certainly be able to run a wider variety of familiar Windows applications than the Surface RT.\n\tIn either case, you\u2019ll be running Windows 8, which is very different than any version of Windows you've ever used. As I\u2019ve written more than once, I don\u2019t think Windows 8 is well-suited to a standard PC, but I had no trouble using it on the Surface tablet. With a little practice, you\u2019ll be swiping and pinching like a pro.\n\tIs it the iPad? No. But if you\u2019re more comfortable in a Windows environment, the Surface RT is worth a look -- then decide for yourself.\n\tImage: Courtesy of Reuters.