Apple’s stranglehold on the tablet market may be coming under pressure on two fronts: at the bottom end from Google’s A$249 Nexus 7 (see below) and at the top end from Microsoft’s Surface. Built around Microsoft’s upcoming touch-friendly operating system, Windows 8, the Surface’s most obvious distinguishing feature is its thin, pressure-sensitive cover that doubles as a keyboard and trackpad. There will be two versions: the Surface RT and Surface Pro. The latter will feature an Intel Core i5 processor and full version of Windows 8, with full support for regular Windows apps. The RT will be cheaper and thinner around the same weight as an iPad running an ARM processor and RT version of Windows. It will offer a more limited range of apps, although it will include an RT version of Office. Both will feature a high‑definition 10.6-inch screen, but only the Pro’s will be Full HD. Pricing and availability is yet to be announced, although Microsoft is promising a spring 2012 release for the RT, with the Pro arriving about three months later.
Google Nexus 7, from A$249
If you’re after a compact device for ebooks, movies, games, social networking and light duties, Google’s new Nexus 7 is hard to beat for the price. Weighing just 340g, it is a little over half the weight of the iPad and the 7-inch screen supports HD (1280 x 800 pixel) resolution. The Nexus 7 also sports a quad-core Tegra 3 processor and Android 4.1. Unfortunately, storage is limited to 8GB for the A$249 version, but there is a 16GB version for A$299.
MacBook Pro with Retina display, from A$2499
Apple is redefining the visual experience of its MacBook Pro laptop. The latest top-end version features a Retina display with an astounding 2088 x 1800 pixel resolution. The result can be stunning when using apps that support Retina (as Apple’s bundled apps do) and the right screen setting. Apple has also reduced the thickness to just 1.8cm yet packed in Intel’s latest Core i7 processor, 256GB to 768GB flash drive and more. All at a rather hefty price, however.