Microsoft has just announced its new line of ‘Surface’ personal tablets, which are going to enter the market this autumn, and go head-to-head with Apple’s iPad, among other devices. Here are a few things you might like to know about this new entry into the tablet-computing world, just in case you’re thinking about switching brands.

It'll run on a new Windows

The Surface tablets will run on the soon-to-be launched Windows 8. They’ll take full advantage of all of the new capabilities that operating system is set to offer. Surface tablets will either operate on an Intel, or ARM-based processor. The different chip sets will allow casual consumers, and professional users alike, to have different experiences with the tablet, which will also come with different options, accessories and price tags.

Surface could cost less than other tablets

Other manufactures, like Samsung, are also building tablets that will run on Windows 8. Even so, since outside vendors will have to pay for licensing rights, it will be hard to beat Microsoft (which doesn’t have to pay for such rights) on price, although the software giant has said that it will price its new product fairly.

A larger screen than the iPad

The Microsoft devices will come with 10.6-inch displays, making the screens larger than Apple’s iPad. The Surface tablets will also be slightly thinner, but heavier than the current versions of the iPad out now.

You can "write" on it

A ‘digital ink’ pen can be used with the Surface tablets. When the pen is in your hand, it will write on the screen like a real pen, at 600dpi, and ignore finger taps and commands.

Multiple covers to choose from

Surface tablets will come with an integrated "kickstand" that allows the screen to be held up in the position of a traditional monitor. Two different covers for the tablet, the "Touch Cover" and the "Type Cover," can be attached to the device magnetically, giving greater variety to the method of input. The narrow Touch Cover boasts a track pad and a multitouch keyboard, while the Type Cover has depressible keys and buttons that you can actually click.

It can compete with your laptop

With different chip set options available, and other unique features, Microsoft is going after users who want their tablets to function like a normal computer, running all of the programs that a desktop or laptop computer can run. In other words, the Surface should be a tablet that is much more than a mere tablet.

Come autumn, we’ll see how this new device stacks up against other tablet computers on the market now, and the very popular iPad. Let the digital -- and hardware-- battles begin. (Check out a hands-on demo below.)

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