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Google Nexus 10 versus Microsoft Surface RT: Which is Right for You?

Google Nexus 10 versus Microsoft Surface RT

The 10-inch tablet market just is really started to get crowded with tons of new Windows 8/RT devices popping up next to existing Android tablets and the iPad.

Even more important is the introduction of new flagship tablets from Google and Microsoft. The Samsung-made Google Nexus 10 is certainly one of the most powerful Android tablets ever announced and the Microsoft Surface shows a new sexy and fun side to Microsoft that most of us have never seen before. While the two devices will likely appeal to very different kinds of users, let’s take a look at the hardware and even a quick peak at the software to see how they compare.

Overall Design

The Nexus 10 and the Surface are night and day when it comes to hardware design. The Surface has a thin and light design, although its screen is bigger at 10.6-inches.

The Nexus 10 on the other hand has a fairly large bezel around the device and is a bit clunkier looking. Still, picking the tablet up reveals a unibody desing that is actually very light and durable.

Preferences are going to dictate here. The Surface seems to have a style that is a bit more similar to what you find with the Apple iPad – a lightweight design that is highly aesthetically pleasing. Honestly, the Nexus 10 just doesn’t have that same sexy aspect too it, but again, it comes down to your own taste.

Google Nexus 10

The Screen

The Microsoft Surface might have a bigger 10.6-inch display, but it is also dragging a bit when it comes to resolution. While 1366 x 768 isn’t that bad, it is far from industry-leading these days. One thing worth mentioning is that we can’t read too much into the resolution here as Microsoft utilizes a special ClearType technology that takes that resolution and makes it MUCH sharper than you would ever imagine.

That said, the 10.055-inch Nexus 10 has a 2560 x 1600 resolution that is going to likely stomp all over the ClearType technology. For those of you that put extra weight into things like the screen’s resolution, the Nexus 10 seems to dominate here.

Processor, RAM, Graphics and Storage

When it comes right down to the specs, which tablet packs more punch? With the Nexus 10 you get a 1.7GHz dual-core Samsung Exynos 5250 GPU, a Mali-T604 GPU and 2GB.

In contrast, the Microsoft Surface RT runs on a Tegra T30 processor, which is a quad-core beast. The tablet also has a PowerVR GPU and 2GB of RAM. Other perks include microSD for memory expansion and a full-size USB port. Is worth noting that the base 32GB version of the Surface actually only has 16GB of memory thanks to the rest being taken up by the system partition.

While the Tegra processor is a quad-core, the Nexus 10’s dual-core is still a pretty solid performer. Until we see some exact benchmarks out there comparing the processor performance, I’d say that the Surface RT might be a little faster (possibly), but more than likely they are pretty close when it comes to hardware performance.

Battery Life

Actually, both tablets are pretty evenly matched here. Real world results seem to suggest around 7 to 8 hours of mixed use for both devices. No clear winner here either.


When it comes to camera performance, the Nexus 10 has a 5MP (1080p) rear cam and 1.9MP (720p) front cam. As for the Surface RT? Microsoft says they are both 720p on the front and back, so for picture quality, the Nexus 10’s rear camera seems to win here.


This is one category that the Samsung-made Google Nexus 10 really impresses. The tablet has shown itself to be pretty evenly matched and yet it starts at $399 for a 16GB model. In contrast, the 32GB version of the Microsoft Surface RT really only gives you 16GB of storage space and yet it is a bit pricier at $499 +.

The Ecosystem

Honestly, these two tablets have very different cosmetic designs but they seem to be rather evenly matched all across the board. The deciding factor here is really going to come down to two things:

1) Does the $100 premium on the Surface turn you off?

2) Which Ecosystem seems to fit you better?

When it comes to the ecosystem, Android 4.2 comes standard on the Nexus 10 and has a lot to offer. There are over 700,000 apps and it is a much lighter weight OS that takes up little of your precious storage space. If you want tons of apps now, the Nexus 10 certainly has them. That being said, many of these apps are meant to run on a smartphone-sized screen, not a 10-inch tablet.

As for the Surface, its ecosystem is still evolving. The Microsoft Surface RT runs something called Windows RT. This OS has the bulk of traditional Windows attached to it, but not the legacy application support. Only Windows Store apps work with the Surface, and right now there is a little less than 10,000 global apps for the Windows Store. Keep in mind though that all of these apps are optimized for the Surface’s 10.6-inch display.

Since the Surface is more costly and has less apps, why get yourself involved in this new Windows RT/8 ecosystem? First of all, you get Microsoft Office built into the OS with the Microsoft Surface. The easy-to-use and attractive optional touch cover also makes the Surface a natural when it comes to productivity use— once more apps are out there to take advantage of this ability.

Other draws for the Surface include its full-size USB port and the full power of Windows. Wait, but didn’t I say it didn’t have the full power of Windows 8? Actually, it doesn’t have legacy app support. It does have things like a robust desktop file manager, all the system tools you may be used to with Windows and other abilities that might make Windows RT more than just a “mobile OS”. At the same time, it is also a space hog.

As for the full-size USB port, imagine plugging in your favorite printers, external hard drives and other devices. While I’m not sure if anyone has tried it, it is also quite possible that you could even hook-up an external DVD drive for things like watching your movie library.

Who Wins?

Anyone who has ever read one of Mobile Magazine’s in-depth comparison articles won’t be surprised to hear that I won’t declare an actual winner— it really depends on your own preferences. The great thing about the tablet market today is the shear level of options. There is a device that fits into everyone’s lifestyle.

If you want the open design of Android, the low-cost pricing and the 700,000 Google Play apps— the Samsung Nexus 10 might be what you are looking for.

If you don’t mind being an early adapter, the Microsoft Surface RT ecosystem (and Windows 8, too) is growing quickly already and offers some unique possibilities for productivity and business that aren’t as practical on Android and iOS.

Are you considering a new 10-inch tablet? If so, which of these devices seems more appealing to your particular taste? Conversely, does the Apple iPad seem a better fit for you?



About Andrew Grush

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  1. The Surface RT is underpowered but it shows great potential.

  2. ipad 4 please.

  3. Surface RT is a joke, Its the windows 8 pro tabs that are going to own android and ios in the long run. These beast are running on quad core i7s and some even have dedicated gpus and are capable of playing pc games.

  4. Today, the Nexus wins. In a short time into the future, I think the Surface will, ehem… surface to the top.

  5. Neutrality??? WTF.. When would all of you stop comparing hardware specs of tablets… It really does no matter. 99% of people using apps can not tell a difference between a slower processor and a faster processor and there are other factors involved like OS speed and programming language and quality of app program.

    The real difference is the app market and Microsoft is way way way behind all, all the processor and memory and blah blah will be obsolete in a years time but if they wont have enough apps they will fail.

  6. Droid Burgundy

    Well the Surface RT vs Nexus 10 might be a close call… but the Surface Pro will demolish the Nexus 10 in all specs… except for value and cost!

    • RT vs nexus 10 isnt close. Nexus wins in all specs

    • yeah ok but there is a difference between $399 and $1000+ and i dont know about you but im not prepared to spend that kind of money on a tablet (and no it wont beet it in all specs you forget the pro res is 1920×1080 whereas the nexsus 10 is 2560×1600)

    • If the RT is already $100 more than the Nexus 10, the Surface Pro will surely be quite a bit more, so if you’re paying that much more for your device, it SHOULD demolish a much less expensive device.

      The real question is: How much are you willing to pay for a device that’ll be old news in 2 years? Because they both probably will be.

  7. The Surface processor is almost sure to outperform the processor in the Nexus.

    Also you’re improperly counting smartphone apps forced to run on an Android tablet, not tablet optimized apps, which everything in the Windows Store is optimized. You should also mention that Google doesn’t vet the apps in its store, meaning malware and apps that perform poorly whereas every app in the Windows store has to meet certain benchmarks to be accepted.

    • Excellent points. I agree that the Surface processor will likely outperform the Nexus 10— but we really can’t say for sure, yet. Thanks for your comment!

    • Just not true. The prcessor in the surface ix the tegra 3. The processor in the nexus is the Exynos 5 dual core A15 running at 1.7ghz that processor is faster than all quad core A9

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