nexus 10 vs microsoft surface

If Master Yoda were here, he’d be telling us “Begun have these tablet wars”. While Apple has tried to address the 7″ market segment with the iPad Mini, Microsoft is only just getting into the 10″ tablet market with its Windows RT powered Surface tablet. Meanwhile, Google has hit back with an updated Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10. The latter is a 10 inch tablet made by Samsung, running pure Android, just as Google intended it. Join us as we pit the Nexus 10 against the Microsoft Surface and guide you through deciding which the right device is for you.

Work hard and play hard

Microsoft’s Surface tablet runs the Windows RT operating system. For those who don’t know, Windows RT is Windows 8 compiled for ARM processors. As such, Windows desktop applications are incompatible, so the Surface’s only source of apps is the Windows Store which, at the time of writing, has yet to reach 9,000 titles. The new user interface from Redmond, as seen on Windows 8, Windows Phone and Windows RT, is a complete departure from the icons and widgets we’ve seen on iOS and Android, and has many in the industry and press eyeing it with interest.

That new user interface would seem to squarely aim the Surface at a consumer market rather than the enterprise, which is where much of Microsoft’s current value exists. Paradoxically though, the Surface comes with keyboard covers made for working with, which makes it a much more professional tool than the Nexus 10 which is aimed directly at those who want a cheap tablet to watch movies and YouTube with.

It’s the question of the relative work and play credentials of each tablet that is at the heart of this comparison.

Related: Best Surface Pro 3 docks and accessories.

At a – ahem – surface level, the Microsoft Surface will provide a much more useful experience straight out of the box for professionals, especially with the inclusion of Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student and the addition of the a touch cover or type cover. Yet, the new Windows Store catalog is tiny at c. 9,000 apps, while Android has access to 700,000 titles. Therefore, there will be many instances where mission critical applications are not yet available for Microsoft’s tablet.

Meanwhile, if the Nexus 10 is the more consumerist device of the two, then consider that Microsoft is quickly pulling together all of the loose ends of its ecosystems, including the remains of the Zune market. Microsoft launched Xbox Music offering music purchases and free streaming across a much wider territory than Google’s music store, because Google is still embroiled in negotiations with rights holders. Then again, Microsoft will release Xbox Music on Android next year, and so it shouldn’t matter which tablet you have.

In the case of ebooks, Google has a book store while Microsoft doesn’t, but then Amazon has a Kindle app for both platforms. Also, Google still offers movie rentals only outside of the US, while Xbox Movies has rentals and purchases in numerous countries. Note that Google did announce more countries would get movie purchases through Google Play, but as of yet we’re still waiting for them to roll out, at least here in the UK.


Nexus 10 Microsoft Surface
  • 263.8 x 177.8 x 8.9 mm
  • 10.39 x 7.00 x 0.35 inches
  • 603 grams
  • 274.6 x 172 x 9.4 mm
  • 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37 inches
  • 680 grams
  • Size: 10.055 inches
  • Resolution: 2560 x 1600
  • Pixels per inch: 300
  • Size: 10.6 inches
  • Resolution: 1366 x 768
  • Pixels per inch: 148
CPU, RAM, Storage
  • CPU:
    1.7 GHz Samsung Exynos dual core
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Storage Options: 16 GB or 32 GB
  • CPU:
    1.5 GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 quad core
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Storage Options: 32 GB or 64 GB
9,000 mAh 32 Wh
  • WiFi: dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: v3.0 with A2DP
  • NFC: Yes, on both sides
  • USB: 1x microUSB
  • WiFi: dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: v4.0 with A2DP
  • NFC: No
  • USB v2.0 with host support
  • Rear facing 5MP autofocus, LED Flash
  • Front facing 1.9MP
Operating System
Android 4.2 Windows RT
Built-in Software
  • Google Chrome
  • Gmail
  • Google Talk
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Google Maps
  • Google Search
  • Voice Search
  • Google Now
  • Google Currents
  • Google Play Store
  • Google Play Books
  • Google Play Movies
  • Google Play Magazines
  • Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview
    • Word
    • PowerPoint
    • Excel
    • OneNote
  • Windows Mail and Messaging
  • SkyDrive
  • Internet Explorer 10
  • Bing Search
  • Bing Maps
  • Xbox Music
  • Video Player
  • 16 GB
    • £319.00
    • $399.00
  • 32 GB
    • £389.00
    • $499.00
  • 32 GB (Tablet only)
    • £399.00
    • $499.00
  • 32 GB with Black Touch Cover
    • £479.00
    • $599.00
  • 64 GB with Black Touch Cover
    • £559.00
    • $699.00

Unique Selling Points

Nexus 10

Having seen the specifications, it’s clear that the Nexus 10’s biggest selling point is the 300 pixels per inch (ppi) density, which smashes the 246 ppi “Retina” bar set by Apple. In comparison, the 148 ppi on the Surface looks paltry. Also, the contoured plastic casing and lighter body should make the Nexus 10 much more comfortable to hold for long periods, e.g. while watching a movie streaming from Google Play. By comparison, the Surface is heavier and has harsher edges from its toughened VapourMg casing.

Given the raw processing power required to drive the superlative number of pixels on the Nexus 10’s screen, it seems a good bet that it will have the horsepower needed to run heavy duty 3D games. While its plastic casing might make the Nexus 10 look cheap, it could work in the favour of gamers who want to run high action 3D games for extended periods. Not to mention the fact that Android actually has such games, while the Microsoft Store has a long way to catch up.

Microsoft Surface

At its heart, the Surface takes more from the laptop world than it does the tablet world. This is born out with its keyboard cover accessories that both protect the screen and provide a way to input text quicker than is possible on virtual keyboards. Furthermore, its Magnesium based VapourMg casing will make it incredibly hardwearing, which is ideal if you work on the move and tend to put your devices through a good deal of punishment.

On the software side, it’s hard to beat a free copy of Microsoft Office. While Android has Google Drive which supports offline document editing, I have found the offline capability to be unreliable and Google Drive doesn’t allow for direct editing of Microsoft Office files, which are a de facto standard in the business world. Third party office suites for Android are less than impressive too, especially if you need to edit documents in Dropbox or SkyDrive.


Because both devices are very young and thus have yet to undergo real world reviewing, any verdict made here has to be provisional; but let’s look at what we know.

The Nexus 10 has a screen and CPU ready to play 1080p movies. However, the Nexus 10’s resolution is so high, it’s going to have to be up-scaling such content. Meanwhile, the Surface has a quad core Tegra 3 processor, as does the Nexus 7 which is perfectly competent at playing 720p content, which will fit the Surface’s screen nicely. So then, the matter of video and image viewing comes down to a question of how well your eyes can perceive pixel densities.

If you want an entertainment device that can be used for watching videos and playing games, then look no further than the Nexus 10. What’s more, the Google Play store has more than enough games to choose from, unlike the Windows Store which is still a desolate place – even though it is improving all the time.

If you want an all-round work and play device, then things become murkier. While the Windows Store may have a dearth of content, it does at least have some of the right games, such as Angry Birds Space and Cut the Rope. As for the work aspect, let’s not forget that the Surface comes with Office 2013 preinstalled which is heavily tied into SkyDrive. While both devices have a music and video store, Microsoft’s offerings are currently available in more countries than Google’s.

On the subject of using a Nexus tablet for work related tasks, I own a Nexus 7 and have yet to succeed in making it an effective office tool. Therefore, I am doubtful of one’s chances of doing so with the Nexus 10, unless Samsung release a keyboard dock, which is unlikely.

Overall, if games and apps are important to you, and if you’re on a budget, then the Nexus 10 is the clear winner here. It is affordable and the Android operating system makes it into a jack of all trades. However, if you want to buy a tablet that looks completely different to all that have gone before and you need something fully compatible with Office files, then the Surface could be for you. Buy the Surface with caution though, it will not run your legacy Windows applications, and we don’t know what its battery performance is like. And do keep watch for the Surface Pro which is on the horizon, along with a slew of purpose built Windows 8 laptops.

David Gilson
Freelance technology journalist for hire, based in the UK, specializing in mobile platforms. Familiar with Android, Symbian, Windows Phone, and iOS. Windows 8 user and Linux enthusiast. Used to do Quantum Physics. You can find other areas of my work on CNET UK, All About Symbian, and All About Windows Phone. See my website for a full list of publications and contact page.
  • The nexus 10 looks amazing, great display and for the price…unbeatable but theres something about the windows tablet + keyboard that just makes me go “Oh yeah i’d want one of those” now dont get me wrong, im a huge android fan but the Windows tablet just looks fantastic

    • Tom

      I totally agree with you, there is something about the Surface.. to the point where I’m thinking of selling my ipad and jumping onto the windows 8 platform.

  • justd80010

    Surface battery life = more than 9 hours of continuous video playback, at least according to other sites.

    From PC Advisor: In probably our most important tablet benchmark, our custom-designed battery-life test, Surface RT came in second to the iPad, playing a looping HD video for more than 9 hours before pooping out entirely.

    “Buy the Surface with caution though, it will not run your legacy Windows applications”

    Neither will the Nexus, not even the Office product.

  • V-Phuc

    What’s the true storage capacity for each tablet, after all the pre-installed softwares? About half in Surface, if I remember correctly from a previous reading. N10 has no microSD card slot (a dealbreaker for me), what about Surface?

    • Surface has a microSDXC slot. This means that it is compatible with SD & SDHC as well.

      • V-Phuc

        Thanks for the info. Short and to the point answer, in contrast to another poster who thinks I’m in dark ages?! LOL

    • goonie

      On a tablet I dont need an sd slot. I have a Pogo plug so I can get anything on my network as long as I am connected to the internet. In a phone without an unlimited plan I can see the need for SD. If I have unlimited then drop box/ pogo plug/ google or MS cloud will get the job done. You are aware that you can access everything on your computer if you are on the same network…..right? You should try to come out of the dark ages. You can do it. Yes surface has SD if thats what you are asking.

      • V-Phuc

        So you’re one of those “cloud storage lovers”, aren’t you? So when you don’t have access to the internet (remote location, on the road traveling, power outage, network down for X reason) and you need that special file for your work, what will you do? Aren’t you scr****ed? Dark ages?!!! LOL. Here are my answer: Don’t be a sucker for cloud? They will suck you dry. I can get 10 microSD card (32GB/card) for <$200, and they're mine forever, AND they're within my grasp. No dependency on WiFi, security, privacy, etc. You, on the other hand, will have to pay how much PER YEAR, and FOREVER for your cloud storage? Do the math. Dark age or simply more intelligent in spending money and data storage! Google makes good product, but their lack of microSD card slot in smartphones and tablets is just a blatant way to shove the "cloud storage" use down the consumer's throats! Just like Apple, no? Don't be a sucker!
        Thanks anyway for your answer about the surface SD card slot.

  • NicholasMicallef

    I think between these two I prefer the N10. I’d probably prefer the Surface Pro over both if I had to choose a tablet but that’s not really a fair comparison xD. but still I find tablet horrible for productivity, especially considering I’m used to using good desktop PCs, so even find laptops relatively limited and uncomfortable. All things condiered I’d rather get an N7(check) and a good windows 8 laptop/ultrabook, with touchscreen maybe (soon hopefully :D).

  • HellG

    its really disturbing to see that amount of comments favoring the Surface because it has a keyboard and office!
    You pay more for OK screen, OK CPU/GPU, and OK operating system that is still not as good as the Normal Win8 that works in x86 systems and one of the worst walled garden eco system! don’t get me wrong i’m a die hard Windows Fan but this is getting ridiculous, for that amount of money you can get a good laptop with Intel i3 and great internals and a REAL keyboard a full windows experience rather than a tablet with limited apps locked down experience and you will never get any major updates (win 9 for example)and a rubbery keyboard! i thought android proved to people that closed eco systems are bad but it seems some people are still living in the past

    • Yeah, I find it incredibly bizarre that anyone’s buying it. Even moreso than the iPad mini, wait for a second (or third!) gen one. Windows RT is crap right now, it only becomes viable after Windows 8 has been out for 1-2 years.

      • Danster04

        What the hell are you talking about? It’s not viable because it’s new?? wtf? If we were to say that about every new products that were released we’d still be living in the 80s……

  • nexus 10 has a 10.055″ screen, not 10.6″, and it does not have a 2.0 GHz Exynos 5, it has a 1.7 GHz Exynos 5 (exynos 5250, to be specific)

    please fix, this bugs me lol (minor OCD)

    • sun wu

      no, it does not. It has dual-core A15 (1.5ghz) cpu

      • It has a dual core A15 architecture based Exynos 5 clocked at 1.7 GHz, model number Exynos 5250, its right of Google play and everywhere says what the specs are when it was announced

        • sun wu

          yes, you are right, i was mistaken, my apologies to all

          • no probs, everyone gets mistaken sometimes

  • Qliphah

    There are decent office apps for android. I use Kingsoft office and have only seen improvements over the past few months. I would say the excel is almost on par with office.

    As for the Surface and business use, if I want a 10″ tablet I’ll get a tablet with better specs for a lot less $$, if I need a keyboard I’ll get a laptop with much better specs and a full size keyboard and all the inputs I want for the same. The keyboard being offered with the Surface is a joke, more of a toy really. A 10″ keyboard is unusable for anyone wanting a PC input style. And with android 4.2’s new swype style input typing is becoming an archaic skill.

    • HunterGuy2

      The keyboard works great. I can type at about 80%-90% speed on the touch cover, and 100% on the type cover (in fact, the type cover keyboard beats some ultrabook keyboards I’ve tried).

      Anyway, it’s a tablet that does tablet’y things pretty well, and is capable of busting out heavier functionality once in a while when needed. The keyboard is there when you want it (e.g. typing up a long email or comment), and acts as any other protective cover when you don’t.

      • goonie

        What heavy things can it bust out? A presentation? My old TF101 did that. The keyboard is innovative, but IMO its a major drawback. I can not set it on my lap when I am trying to take notes in the auditorium. The TF101 can. You have to have a table to do this with the surface.

        • HunterGuy2

          Full featured, official MS Office counts as ‘heavy’ functionality for a tablet. As for the TF101, it’s a netbook with tablet software. Obviously it will do netbook’y things better, but at the cost of carrying around a netbook keyboard instead of a thin magnetic cover.

          By the way, I can type just fine on my lap with the Surface.

  • Bas
  • aCe manayan


  • sun wu

    you got your specs a bit wrong. 1) according to google’s nexus 10 webpage it has dual-core a15 (1.5ghz) CPU and max built-in memory of 32gb 2) surface has 64gb max built-in memory and a card slot for unspecified max size of micro-sdxc card (most likely 64gb max). imho the most important issue with the surface’s os is if microsoft fixed the issue with wifi configs and settings, that is if static ip setting and advanced wifi security protocols are supported. if not then the surface is a useless pice of s***. imho the important issue with the nexus 10 is how much battery power it would use for rendering/upscaling low-res video-files for its hi-res display

    • sun wu

      correction: my bad, the n10’s cpu is actually clocked at 1.7

  • goonie

    My opinion if I want to get “real” work done I want it to be as far away from metro as possible. The updates that MS made to 7 are ground breaking, but its held back by the Metro dead weight. This leads me to RT. RT is the future of Windows a locked down environment where only MS says what can run on the tablet. Ill pass and take my Nex10 anyday. I have my 1000 set aside for the whole family. I get the 4 and 10 wifey gets the 7 unless I like the 7 more :) My kid gets the old 7 everybody is happy.

  • I have a galaxy tab 10.1 (IO edition) and a Surface RT – I use them both very differently. The tab i use on the sofa for twitter, browsing email and web. And my kids use it a lot fo games.

    I’ve yet to use the surface without the type cover, its basically a very very good netbook. I’m not worried about the number of apps in the store, are the apps I use in the store – and for the most part its almost there now.

    The surface is a valid laptop replacement for chuck in the bag use – the tab is a great casual device.

  • LawdNikon

    Wow, this is actually an unbiased review. Dont see that too often on tech blogs. Good job :)

  • Zach

    Surface sucks, the entire thing is a joke. microsoft is dying, we all know that. win 8 is stupid, it is as bad as vista! microsoft will NEVER be able to go mobile, look at windows phone and tell me its good without laughing.