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An inside look at Microsoft's Surface RT

A behind-the-scenes look at the labs where Microsoft designed its first-ever Windows PC, plus an inside look at the device itself.
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Topic: Hardware
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1 of 9 Ed Bott/ZDNet

200 custom parts

Although the finished product is virtually seamless, the Surface RT actually consists of more than 200 separate parts. The following pages provide a closer look at those parts and how they were designed and built.

All images courtesy of Microsoft.

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2 of 9 Ed Bott/ZDNet

​Teardown

This detailed breakdown shows the many parts that go into the Surface RT. The 10.6-inch ClearType HD screen is a custom design. The plastic parts in the center of this photo are large scale models of the tiny hinges that control the kickstand.

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3 of 9 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Wi-Fi antennas

The two tiny antennas shown here illustrate the careful engineering that went into the Surface. The two antennas are designed so holding the device doesn't block the signal. In addition, two RF windows improve reception.

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4 of 9 Ed Bott/ZDNet

​In the design studio

Surface designers built more than 300 prototypes from start to finish, starting with a crude model made from a book, cardboard, and Scotch tape.

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5 of 9 Ed Bott/ZDNet

​Human factors

The keyboard design template here was an integral part of the design process. Hundreds of test subjects laid their hands on similar templates to help researchers gather data that resulted in the final Touch Cover keyboard layout.

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6 of 9 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Printing in plastic

Many of the pieces in the Surface were prototyped using 3-D printers that created precision parts for testing.

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7 of 9 Ed Bott/ZDNet

The Model Lab

This Computer Numerated Control (CNC) machine is the star of the Surface team's model lab. It allowed them to build and test finished parts, then send the specs to China for manufacturing to the same tolerances.

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8 of 9 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Reliability testing

A custom-made shaker simulates the action of opening and closing the Touch Cover millions of times, far more than even the most obsessive customer will ever do.

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9 of 9 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Operational security

The building that houses the Surface design and engineering teams, Studio B, operates under extraordinary security. Many areas are windowless, and the most sensitive areas are guarded and require access through controlled spaces.

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