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Ahoy, there! The Surface surfaces tonight

With a starting price of $499, Microsoft's Surface tablet will reach consumers in North America at 10 p.m. local time tonight.

Microsoft's new Surface tablet goes on sale tomorrow.
Microsoft's new Surface tablet goes on sale tomorrow.

Microsoft will finally test the waters of the tablet market as its new Surface goes on sale. More than 60 stores in North America will offer the tablet starting tonight at 10 p.m. local time.

The Surface RT, which Microsoft demonstrated at its Windows 8 event today, aims to stand out from the wave of other Windows 8 tablets due to hit the market.

Microsoft touted the contrast of the Surface tablet with its ClearView technology as one that reflects glare better than other screens. A Microsoft engineer recently played up the Surface display as superior to that of the iPad due in large part of the contrast -- despite the fact that Surface RT offers a resolution of 1366x768 compared with the iPad's 2048x1536. That's been a point of some debate, but Microsoft continues to back its Surface display as the winner.

Surface uses a flavor of Wi-Fi known as 2x2 Mimo, which transfers data over multiple streams to improve performance.

The tablet's thin 3-milimeter Touch Cover doubles as a cover and keyboard. The Touch Cover is intended to replace both a traditional keyboard and mouse as it includes its own touchpad. The cover's three magnets are designed to hold firmly to the tablet while remaining easy to disconnect.

Panos Panay, general manager of the Surface team, said that he can't see people using Surface without the Touch Cover. However, the entry-level Surface RT model sells for $499 without a Touch Cover, forcing buyers to spend an extra $120 if they want the cover.

Microsoft Surface RT will be available a starting price tag of $499 for the 32GB version sans Touch Cover. The same model with the Touch Cover will run $500, while a 64GB model with the Touch Cover goes up to $699. Separately, the Touch Cover sells for $120, and the tactile-feel Type Cover keyboard costs $130.

Correction at 7:50 a.m. PT October 26: The first name of general manager of the Surface team was incorrect. His name is Panos Panay.

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