Microsoft’s Surface tablet is finally in stores Friday, months after consumers got their first look at it.

The Surface tablet has gotten high praise from reviewers who say its clean lines and solid build are a joy to use.

To recap, the tablet starts at $499 with 32GB of storage but not the keyboard cover. For $599, you can pick up that same tablet with a black cover; for $699 you get 64 GB and a black cover. If you’re hankering after a touch-type cover that’s not black, it will cost you another $110. If you want the more substantial cover withmoving keys, you’ll have to pony up another $129.99.

The keyboard cover is almost a necessity for the device, particularly if you want to use it for content creation. You can navigate without it, obviously, but will get far less from your tablet .

Unlike the iPad, this tablet also has ports — USB and HD video out, plus a micro SDXC card slot — which means you can hook it up to things you probably have already like a mouse or a flash drive.

The software on the tablet, however, has made reviewers more hesitant, and should be something you should consider.

The Surface tablets being released Friday run Windows RT, which shares a lot elements with the Windows 8 operating system but can only run apps from the Windows app store. It does come with a version of Office for home and students written for Windows RT — actually, a preview version that will be updated in a few weeks — but that doesn’t include Outlook.

Other programs for the tablet will come from the Windows Store, Microsoft’s app marketplace. It has a decent number of applications for a launch lineup, including the all-important entertainment options such as Netflix and Hulu Plus.

Before you take the plunge and buy the Surface , it’s important that you understand the difference between this operating system and the computer operating system that Microsoft is launching Friday, Windows 8. Window RT can’t run programs from Windows 7 or earlier — Microsoft will be releasing a tablet that runs the full version of Windows “soon.”

The RT version is best for people who aren’t going to use the tablet primarily for work and want a faster, more mobile experience. If you want to replace your laptop, it can’t hurt to wait until Microsoft unveils the Windows 8 Pro version of the tablet to compare and decide.

If you must have a Surface today, head to a Microsoft store. There are two in the Washington area — one at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and one at the Tysons Corner Center. Given the new operating system, it’s probably best to test it out before you buy to make sure you like the navigation.

Otherwise, you can try ordering one of the tablets online. As of Friday morning, Microsoft’s Web site gave a 3-week shipping estimate for the devices.

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