10 Must-have Gadgets for the 2012 Holiday Season

Microsoft Surface
A Microsoft Surface design team member shows off the new tablet at a news conference in the summer of 2012. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News

Microsoft has made a big splash in the tablet computer pond with the Surface. You can use the Surface strictly as a tablet with a touch-sensitive 10.6-inch (27-centimeter) screen. Or you can magnetically attach the Touch Cover, a piece of plastic that's both a detachable cover and a keyboard. Prop the Surface on a table or your lap and the ultra-thin "touch" keys offer the typing convenience of a notebook computer (you can also choose the Type Cover with more traditional raised keys).

The Surface runs on Windows RT, a version of Windows 8, the latest Microsoft OS. With up to 64 gigabytes of storage, it's a powerful on-the-go computer. Critics have been impressed by the thin magnesium alloy chassis, which gives the pad rigidity. The high-quality feel is enhanced by a tough, thin layer of magnesium deposited on the surface [source: Branscombe].

There are a lot of tablet computers on the market, but the Surface is running at the head of the pack, even competing with the more expensive Apple iPad. And it comes in five colors, to boot.