With Christmas coming soon, I've started thinking about gift options, and I think this year my mom, sister and I want to chip in together and get my dad a new portable computing device. He has not gotten a new computer since probably the late 90's/early 00's, and he never asks for anything for Christmas. My entire family now has MacBook Pros (except him), and we can tell that he sort of wishes he had one, too. Unfortunately, money is tight at the moment and MacBooks are expensive...the cheapest option available on Apple's site is a refurbished Core 2 Duo Air with Mountain Lion installed for about $670. I am all for buying refurbished Apple products, as they are generally good as new, but that's still pretty pricey for somewhat dated hardware. The next option up is a refurb Core i5 Air for about $750, which would be fine but it's still the 11" model and my dad has pretty big hands/is getting older- I am not sure the keyboard will fit him or that he'll be able to see what he is working on. The cheapest viable option I can think of would be the 13" Core i5 Air for about $920 but that's getting pretty expensive.
My dad is pretty much over Windows as an OS (he has had a lot of trouble in the past), so I'd like to leave a cheap Windows laptop as the last possible option, though the recently released Surface seems like it could fit the bill perfectly. As someone who has not had a chance to fiddle with one yet, it looks sleek and capable (and supposedly comes preinstalled with Office?), and the keyboard/screen cover is a neat feature. On the MS website they've done a pretty terrible job of advertising what comes with the Windows RT device. Does anyone know what comes in the $499 package? Is the keyboard/cover included? How about Office applications? Is the device even worth the price? My father needs something that will allow him to browse the web, respond to emails, and work on Word/Excel files without hassle (which makes me think the iPad is out of the question), and the simpler the interface, the happier he will be. Can anyone here attest to the quality of the Surface or the usefulness of 11" vs. 13" MacBook Airs? Or even the iPad as a proper computer replacement?
Thanks very much for the help!