I purchased a Microsoft Surface RT back on Day One, pre-ordered actually before the Oct. 26th release, and have enjoyed it ever since. For the most part, my Surface RT has replaced my iPad except for one app and that is for the use of RSA SecurID which I can now access from my Windows Phone. Things I have done with the Surface RT can be done with an iPad, but in many cases tasks that require lots of typing are much easier on the Surface with the use of the touch cover.
My iPad 3 64GB version cost $699 without a cover and no external keyboard or stand. If you want a keyboard, you can buy covers that have a keyboard in them starting at aboput $89 which typically do not have a trackpad area. No MicroSD card support.
My Surface RT 64GB version cost $699 with a touch cover that has a trackpad area and has a built in stand. The Surface RT 64GB without a cover is $599. Support for MicroSD cards up to 64GB.
With my Surface RT, I have
- Started writing a book that is being authored in MS Word
- Played a number of Xbox Live games (Taptiles and Where's My Water can be addicting at times)
- Listened to my music collection as well as free streaming of music via Xbox Music for hours
- Watched hours of TV shows and movies from the Netflix and Hulu Plus apps while on my treadmill
- Experienced full Flash websites such as Webkinz just to see how well those sites worked
When it was first announced and even to this day, many have balked at the Surface RT as simply another device and did not take the time to understand exactly what Microsoft was attempting to do. Out of the gate, it did not have the apps that devices running Android or iOS had so many gave it little to no chance at all but those devices did not have stellar libraries of apps near the start of their life either. Anyways, Microsoft was not just releasing another device, but a device that was part of an ecosystem that they were beginning to lay the ground work for.
In my honest opinion, Microsoft has failed to explain what the difference is between their Surface products and the versions of Windows to their customers. They have not tried enough to show how they align against Apple's product family, nor what their devices can do. Singing and dancing is eye catching, but it does not focus on the things people need to use a computer or mobile device for. Here is how I see things as they align with Apple's products:
Apple's product compared to Microsoft's product
- iPad (runs iOS) = Surface RT (runs Windows 8 RT)
- AirBook (runs Mac OS X) = Surface Pro (runs Windows 8 Professional)
Microsoft Windows RT is similar to Apple iOS, which both are designed for mobile devices. The devices that run these operating systems are often used to read books, compose emails, take notes while in a meeting, watch videos, listen to music, and play games. A mobile device commonly does not replace the functionality of a desktop or laptop because of their processing limitations and lack of business software, one can of course argue this fact with cloud computing but not everyone can stay connected 24/7 yet.
Many in the industry have unfairly compared the Surface RT to what it is not, and that is a laptop such as an AirBook or MacBook. Windows RT runs a mobile OS, in which the AirBook and MacBooks run a desktop OS. To be fair, you have to really compare the Surface RT to an iPad which cannot run applications designed for a desktop OS, thereby you cannot run legacy applications such as Adobe Photoshop or AutoCAD on your iPad. Sure there are apps on the iPad that give you some of the functionality of legacy applications such as AutoCAD WS, Pages, Adobe Photoshop Express, but you cannot simply pull out your install DVDs and install the software you might have invested hundreds or thousands of dollars in.
At the end of the day, consumers are confused as to what Microsoft is trying to do by offer two different Windows platforms and what advantage each offers over the other. This was evident by a trip last week to my local Best Buy when I was on the search for a Windows Surface Pro with 128GB of RAM. Employees almost seemed overwhelmed by the number of people interested in the devices and not really sure how to explain things to the customer.
Here are points of interest based on my experience with the Surface RT:
- Battery life is around 8 hours or more based on what you are doing.
- If you are primarily using it as a tablet, you will not need the type or touch cover but they are excellent accessories if you plan to use the MS Office applications though.
- Comes with an installed version of MS Office that is designed for Windows RT which contains Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. This version does support most of the functionality that you will find in the full MS Office suite with the exception of Outlook, Access, and creating VBA macros.
- Does have a Desktop mode so you can manage your files just like in Windows 8.
- Does not support DRM for videos because it does not have Windows Media Player, which I feel is a mistake on Microsoft's part. However, I can display play my MP4 video files without any problem.
- Offers a USB port which you can use to plug-in an external DVD player or hard drive/thumb drive to transfer data files, plu in a full size keyboard or mouse, or even an Xbox controller for games that support it, and other USB devices.
- MicroSD card slot allows you to expand the amount of storage available.
- Utilizes your Windows single login, so your settings move from desktop to Surface and so on.
- SkyDrive is an integral part of the Surface experience as it is installed by default and helps you extend the available drive space.
- Snapped states do make it possible to have two applications open at a time.
- 16x9 screen is nice for watching your videos, Netflix, and Hulu Plus.
- Does support video out using a dedicated port, you can buy a HDMI or VGA connector for your Surface. I have used both and they seem to work just fine based on the limited video resolution options that are available. Netflix on my 42" HDTV from the Surface seemed to worked well for what I think was non-HD source to begin with. I have also used the VGA with my 27" computer monitor and had no problems.
- While the size is a plus for watching videos and playing games, it does take a bit of getting used to though for reading eBooks. Holding the device in portrait mode seems a bit awkward because of its size, but horizontal works just fine. The Kindle app does allow you to compress the margins so you are not reading across the whole screen which is very nice.
- Browsing the Internet can be done via Internet Explorer from the Start Screen which seems to have some compatibility issues with older websites, but the desktop Internet Explorer seems to have much better support for older sites and sites that require Adobe Flash. So unlike iOS, Windows RT can display Flash content which is a huge plus for sites that still rely on that technology.
- Wireless printing is supported, my HP Printer that was connected to the WiFi was found and installed will little to no effort at all.
- Connects to your Xbox via the Surface application so you can navigate your Xbox dashboard and play media.
As I have used the device and others saw it in action, I began to form an opinion as to who might be the best user for a Surface RT. Here is what I came up with:
- High school and college students that need to access the Internet and write term papers, but also want something smaller and have a longer battery life than a laptop.
- Users who already have a desktop or laptop, and want something smaller when traveling or commuting from home to the office. It is also great as a secondary machine for the family since the IE browser is compatible with sites that have Flash unlike an iPad, and it offers most of the functionality in MS Office that many will use.
- Gamers that want to increase their Gamerscore on the go can play Xbox Live games from the Windows Store and enhance their experience with the Surface integration with their Xbox.
The Surface RT is not ideal for those that
- Are looking to replace their current desktop or laptop.
- Need to run legacy applications such as AutoCAD or Adobe Photoshop.
In the end, you need to choose what device is best for you and your family's needs. If you are in the market for a new and fresh experience, be sure to check out the Microsoft Surface. Very early on, it was available only through Microsoft's online and retail stores. This was an excellent way to bring it to the market, but not to the masses. Recently, Microsoft has partnered up with Best Buy and Staples to get the products in the hands of more potential buyers.
I hope this article was of interest to you.