I’ll be the first to admit that I have gotten excited over the work that Microsoft has been doing lately so this is coming from someone with a newly found joy in using MS products. Also of note my device history:
- Motorola SLVR
- Palm Treo 680 PalmOS circa 2006 (my first smart device) – bought eBay 2007
- Blackberry circa 2005 (don’t recall model but it sucked and so far my only downgrade ever) – bought eBay 2009
- iPhone 3gs circa 2009 – bought AT&T 2009
- Samsung Focus circa 2010 – bought AT&T 2010 (gave my girlfriend my iPhone)
- HTC Titan circa 2011 – bought AT&T when the iPhone upgrade was up
- Windows 98 flea market build – bought 2001ish
- Windows XP custom build – bought 2003ish later to become an Ubuntu dev server in house
- Windows XP custom build – built 2006
- Upgraded(downgraded) to Vista on that machine with student discount in 2007 after a month switched to Ubuntu
- Solely Ubuntu Feisty Fawn and only used Windows when I had to for class
- Officially swore off MS and was loving Linux and my Palm Treo sometime in 2007
- 2009 Upgraded that old machine to Windows 7 after using it in my job and actually liking it
I currently use Windows 7 and 8 on a day to day basis. Along with OSX Snow Leopard on a weeklyish basis and my Linux box is in a closet:(. With Windows 7 and WP7 coming around I started to actually become a fan of MS products. Before I used them because it was there. When I realized I had a choice, I switched to Linux. There was also some FreeBSD and CentOS installs in there but they were short lived as I preferred Ubuntu. But enough of that, on to the Surface.
Enough cannot be said about the touch cover. It keeps my screen protected and provides a surface to lay my Surface on where I definitely don’t have to worry about scratches or anything. And on top of all of that it is a top notch performer when it comes to typing. I compare it to going from my Treo’s physical keyboard to the iPhone’s onscreen, although you don’t have to look at the keys like an onscreen. It is also nice that you get a lot of the typical large keyboard keys like volume, media controls, home, end, delete keys across the top as well as a couple of Windows 8 specifics like search, devices, share, and settings. The track pad works but is nothing new or exciting.
The screen as you know has a relatively low resolution but I can’t honestly say that it is any sort of hindrance, other than the amount of tiles you can have on the start screen. The picture looks great and fonts are crystal clear even when zoomed all the way in as I am right now while typing. I never thought to do this but it is actually kind of nice as it makes it extremely easy to see while typing and the screen automatically moves with the cursor when I get to the edge of the screen or start a new line. Oh hey I just found a fun feature for when I am writing these blogs. If a word is misspelled with the red squiggly under it, I can tap it and it gives me suggestions on a new spelling and it was correct. I also really like the 16:9 for a few reasons. Having a wider screen is great for when I am coding as I use the split screen but it is also great for movies and shows. When you flip it up into portrait (which I don’t do much) it is nice for Kindle books and long web pages to read.
Front and Rear Facing Camera on The Surface
They exist. There isn’t really anything to write about here other than they are there. They were clearly just made for video chat and they do a good job of it but you won’t want to be taking any pictures with them and not just because you look foolish. The angle on the back one is nice as my boss does fight with that a lot with his iPad and cover when trying to set it up for hands off use. (SIDE NOTE: I also just noticed that when I tap a misspelled word I have the option to ‘add to dictionary’)
Surface Ports, Kickstand, Buttons and General Physical Feel
Despite what people might say it is super nice to have a USB port on hand. You can charge your phone, plug in a mouse you have laying around, or plug in one of the 100 other USB devices you have. The headphone jack does what is expected and playing through headphones is surprisingly loud, luckily it automatically turns the volume down when you plug in. The speakers have good sound quality but are a bit quitter than I would like. I have yet to use my HDMI port but if I ever buy a cord that might change. I love the feel of the VaporMG and the kickstand is solid engineering. One thing that did surprise me is how well you can actually use this in your lap. To do so you have to have your lap fairly flat because at angles it obviously gets a bit dicey.
Software on Surface RT
Most of the software is nice but some of it is still a bit buggy. The Surface as is lacks a lot of great apps which I know is a bashers go to but at this point it can be a real turn off depending on your setup. As a web developer there isn’t a lot for me to work with on here currently but I actually find using the built in Windows RDP to be the best solution for that anyway as I don’t have to deal with file storage decisions or transfers or syncs, none of that because I am remoted into my development machine. However, I know that won’t be the case with everyone, and even I still need to setup my home VPN if I want to remote while away. The people, mail, and messaging hub can be slow and the messaging hub even failed to finish retrieving messages for me just a moment ago. Upon initial setup I even had to uninstall and reinstall these (they are a bundle) because my Facebook and Twitter stuff was stuck in limbo and wouldn’t actually sync.
Gestures, Charms, Menus, and Multitasking on the Surface RT
Like this keyboard I can’t possibly say enough but the Search Charm. One unified search for any app and the OS alike all a simple flick from the right away is brilliant and it works so well. It does take some getting used to though. Realizing that the Charms are for much more than just the OS is something that will grow on you but you will likely feel limited in a lot of apps until you realize that. One Charm that has so far been a love hate is the Device Charm. When I am listening to music and want to throw it up on the Xbox I just flick left | tap device | tap Xbox. And bam it is up on my Xbox in a few seconds. Sometimes it takes like 10-15 or so seconds which is a slight annoyance but the real problem has been with video. I can get video to work just find almost all the time but when it does mess up, like say it stops playing on the Xbox it sometimes won’t list the Xbox in my device list anymore. I have had to restart my Xbox to fix this one time. Flicking from the left to switch apps is ridiculously fast and I personally haven’t been able to force much lag unless I was switching with video and games and had a lot going on and even then we are talk 1-3 second lag.
To Wrap Things Up
I think that the Surface RT is a great product that needs more software for it. For me it has completely replaced a 17″ HP and a 10.1″ Eee PC though it couldn’t fully do this without the RDP so if RDP isn’t an option for you then you might want to look at the Yoga or MacBook Air, or wait for Surface Pro maybe. Obviously, all of those carry a bit higher price tag. Any review that just constantly rips on the Surface RT is either purely just looking for visits or bought a laptop/hybrid when they actually needed a toaster or something else completely unrelated.