I pre-ordered a Surface RT as soon as they went on sale October 16. I went with the 32 GB model to keep costs down, and with a 64 GB Micro SD on order as well, I didn’t think space would be an issue. Add a red Touch Cover for some color, a couple video adapters, and the order was complete. Then the not-so-long wait until it arrived on Friday. I unboxed it at home that night, set things up, and started putting it through its paces.
There are a hundred blog posts out there about people and their Surface RT, and I’m not going to go into everything they covered. You’ve probably read all of the ones I’ve seen and more. It seems most people are quite happy, some even seem surprised that they are. A few aren’t and are planning to return their purchases. I’m firmly in the first camp. The Surface RT is everything I hoped it would be. It isn’t perfect, but it is darn near as close as anything I’ve seen. Especially for a v1 product. The people on the Surface team should be proud of what they accomplished.
Full disclosure: I paid for this out of my budget at work. I also plan on ordering a Surface Pro as soon as they are available as well. My current mobile device suite is made up of the aforementioned Samsung Series 7 Slate (with Windows 8), a 16 GB iPad 2, and a Windows Phone (HTC Trophy). My plan is for the RT to replace the iPad, the Pro to replace the Samsung, and I really want a Nokia Lumia 92x but since I’m on Verizon I may have to settle for an HTC 8x. Why have both an RT and a Pro? I see the RT as my personal, at home device, whereas the Pro will be my work laptop for when I need domain access, desktop apps, and all the things that RT can’t do. Could I get away with just a Pro? Perhaps, but I need to see if the Pro can offer the same battery life that the RT has. Plus, I’m able to have both thanks to work, so why not?
More Full Disclosure: I’m a fan of Microsoft and their products, so I may be predisposed to like the Surface and Windows 8/RT. I’m not a zealot about these things; I do own an iPad after all. I’m sure this isn’t a surprise to anyone, but I wanted to make sure it was out there.
With that out of the way, back to my thoughts on the Surface RT.
- The kickstand works exactly as advertised. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a substantial piece of metal on a mobile device. Very solid and the angle is just right. I know some people of the taller persuasion have had issues with the webcam being aimed at their chest instead of their face, but without an adjustable kickstand, not sure what else they can do other than push the Surface back a few inches. I’m guessing that making kickstand adjustable would have been a challenge. Maybe Surface v2 will offer that capability.
- The widescreen looks great and works great with a docked app. If you know me. You can probably guess that I usually have a Twitter app docked to one side. One of my complaints with the iPad is the inability to have more than one app on the screen at the same time. Nice to see Microsoft recognized the utility of being able to do this.
- Battery life is great. I left it on the charger Friday night, and have been using it on that charge all weekend. Now, I haven’t been using it heavily, but I also didn’t shut it down last night as I would have with my Slate. I let it go to sleep on its own and left it that way overnight and during the day when I wasn’t using it. Right now I’m at 36%. I can’t really give an estimate of how many hours of usable life, but it seems like I’ll be able to get through the day easily. Which is more than I can say for my iPad since I upgraded to iOS 6.
- The Touch Cover lives up to the promises. I’m amazed that something so thin works so well as a keyboard. I’m using it now to write this post and it is so much better than a virtual keyboard it isn’t funny. I don’t lose any screen real estate to the onscreen keyboard for one thing. I don’t touch type very often; I’m more of a hybrid of touch typing and hunt and peck. Much faster and more accurate for me. I do tend to overtype a bit, moving too fast for the keyboard to keep up, but it happens less often than I expected. I’m trying to slow my typing a bit, and it helps quite a bit. I have a feeling the Type Cover will help with that. I plan to order one with the Pro.
- The connection between the Touch Cover and the Surface is solid. So much so, you can hold the cover and shake it quite vigorously without the Surface detaching. You definitely can’t do that with the iPad’s Smart Cover. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the iPad slide out of my hand and be left with the cover in my hand and the iPad on the floor. It has the dents to prove it.
- Having Office on a tablet is wonderful. If anything will tip people towards getting a Windows RT device over an iPad, I think it will be Office. I know there is an expectation that Office will show up on the iPad and iOS, but doing so gives up a huge advantage. I have a feeling Microsoft is waiting to see how things go over the next few months before making a decision.
- Printing worked perfectly without any setup. It recognized my network printer here at home, and I printed without any issues.
There are some annoyances.
- Windows goes to sleep even when video is playing in an app. See my blog post about the issue for more details. I imagine the app developers missed something in their code that would tell Windows it isn’t idle, but I’m not a developer, so I’m only guessing.
- The AC adapter is a reasonable size, but I’m not crazy about the power connector. I feel like I have to futz with it more than I should to connect it. Maybe it’ll get easier with practice.
- I wish the Touch Cover would stay closed against the screen like the iPad Smart Cover does. Touch Cover lies flat, but you have to hold it closed. Minor issue, but it would make the cover perfect (b my criteria anyway).
- There’s no central notification area to see all of your app notifications. Rod Trent (@rodtrent) tweeted about this, and I have to agree. iOS has this and it is handy to be able to see in one place everything your apps have been trying to tell you about.
- Apps… Obviously it will take time, but I’d like to see more apps in the Store. Who wouldn’t? Most of my immediate needs are covered, but it would be great to get a Cisco AnyConnect client for one. Outlook 2013 is another one I’d like to see, but if not, Mail and OWA meet my needs. With the Windows 8 launch behind us now, I expect we’ll see more and more apps make their way to the Store. Keeping my fingers crossed.
I expect as continue to use the Surface RT more, I’ll come up with additional “likes” and “dislikes” but for now, these will have to do. Until then, what do you think? How do you like your Surface so far?
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I wrote and posted this blog post using Word 2013. I’m not sure I want to use it as my primary blog editor, but it was much better than I expected. See Enrique Lima’s (@enriquelima) blog post for details. He sets it up to work with GeekswithBLogs, but it’s pretty straightforward how to configure it for the other supported platforms.