Thursday, November 8, 2012

Scratching the Surface

*Editor's Note* I'm not a tech reviewer, heck, I'm not even a good writer - I actually shortened this thing 3 it goes.....
Surface as a Laptop

When iPads first came out I couldn't really understand the point of tablet computers - you could have a far more powerful laptop for almost the same price and your iPhone(or smartphone) could do all the same things. I started to appreciate tablets while playing with various family members iPads at family functions - I really realized I wanted a tablet when I decided to get a new non-smart phone this Summer and buy a new desktop PC this Winter. I wanted to have some kind of mobile computing so when news broke that Microsoft was releasing a tablet I started to pay attention. I've always had a love/hate relationship with Microsoft - but faults and all I still prefer Windows to Mac OS. It probably comes down to what you're used to and I've had PC's since Windows 3.1 - no different(or less intense) than the debate between Canon and Nikon. 

Anyways, after reading multiple reviews of tablets running Google's Android(everything said they were no iPads) I decided I was going to get the Surface RT when it came out - in fact I bought it on the release day at the Microsoft Store in Beachwood. I was told on the phone to be prepared to wait in line to get one - I asked the lady if I drove all the way up there(on my lunch break no less) would there be any left - "yes, but I would hurry". Microsoft had been hyping this release like crazy and even offering a year free of XBox Music for the first 100 customers at each store. When I arrived there was no line, I must have even been one of the first 100 customers because I got the free Music. The salesman kept trying to explain the Surface's features to me - I finally just said, "I knew how to use DOS I think I'll be able to handle a touchscreen - I'll take it."

Surface as a Tablet
My Experience 
I bought the 32 gigabyte model with the black Touch Cover(a flat keyboard/screen cover). The thing feels amazing in the hand, all quality, like you holding something expensive and well-made. This may not seem important but I remember when I switched from a plastic Canon Rebel XT to my magnesium Canon 7D how holding something that felt like a high spec/expensive/well-made device added to the experience. The design is great(the built in kick stand coupled with the keyboard turn it into a laptop real quick) but the hardware is even more impressive. HDMI out, integrated USB port, micro SD slot for memory expansion, and a very nice display. The numbers show that the iPad 2 has a better screen but from my experience there is nothing lacking resolution-wise with the Surface screen. The 16:9 aspect ratio(on a 10.6 inch screen) is nice too - no black bars when watching videos! I find myself bringing this thing all over the house with me - on my footstool for listening to music while I read the paper, in the kitchen with NPR on while I cook, one final social network check on the nightstand before I got bed - not to mention that you can be running multiple apps at once. By swiping across the screen you can switch between all the apps that are running without shutting them down. I also love that the icons or 'tiles' on the start screen are live - they show you the latest updates without having to open the full app.  The touch screen is extremely responsive - A software company has made an impressive piece of hardware indeed.  

The Criticisms 
I've been reading many of the reviews since I've owned mine to see what other people's experience has been and I want to take on some of the common criticisms. 
1. Not enough apps 
Windows 8 and RT just launched and already have more apps than iOS or Android at their launch and its hard to believe that the Surface(and Windows 8) will be such a flop that app developers won't develop new apps for Windows right along with their iOS and Android counterparts - unless they hate money I guess. ...and there are over 13,000 apps - I've only downloaded about ten so far so I have a ways to go until I'm bored. If you're someone who needs a specific app this moment and it hasn't been released yet for Windows then hold off I guess - for everyone else this simply isn't a problem. 
2. Not full Windows 8 
The Surface RT does not run the full version of Windows 8 - it runs Windows RT(thus the name). Its a locked down system where apps can only be downloaded from the Windows store. This criticism doesn't even make sense. The iPad doesn't run the full version of Mac OS - it runs iOS - Apple's mobile operating system. Android is a mobile operating system. The critics say you should wait for the Surface Pro which will run Windows 8(and probably cost twice as much)- so they are comparing the RT to something that doesn't even exist yet - in fact they are comparing it to something that Microsoft is inventing!  "Don't buy this year's Chevy Cruze because next year's Corvette is gonna be awesome!!" Dumb. 
3. Not snappy enough 
I can't really say on this one without ever having used a Galaxy or many of the other competing tablets - but I've barely experienced any lag when clicking on apps - and most of the lag could be explained by the internet connection. Still, some reviews say its not as fast as an iPad - ok, its fast enough for me.
4. STEEP learning curve 
I've read countless times about the 'learning curve' it takes to use the new Windows. on the tile and the app opens. That's not much of a learning curve to me. There are a few swiping motions that aren't obvious but a few sentences in the 'getting started pamphlet' explain these to you. Also you can revert to the more classic 'desktop' of old Windows if you want too - which is a good time to mention that the Surface has a file management system which the iPad doesn't. I also heard about a learning curve using the touch cover - if you can type on a touch screen you can type on this - all without losing any screen real estate.  They always mention that the browser bar in Internet Explorer is now at the bottom of the screen - oh the humanity!  How can anyone ever get used to that!

Microsoft Surface RT Round Up 
As the title implies I'm just 'scratching the surface' - I haven't even mention that it comes with Microsoft Office yet. The Surface RT is exactly what I need it to be - the internet and my files on the go or around the house. The other features are just bonuses. As time goes on I imagine more software(apps) will make it all the better.  Is this the best tablet ever - I don't know - but the fact is that I am very happy with it and it will sync with my next desktop computer.  There is always something better around the corner and personal preferences play a big role in all reviews - in my opinion Microsoft did something really right here.  


mikeb1212 said...


Tim Fitzwater said...

I did forget to mention that the cameras are really bad....personally I wouldn't be carrying this around for photography but if you plan do some shooting with a tablet the ipad's camera is far better.