I recently purchased the brand new Microsoft Surface RT tablet running Windows RT. This is my first tablet running Windows (I have previously had an Apple iPad and Google Nexus 7) and I thought it needed a blog post about my first week with my new toy…
Surface RT One Week Later…
What I Bought
I went for the bottom-of-the-range 32GB Surface RT without the touch cover. This costs £399 from the Microsoft Store and initially I chose not to get the one with the keyboard because none of my other tablets had external hardware keyboards and foolishly I thought I could live without it; more on that later.
You can order the 32GB with a touch cover for £479 or if you’re feeling like you need some extra storage you can go for the 64GB with touch cover for £559. If you don’t think 64GB is enough for you, remember that you can expand the storage in the Surface RT with a MicroSD card up to an additional 64GB!
I have been running Windows 8 for some time now through work, so the new UI was not completely new for me. I have never really used Windows 8 with a touch enabled device though, so experiencing it on the Surface RT was something I’d been looking forward to since it was announced earlier in the year. It just works. That’s about the best thing I can say.
I have lots of friends and family who know where I work, and expect me to be nothing but the good evangelist about Microsoft; however, I can honestly say that the new UI is really, really easy to get to grips with. The proof? My girlfriend.
We’d gone to visit a friend of mine last week and while he and I went to walk his dog we left her at home (it was very cold and very wet). She’s a die-hard Apple customer with an iPhone and iPad in tow but I’d brought my Surface RT along because it is pretty much glued to my hand. After we left she had real trouble getting her iPad to connect to his WiFi but she knew that I’d created her an account on my Surface, so having never used Windows 8 before she managed to log on using her picture password, connect it to the WiFi, install a bunch of apps from the store, and arrange her tiles how she likes them. She even ordered us pizza!
Setting up multiple accounts was easy and each user can log in with their Microsoft account to sync their settings across devices. Picture passwords making unlocking the device simple, but you can opt for a traditional password or PIN if you prefer.
I spend 99% of my time in the desktop environment on my work laptop. I run any older apps I need, and use my laptop just like any other. When I’m on my Surface RT I spend almost 99% of my time in the modern apps – I could forget the desktop even existed. Microsoft Office comes installed with the OS so I jump back to the desktop if I need to do some word processing (like writing this blog post) and I can save those files straight to SkyDrive or to a memory stick or just onto the device.
Snapping apps to the side of the screen is incredible. I can have an app like Skype or Xbox Music open on one side of the screen, and be doing something else on the other:
I’m a big SkyDrive user, and the ability to access all my documents and photos with practically no configuration was a really smooth experience as I sign into my Surface with my Microsoft Account; you just run the apps and your data is there. I’m also a big Office 365 user both personally and professionally and I can easily access my data in SharePoint Online on the device, too. There is even a Lync app in the store which works really well with the built in cameras. I’ve started leaving my laptop at my desk (and it’s a portable laptop – Lenovo X220, it usually comes with me everywhere) in favour of taking the Surface to meetings and making use of the OneNote, Lync and Mail apps to keep connected to my work when away from my desk.
A few of my colleagues have the Samsung 9 series laptops with the external dongle for connecting to VGA and I noticed that the port looks pretty similar to the one on my Surface so I decided to see if it was compatible – it is! Running a PowerPoint slide show from my Surface is really easy, and with the addition of the Wireless Presenter Mouse I can control my deck while being able to walk around the room at the same time.
I said earlier that I didn’t go for the touch cover. To be clear, you don’t need the cover in order to be able to type on the device; far from it. There is a fantastic on-screen keyboard that is great for tweeting and other short bursts of typing. For longer stretches I can connect my wireless keyboard but I don’t always have that with me. I quickly became envious of those who had the cover and almost overnight decided that it was #1 on my Christmas list. It’s just nice to have a cover for the device, and a physical keyboard on the go.
There’s a lot I could say about the Surface RT. There’s lots I want to say but at this point in time it’s likely to come out as a ramble so I’ll finish up with a summary of the things I love and things I love less. If you can get your hands on a Surface RT give it a go and be prepared to order one pretty soon afterwards because I’m sure you’ll like it just as much as I do.
Things I Love
- The kick-stand
- Windows 8
- The screen
- Battery life
- Compatibility with hardware (so far it works with my Arc Keyboard, Wireless Presenter Mouse, Lync headset, USB memory sticks, etc.)
- The feel (It feels like it is built to last, probably longer than me)
- Xbox Music
- The USB port and ability to output to HDMI and VGA (with appropriate dongle, of course)
Things I Love Less
- Not having the touch cover (it’s on my Christmas list)