The Surface RT reviews round up

If you read my other posts, you may understand that the Microsoft experiment has me quite intrigued. I will have to change one of my PCs quite soon so I'm doing some research. I'd like to jump on the tablet/hybrid wagon and, for now, both Android and iOS are out of the question as they can't substitute a full laptop yet.

The fact that the Surface was produced by Microsoft itself along the software makes it one of the most interesting choices, so I did a tour of the reviews around the net about to decide if it's time to buy it or to wait for the full Windows 8 version. Just for clarity, prior to the readings the opinion was to wait. Did I change my mind?
Let's start by saying that most of the reviewers agree on some main points so, excluding the case everyone is under effect of the same drug, we can have a quite precise picture of what the Surface RT brings so the table.


Everybody agrees that the VaporMg chassis is beautifully crafted, the kickstand is solid and well made, the port selection is better that anything the competition has to offer. On this point I think that a full sized USB alone is the deus ex machina of all file transfer problems on tablets.


Although most reviewers point out that the resolution of the screen (1366x768) is not the best around the quality of the screen is good with high contrast, very low glare and software tweaks, like TrueType rendering, mostly make up for the lack of pixels. The touch is responsive but all articles point out minor glitches.

Wired made a blind test using the Surface and iPad3 screens and most people preferred the Microsoft display watching video while everyone chose the iPad for reading. That is consistent with the low glare of the Surface, that is particularly noticeable watching a movie, and the higher resolution of the Retina display that is best for reading.


The TouchCover and the TypeCover are very good keyboards even though they need a bit of a learning curve. TechCrunch Matt Burns points out in fact that the Surface would be incomplete without one of the two covers when you want to really make use of the increased productivity that Windows RT brings to the tablet/hybrid.

Another issue that comes out is the fact that the tablet plus cover is not suited for small spaces, as it takes almost 10" of space to accommodate it, and not flat surfaces because the setup wouldn't be stable. So writing comfortably on a plane or on a sofa could be quite difficult.


If the hardware of the Surface satisfied most columnists, the software didn't.

Everybody agrees that, although Windows RT bring unprecedented productivity to the tablet space, the lack of apps for the platform is a deal breaker. As you may know, legacy Windows apps won't work on Windows RT as they should be completely rewritten for the ARM architecture. So you have the few apps in the Windows Store and the desktop apps that Microsoft provides (i.e. Office).

Opinions are quite divided about the double experience of Metro and traditional Desktop. While the most power user oriented sites appreciate the presence of the desktop, the more consumer oriented ones argue that it should be eliminate altogether. Since you can't install apps on the desktop in Windows RT, a better integration of Office and better surfacing of the settings in the Metro interface (pardon, Modern UI) would make the presence of the desktop superfluous.

Lastly the video experience is considered bad as the Media player lacks support for formats and codecs. Mkv is unknown and even some Avi files can not be played.


This is the part in witch the opinions are less consistent. Even if all reviews point out some performance issues there's no total agreement. Anyway the most recurrent issues are apps startup times, app switching slowdowns and Internet Explorer 10/Flash performance.

Regarding Internet Explorer, while The Verge reports a generally good performance with minor glitches, most other reviewers are not happy with the browser that seems slow in page loading and quite problematic with flash, as pointed out by CNet. On the other end The Verge, in the same article, laments bad performance with the mail app. All IE problems could be considered minor if it wasn't for the fact that, for now, there are no Windows RT alternative browsers to get rid of IE!


The punch line is that I didn't change my mind and I'll wait for the Surface Pro with full Windows 8 or some alternative that will become available in the meantime. Despite the positive reviews, everyone agrees that while the Surface offers more than a simple tablet it isn't enough to throw your laptop in the trash.

As I pointed out in my previous post I think the entrance of Microsoft in the tablet/convertible space is the key of all their future strategy. The plan is a very clever one but it needs perfect execution on Microsoft's part and this launch is all but perfect. A much better choice would have been launching  full Windows 8 and Surface Pro (with legacy app support) to gain traction and expand the app ecosystem, than launch Windows RT and the Surface RT.

No comments:

Post a Comment