As you may have gathered, I purchased the Surface while I was in NYC working the launch of Windows 8. Some people have asked me what I thought, so I decided to blog about it. In fact, I may start to blog about the Surface and Windows 8 weekly. A couple of things you need to know before I begin:
My job is of a promotional nature for Microsoft. But I am not employed by Microsoft.
I fall somewhere between a tech expert and the typical consumer. I like to do the stuff I like to do, and I don’t usually explore too far out of those bounds.
I am not being paid to write any blog posts and I was not given the Surface or Windows 8 to review, though I have, as a part of my job, been trained and introduced to Windows 8 and other Microsoft products and services in great detail.
And, finally, any opinions expressed are my own!!!!!!!! They may not represent the views of my employer and/or Microsoft
We cool? Ok, here are my thoughts after one week with the Surface
I love it. I really do. And I’ll spend most of this blog post telling you why. But first, some things you should know.
Currently the only Surface available is running Windows RT, not Windows 8. There will be a Windows 8 version released soon. What’s the difference? Not much, your experience (navigation, interface) is largely the same whether you’re talking RT or 8, but RT includes Office Home and Student 2013 RT, but you cannot install any other desktop applications (PhotoShop, browser other than Internet Explorer, etc). Why go with something with that kind of limitation, when 8 does NOT have that limitation (any program you’re running on Windows 7 will run on Windows 8, holla!)? Because RT devices run on an ARM processor, which means that they are lighter, thinner, and have a longer battery life, and much like smartphones they are instantly on and always connected. The price point tends to start lower as well (especially considering that your 4 major office programs are included!). If those reasons don’t draw you in and the limitations are too much, you might consider waiting for the Surface with Windows 8 Pro (coming soon), or another device with Windows 8 Pro (many available now).
Just like there will be another Surface running Windows 8, not RT, there are also other devices made by manufacturers like HP and Dell, etc. some running RT and some running 8. I won’t speak to those, but just so you know that the Surface isn’t the only option out there. Actually I’d say you have the more choices now than you’ll ever have whether you want something for your home or something portable.
But let’s get to the Surface. It starts at $499, but I paid $599 to include a black touch cover. My storage capacity is 32 GB, which I think is plenty for a portable device, but if I need to I can put in a 64GB micro SD card to hold photos or videos. I would have gotten 64 GB if I paid $699.
It’s 16:9 (widescreen) which I think is pretty versatile, it will rotate to portrait, which is not as versatile, but still useful occasionally. I’ve read a lot of reviews that talk about how the display is not that great and you can see pixels… I’ve never used a retina display so I can’t accurately compare, but I will say I’m very happy with the brightness and clarity of the display. But what I think is best about the screen is that it’s incredibly fluid. Having worked with a variety of touchscreens, some have a stickiness or friction to them that makes it hard to move around quickly. But the experience on the Surface is smooth and fluid, easy and fast.
The Touch Cover /keyboard
You don’t have to get the touch cover, but I’d highly recommend it. I don’t like to carry around an expensive tablet without some kind of protection for the screen, so the cover fills that role, but then there’s also the keyboard. I’ll be honest, it takes some time to get used to the keyboard, but I’m typing as quickly as I normally would now even though days 1 and 2 were a little rough, and let’s be honest, that’s true anytime you move from one type of keyboard to another. Even though the keys don’t click and depress like a normal keyboard (see the type cover if that’s what you want), if you have the volume on while you’re typing, it makes a satisfying click sound for each successful key. And just like the commercial shows, the touch cover clicks in magnetically and really easily.
It’s light and easy to carry around. I care less about the actual weight and more about the way it feels, which is comparable to a typical issue of a fashion magazine, so I’m good.
The battery life
When I bought the Surface at the Microsoft Store in Times Square, whenever someone asked about battery life the salesperson helping them would yell out, “What’s the battery life on the Surface???” and then all the salespeople would yell “ALL DAY!” “How long?” “ALL DAY!” And it turns out they’re right. As long as you’re not watching movies nonstop then you can go 12 hours without having to recharge. I was using it for 1-2 hours at a time throughout the day doing everything from watching videos, surfing the internet, browsing for and trying out new apps, creating basic word documents, and at 12 hours it shut down on me. I plugged it in and turned it on and got back to work. After 2 hours of charging (without working), it was back up to 100%. My one annoyance? When the touch cover is closed and you try to plug it in it’s a little tricky. It’s magnetic so it should be really quick and simple like the touch cover, but something about the angle when the touch cover is closed makes it hard. Open it up and it clicks in no problem.
They’re really driving home this feature and for good reason. No separate docking station to carry around, and when I want to be really productive it places the screen at perfect angle for typing with the touch cover. If I have a table I can set it up and easily set it up for reading or watching, but even right now, while I’m laying on my couch drafting this post, the kickstand keeps it propped up on my lap so I can type quickly and see clearly. And when I want to hold it like a book, there’s no problem because the kickstand folds in, almost undetectable.
Like any Windows 8/RT device it includes a desktop “app” for your familiar Windows experience. I’ve already mentioned that with the Surface (or any device) with Windows RT won’t be able to install other “desktop” applications (read: applications that don’t come from the Windows Store), but remember it comes with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, an OneNote! That’s, for the most part, all I need in the desktop experience, at least for an extremely portable device like this one, so I’m just happy it’s included! PLUS- and this may be the bigger perk to the desktop- it includes the file explorer (formerly windows explorer) we’re all used to. So when I create something in Word I can save it wherever I want on the drive. Or when I plug in a USB stick or external hard drive, I can immediately see what’s there. I don’t have to navigate some weird file reader and copy and paste from it in order to use the item, or do any weird syncing through another program. I can just plug it in and do what I need to do. It’s stupid that I think this is so amazing, all tablets should work this way.
Lots of beautiful, fun, built-in apps on the Surface (and on any Windows 8 or RT devices) including calendar (yes, it will sync with your Google calendar), mail, messaging, news, finance, sports, travel, and weather (probably the most underrated app) apps. Plus there’s also the camera, IE10, xbox video, music, and games, SkyDrive and the photos app (also underrated, it collects all your photos, not only from your pictures library but also from Facebook, Flickr, and SkyDrive, in one place) I really like all the built-in apps, so much so that they are going to get their own post, but you can also buy apps from the Windows Store. I’ve installed quite a few, all of them being free, which is a definite plus. As most reviewers are noting the number of apps available is not quite as robust as what you’d find on the iPad or on an Android tablet, and that’s true (side note, I understand how that’s a dealbreaker for some people, but Apple’s app store didn’t start at year 1 with the 700,00 apps that it has now. Actually the launch of the app store had about the same number of apps as the windows store has now. To expect that the Windows Store year 1 number would be comparable to the app store’s at year 4 is really weird to me.) But in terms of the apps that I use regularly on the iPad (yes I have an iPad… another post people) I have found the apps I want or viable replacements in all but 2-3 cases (again, another post). And I’m confident that developers of my favorite iPad apps will be making apps for Windows 8/RT, it just might take some time. That’s the hardship of an early adopter, folks.
Either way, I’m using my Surface to do much more than I was doing on the iPad, and I’m doing it more easily (again another post about my hour-long fights with iTunes and syncing).
Windows 8 features
Again, I could write a whole post about my love for Windows 8, but here’s the short version: The Guns and I can both use the Surface and have our own experience with our own settings and our own apps (again, stupid that I think this is awesome, this should be a feature of all tablets). I can run multiple apps at once and I can easily jump from one to another. I can do something in one app (view a link, edit a photo, etc.) and share it with another without leaving the app or doing some kind of copy and paste craziness.
I’m going to continue to write more about the Surface and Windows 8 (app recommendations, tips and tricks, etc.), but that’s long enough for now.
If you’re looking for an in depth review from someone much smarter and more experienced than me, check out this article where the author explains that the Surface is not quite a PC but much more than an iPad. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Feel free to comment with your own experiences or questions regarding the Surface or Windows 8/RT.