Microsoft Surface RT – First Look

Surface 1I’ve been in need of a tablet PC since my old Windows XP Netbook met with a sad demise years ago.

Well, not “need”… “lusted for” would be a better way of expressing it.

For years I’ve used a variety of HTC smartphones to meet my portable browsing, reading and gaming needs and during that time I’ve drooled over the ever more powerful tablets that have become available.

With the release of Windows 8 – a dreaded down-powering for the power user or techie – came the announcement of a new Windows 8 based tablet to accompany the Windows 8 phones… The Surface.

Working on rumour alone, a Windows 8 phone or tablet would let me control my XBOX with new SmartGlass technology and would do everything that any other branded tablet would let me do.

Surface 2Except Flash, of course, and I’d be locked into Microsoft Apps instead of Google Apps or the maleficent iStore.

And so I decided I would get a Windows 8 device.

I quickly ruled out the Windows 8 phones available; except for the HTC 8 S the windows phones seemed to be far too expensive and couldn’t meet every requirement left by losing my GPS crippled HTC One X.  Google is still King (or at least Republican leader) of the smartphones.

That left the Microsoft Surface; the device I am writing this on right now.

The first barrier I had to overcome was price.

ISurface 3t is a common opinion that Apple overprice their iPad devices and this is reflected by the relative affordability of Android equivalents.

Microsoft seem to have flown in the face of this opinion and matched Apple for their pricing strategy; then again, so have Samsung with their Android offerings.

The second barrier was availability.

I can purchase almost every kind of smartphone or tablet through my employer but not the surface. Until a few weeks ago, the only place you could buy a Microsoft Surface was via the Microsoft website.

This frustrated me immensely; why would a seemingly astute corporate body shoot off its own digits by limiting retail availability of its latest venture?

Fear of failure maybe… or perhaps lessons were learnt from XBOX360’s release.

wpid-IMAG0595.jpgMid-December the device was made available through a retailer called John Lewis; not a retailer I am familiar with as I reside in the impoverished North where you are more likely to find a Lidl than a Waitrose.

I decided to chance my arm and pay heed to the rumours arising from this and on Boxing Day tried our local Staples and Currys/PC World, both of whom were rumoured to be stocking the Surface.

Frustratingly enough, these two popular tech vendors were not stocking the device and didn’t think they would be able to until mid-January.

Lucky for me, John Lewis have a Buy & Collect service and so I ordered a Microsoft Surface and Touch Cover from them, opting to collect from Eastbourne’s Waitrose during my year end visit to family and friends on the South Coast.

Collection was relatively painless, requiring that I prove my identity by passport and pretend to be affluent enough to grace the store’s doors.

wpid-IMAG0596.jpgAnd so, last night I set the device up.

Neatly packaged and Spartan, the device was a breeze to get set up, although it required wireless access to the internet, easily provided by my satellite-deficient HTC.

Once sync’d with my Microsoft account I managed to have a good old root around before bed and have picked up again the morning.

Whilst the device lacks the tingling electric arousal of an iPad – in both handling and touch-screen usage – it does have a simple and elegant feel.

Sturdy and bright, the Surface’s 10.6″ screen is perfect for my browsing, reading and gaming needs.

The touch cover is wonderfully tactile, felt keys ever so slightly raised and yet super responsive to my touch.

The only downsides to the typing are that I occasionally tap something that takes the cursor out of the text window, or worse tap ‘n’ instead of space.

The apps are great but lacking; games connect via my XBOX Live account and allow me to increase my Gamerscore from the Surface.

I think the Surface needs a DropBox app along with apps to wrap up Facebook an Twitter – the built in People/Social app is great for reading social activity feeds but less so for responding to notifications.

I could also do with a handy Gmail app; I moved from Hotmail to Gmail years ago and frankly can’t see myself going back. The Google Search app is supposed to handle that for me, so that’s the next stop.

Still to evaluate are the battery life and SmartGlass functions but I won’t be able to write about those until 2013; this may be the last post of 2012.

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2 thoughts on “Microsoft Surface RT – First Look

  1. Pingback: Travelodge Feedback – Does Anybody Actually Read It? | Armaitus on...

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