The definitive Microsoft Surface RT review roundup
If gaming and music and movies and reading are what you’re looking to enjoy, then we might advise sitting this one out for a few months just to make sure that all your bases will indeed be covered. If, however, you’re looking for an impeccably engineered tablet upon which you can do some serious work, a device that doesn’t look, feel or act like a toy, then you should get yourself a Surface with Windows RT.
Surface RT definitely covers the bases on the industrial-design front. When you set up your workstation at the local café—kickstand kicked, Type Cover snapped—your hardware will strike a pose unlike any other in the tablet space. And in many important ways, Surface RT does successfully redefine what a tablet can be. Its touch gestures rock (once you surmount the learning curve), and its built-in productivity features eclipse anything that the iPad or the Android competition offers.
Maybe I say this too often, but I wanted to love this device. Actually, I wanted to love the Surface when I first saw it, before I even got my hands on the review unit. It made Windows 8 make sense in a way other products had not, and I could see a world where this kind of device was the only one I carried with me. Once I did get the review unit, I wanted to love it even more. And truth be told, there is a lot here to love. Plenty — but not enough for me right now.
Should you buy it? No. The Surface, with an obligatory Touch Cover, is $600. That’s a lot of money. Especially given that it’s no laptop replacement, no matter how it looks or what Microsoft says. It’s a tablet-plus, priced right alongside the iPad and in most ways inferior.
The Surface RT is a product of unfortunate timing. The hardware is great. The Type Cover turns it into a small convertible tablet powered by a promising OS in Windows RT. That said, there are simply more mature options available right now.
This is a great device. It is a new thing, in a new space, and likely to confuse many of Microsoft’s longtime customers. People will have problems with applications — especially when they encounter them online and are given an option by Internet Explorer to run them, only to discover this won’t work. But overall it’s quite good; certainly better than any full-size Android tablet on the market. And once the application ecosystem fleshes out, it’s a viable alternative to the iPad as well.
Is Surface worth its price? I think a more useful question is this: If on a business trip, could I replace my laptop with Surface? The short answer is no. The longer answer is also no, but these are the reasons why. The overall sluggishness bugginess in the interface, especially when using IE 10, is disappointing. Flash support for IE 10 is currently lackluster. Also, more pointedly, IE 10 isn’t yet compatible with CNET’s content management system (the tool we use to publish). There aren’t nearly enough apps to support my entertainment social networking needs when not actually working.
The Microsoft Surface with Windows RT bridges the distance between tablet and laptop for many users, particularly if you use the Web or Microsoft Office constantly. The Surface has very good hardware and some innovative design, but Microsoft Office RT is the killer app.
As a device, Surface is incredibly well executed. It makes sense that Microsoft’s OEM partners are feeling the pressure as there’s very little that I would change about Surface from a design perspective. The chassis is well built and the integrated kickstand is seriously one of the most useful features to ever meet a tablet. The optional Touch and Type Covers complete the package. While a full sized notebook is going to deliver a better typing experience, when paired with its Touch/Type covers Surface results in a more productive platform than any other tablet.
It has the potential to change how we use our devices – to be a tablet to lean back with on the couch and a full computer when you click in the keyboard. But only part of its potential is fully realized at this point, and that’s the hardware — ironic for Microsoft, a software company. Windows RT is new and it shows; there are still performance kinks and the disappointing app selection limits the tablet in its functionality, despite its full version of Microsoft Office.
Microsoft’s Surface is a tablet with some pluses: The major Office apps and nice optional keyboards. If you can live with its tiny number of third-party apps and somewhat disappointing battery life, it may give you the productivity some miss in other tablets.
How ironic that what lets the Surface down is supposedly Microsoft’s specialty: software. In time, maybe the Windows RT apps will come. Maybe the snags will get fixed. Maybe people will solve the superimposed puzzle of Windows RT and Windows 8. Until then, the Surface is a brilliantly conceived machine whose hardware will take your breath away — but whose software will take away your patience.