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Tags: Looking · surface · Tablet · Windows
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Before I begin, the tablets that I can compare the Surface RT to include the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (from stock Android 3.1 Honeycomb to Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, and all firmware versions in between), the ASUS Transformer TF300 T-B1-BL 10.1-Inch 32 GB Tablet (Blue) (with its ASUS Transformer Pad Mobile Dock TF300T (Blue)), the Asus Google Nexus 7 Tablet (8 GB) – Quad-core Tegra 3 Processor, Android 4.1, the HP TouchPad Wi-Fi 32 GB 9.7-Inch Tablet Computer, and the Apple iPad MD328LL/A (16GB, Wi-Fi, White). Believe me, I know (and love) my mobile. Now for the part of the review you actually care about– the tablet.
PROS+ Build quality. The VaporMg finish definitely feels– and looks– extremely classy, and this tablet feels great in the hand. Think the aluminum used on Apple’s products, but with a slightly softer, warmer finish. The kickstand (designed to be similar to the doors on a luxury car) snaps shut with an incredibly satisfying click, and folds open in a smooth, clear motion. There’s no creak to the chassis anywhere, and the entire package screams quality. Save for one thing: the Microsoft logo on the kickstand begins to wear quickly, and for no discernable reason.+ Beautiful screen. The big sticking point for many is that the Surface RT packs a screen with just 1368x768px resolution, which pales in comparison to many flagship Android tabs (typically packing Full HD screens at 1920x1080px, and the new Nexus 10 with the Retina-crushing 2560×1600px) and of course, Apple’s own Retina iPads (at a beautiful 2,048×1,536px). But in my experience, after around 720p the benefits of a higher resolution video or image fall off very quickly on a tablet. Microsoft’s ClearType technology is no gimmick; text looks genuinely impressive on this comparatively low-resolution panel, which negates (at least in part) a huge advantage held by higher-pixel displays. Viewing angles and color reproduction is spot on, and Netflix looks incredible on the no-letterboxing 16:9 display.+ The kickstand. As a student, the small footprint afforded by the Surface with its kickstand extended makes it a great desk companion and movie watching aid, especially while I’m at work and my hands are busy. Some people have likened the Surface (with stand extended and Touch Cover out) as a poor man’s laptop, but the kickstand certainly holds its own when it comes to increasing the Surface’s versatility. And yes, it is possible to use the device on your lap– if you’re sitting straight. Lean forward, and you’ll find the device wanting to tip down. Although, that won’t be a huge issue because….+ Reassuringly sturdy connection to the Touch Cover. The Touch Cover deserves a review of its own, because it’s what really brings the Surface into an entirely different league of tablet. Suffice to say that once you get used to it, you’ll never want to go back to a tablet where such a useful accessory isn’t an option. But even better is the stiff magnetic connection (complete with a reassuring thunk), which is strong enough to– yes, I did test this over a bed first– suspend the tablet by the keyboard, and even surface a considerable amount of shaking around. For reference, I tried the same using my iPad and the Apple Smart Cover, and while you can suspend the tablet, any real movement and the iPad will just go flying off.+ Ports! Having a full USB port open for peripherals (which work astoundingly well) lets you really expand the device at a moment’s notice. My favorite setup is to use a Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000 – Graphite with my Surface, eschewing the tiny touchpad on the touch covers for a real, solid mouse. You also get HD video out (to HDMI or VGA, though this requires an adapter), a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, and SDXC expansion (located behind the kickstand) to satisfying your storage and ease of access needs.+ Software. Of course, this tablet is going to be made or broken by Windows RT, and in my belief, it’s…made! Windows RT is by far and away the best tablet operating system I’ve used so far, and you can see for yourself up top that I’ve dealt with a lot of them. Windows RT allows for “true” multitasking in a way that Android (the closest competitor in terms of multitasking; iOS’ implementation is glorified window switching, and webOS on the TouchPad still only allowed one application to be seen at once) cannot. Being able to run two apps on the screen isn’t anything new to a desktop user, but Microsoft absolutely…
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I’m giving the Win RT Surface 5 stars; it is a great product, with a terrific build quality and some serious usability innovation. All in all I think MS is now very well positioned to compete with iPads and Android tablets.
I also wanted to comment on the price of this product.
This product sells for $499 in the Microsoft store, and it is unfortunate that Amazon is allowing the re-seller to sell at a price that is significantly higher than Microsoft’s MSRP.
When they additionally claim that the list price is $999 and that there is a saving of 43%, it becomes a more serious issue. Amazon is here transmitting a statement that is incorrect and misleading, and could potentially be interpreted as fraudulent by a court of law. It should be expected that many people will purchase this product with the belief that they are saving money, when they are in fact paying significantly more than they should. Amazon could at a later time face legal complaints, for example alleging that Amazon benefited financially from false and misleading price information, knowingly and willfully permitting re-sellers to provide false or misleading price information on the Amazon website for the purpose of mutual financial gain, obtained on the basis of financial losses incurred by Amazon customers. Based on the large number of similar misleading prices in different Amazon product categories (see for example DSLR cameras), it should be clear that Amazon could face very significant financial claims, if either groups of customers or government agencies decided to pursue legal action in this matter.
Amazon, please immediately put a stop to all instances of price gouging on your website, and communicate to your re-sellers that they should provide correct information with respect to the MSRP of products for sale.
I ordered this directly from Microsoft, and not from Amazon.
The Surface itself is flawless. The touch keyboard is a feature unrivaled by any other tablet and I can’t think of any products I will have to buy besides this one to make my Surface more usable. The kickstand is a great feature for being built into the tablet. The only problem with the kickstand is the angle when on your lap. Every other time it is the perfect angle, and that’s more important anyway, IMO.
Windows RT is almost perfect. The multitasking is brilliant and I’ve been able to do almost everything I wanted without ever thinking about loading times… I just click and it’s there. There are some slip-ups though that I assume will be fixed eventually, namely: The Music app itself, which came with the tablet already, is very buggy and crashes often. Very unpolished but there are other apps for music if it becomes a big deal. Also, flash only works on pre-approved websites. So, say you’re like me, and frequent a forum that allows for embedding of YouTube videos, you won’t be able to click the video unless it’s a common forum that Microsoft has approved. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s noticeable. You can’t see battery life until you go to the desktop and do it as you would on a Windows-based PC. This also doesn’t give you an estimated battery time though, just percentage. IMO, RT should be able to handle something like that. I shouldn’t have to go to the desktop for anything….
Except Office, which is understandable since it will be the same office between multiple platforms and I understand. It works very well with the touchscreen and Excel is finally usable on a tablet. I’ve run versions of Excel on various touchscreens before and it’s never been this great.
I have used the Remote Desktop as well, and it pairs brilliantly with my laptop also running Windows 8 Pro. This allowed me to get on Spotify since it isn’t available for Windows RT yet.
Every app except Music has worked very well for me. The interface that is pretty much integrated into 90% of the apps that I’ve tried is absolutely gorgeous and unlike anything I’ve seen on the iPad or Android applications. In effect, it never feels like I’m entering a new app. It just feels like I’m on my one Surface and it has a multitude of things it can do itself. I don’t know if that explanation does it justice, but really I never feel like I’m leaving one app to go to another. It never enters my mind.
IE 10, the browser used on RT, is very fluid and very fast, but I do like choices. I don’t even think I’d choose anything else… but I’d like choices. Speaking of choices, though, if you want to delete virtually any app that was preinstalled with the device, go ahead! It lets you! And then you can turn around and download it again for free out of the store if you miss it. This is a feature that should be in every single operating system, and it’s ridiculous it has taken this long.
In conclusion, the Surface device could not have been designed any better, period. Windows RT will take some fine tuning, but it does overall seem incredibly polished, enough for me to give it a 4/5. The app selection feels small, but then play with an iPad and ask yourself exactly what you’re using that isn’t on RT. I can think of some small things, but nothing that I’d use a lot except Spotify, which is the only app I’m really missing right now. Everything put together I’d give it a 4.5/5, but I can’t do halves on Amazon. I don’t think it deserves a 4/5 because I’ve never been this happy with a large purchase that I’ve made. So, 5/5 it is.
I hope that gave enough information. If you have any specific questions, ask away. I tried to refrain from being redundant on some features because they’re easily found on other reviews on the page, but if you still have questions beyond the other reviews I’ll be happy to answer them.
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