Surface RT Initial Thoughts

Surface RT Initial Thoughts by Kyle Reddoch, aka SurfaceNerd

Last Friday was a very exciting day for me. It had me eagerly tracking my FedEx shipment to check the status.

Yes I was waiting for my Surface RT 64 GB with Black Touch Cover that I had preordered the week before. Eventually FedEx delivered it to me which was about 10:00am that morning.

And then the fun began…

When I get any new device it usually begins with exploring the device, initial setup, connecting accounts, resetting, etc.

I played with and tested the device the following weekend and really got a great feel and understanding of the device.

Here are my initial thoughts.

The Hardware

The Surface tablet is a really well built tablet computer. It feels durable and comfortable in your hands. Microsoft took a great deal of time and effort into making the Surface really fit well into your hands when holding it. The tapered edges really make it feel wonderful to hold. You feel no sharp edges whatsoever.

Weight – Coming in at 1.5lbs, the Surface is not all that heavy and is actually not that bad at all weight wise. I have no problems holding the device so some period of time and it becoming too heavy to handle. Granted the iPad, which Microsoft is going after as far as competition, is lighter, this is not a deal breaker for me.

Casing – The VaporMg casing is really spectacular in my opinion. I have really grown fond of it. Makes the device really resistant to any scratches that may arise. Now granted I haven’t dropped mine, I am just not comfortable doing that as Panos Panay was on stage, I have no doubt that this casing will withhold such treatment. Who needs an Otterbox for this thing?!

Kickstand – The kickstand on this thing is great. Really compliments and device well. Having a built in kickstand without adding additional bulk or compromising the design of the Surface, Microsoft gets my props for this. I use kickstand almost all the time. The angle at which the kickstand is at, really makes viewing the screen remarkable. Plus, I really love the sound of the kickstand when folding it up. I occasionally find myself just opening and closing the kickstand repeatedly.

Cameras – I have really enjoyed testing out the cameras on the Surface tablet, both the front facing and the rear facing. Panos Panay took a great deal of time explaining the positioning of the rear camera and how it makes the Surface stand out among the rest of the tablets. I would definitely have to agree. While comparing my Surface with my iPad, the angled camera on the Surface really makes photos / videos really remarkable. I don’t find myself having to constantly reposition the tablet to get the “whole” view.

Magnetic Adapter – Others have been complaining how the magnetic adapter / charger for the Surface is a little finicky for them. I on the other hand, have had no problems at all. Mine snaps right in without me even having to look at or guide it to the connection on the Surface. I do have problems with my MacBook Pro’s MagConnector and it not wanting to connect without me having to guide it in like an air traffic controller. It fits snug into the connection and is not loose feeling at all.

Type Cover – Oh the Type Cover. This is taking me some time to get used to. I am by all means not a “touch” typist. I am finding it really hard to find and keep my home keys. Plus, I have big fingers that don’t work too well with smaller keyboards. Heck, I even have a hard time with the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard for the iPad. Although, I really like the pressure sensitive functionality of it. That way I do not have to worry about resting my fingers on it and typing some random garbage. There is one issue I am having with it. Sometimes when I am not using it and flip it back behind the Surface, and then flip it back to start typing, it doesn’t respond. Others have been mentioning this same issue so hopefully this is something Microsoft can fix with a patch or something. All in all, I don’t mind the type cover at all and once I get the hang of touch typing, I should be set.

USB – Having a full-sized USB port is really a deal for me. Being able to use the million USB devices out there without having to buy those little USB to mini or micro USB converters really makes it easy to use this as a one-stop shop. I have many external storage devices that use USB that I have been successful connecting to and getting file from. Something of which I am very unable to do with my iPad. Printers are a great example also. I plugged my Surface into a friend’s printer and automatically was able to print something off. Granted it is just USB 2.0, it’s a full-sized USB port that is very, very useful.

Screen – I LOVE the screen on the Surface. It is very responsive and I haven’t experiencing any lag whatsoever when scrolling through apps,, emails, webpages, anything. The 16:9 aspect ratio makes it great for movies, videos, internet, games, etc. Now this is definitely a device that wants to be in landscape mode and works well in that mode, but it does work in portrait mode also (looks weird in my opinion though). I am not going to pick a fight between the Retina display and that of the ClearType HD display but I have no problem with the viewing of the screen on my Surface. As long as the screen isn’t pixelated and really hard to make out text and such, it is a good device for me. Now I am not even going to do a side by side comparison of my Retina iPad and my Surface because I don’t feel the need to. As long as there is no degradation while switching back and forth between the iPad and Surface, I am happy.

The Software

Now this is an area that many critics have been bashing and calling the demise of the Surface RT tablet because of. With the RT version of the Surface, you are only able to install apps that are directly available from the Windows Store. No side-loading apps is permitted. This means that you are stuck with the apps that are available. Which if my math is correct, was 7,000 apps at the launch of the Windows Store. On a side note, the App Store (Apple’s app store) only had 900 iPad optimized apps when the iPad was launch in 2008. So what is all the complaining about? People need to take into consideration that this is a very young platform, just like iOS was at its beginning. Time will pass and there will be more apps available.

I really haven’t had that much issues with the software that is currently available in the Windows Store. Sure there are a few that I used when I was an Apple Fanboy but I can definitely live without them. Just get out there and see what all apps are available. You just might be surprised at what you find.

If you are a VPN user (like myself), there is one drawback to the RT version of the Surface. You are unable to use it with any third-party VPN clients, at least for now. That is until they decide to make an RT version, and then that is even if they want to.

Trust me … it will get better and will get bigger. Baby steps…

Here are a few of the apps that I regular use on my Surface and really enjoy:

  • Netflix
  • iHeart Radio
  • Xbox Music
  • Xbox Smartglass
  • Skype
  • OneNote (RT version)
  • Gleek (Twitter client)
  • Bank of America
  • FlipToast (Social Networking app)
  • Skype

In conclusion

So my first few days with the Surface RT has been really exciting and all around a real great experience. I am looking forward to more use and seeing how this device really fits well into my lifestyle.

I have also given it a great deal of thought even replacing my iPad with the Surface as my go to, carry everywhere device. Stay tuned for that. J

So, what has been your experience with the Surface? Good? Bad? Overall opinions?

Surface RT Initial Thoughts by Kyle Reddoch, aka SurfaceNerd

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