Experiences With Microsoft Surface RT

I’ve had a Surface RT for about six months now after a client asked if we could have a chat about the touch devices that are on the market. After that conversation I thought the Surface could be something that would fit in with how my days generally pan out so I thought I’d give it a whirl.


As already mentioned I’ve had it for about six months now and I’ve written and scrapped posts on it about five or six times but with the recent Windows 8.1 release and the Surface 2 announcements it’s been at the front of my mind again

On the whole I’m largely happy it. .


A bit obvious I know but any extended usage on my mobile has me worrying about the battery and while the portable charger I’ve got is great when I’m running low it’s not quite the same as having something that will last all day. It’s great knowing I can take it out fully charged and not have it die on me. Something I can’t say for my laptop either.


Another obvious one and not specific to the Surface I know but this one of the things I wasn’t convinced on as my laptop is pretty light but I’ve found it lives in my bag now and I generally don’t notice I’ve got it with it me.

Aspect Ratio

The Surface is more of a rectangle than a square. This is because it’s a widescreen (16:9) device which makes it great for videos and the like. That’s not quite why I like it though. The big thing for me is for when I’m reading web pages, PDFs, blog posts, etc I can turn it on it’s end making the reading experience much much better (less scrolling for one thing!)

This is particularly useful for documents as the reading experience is very similar to having a printed copy (granted paper is much lighter!)


I like the fact I can setup different user profiles. If I wanted to give the Surface to Mrs P or one of the kids they can have their own apps, start screen and be signed into different services. I don’t have to worry about signing out of anything so someone else can use it. i can see how this would be useful in office environments, a meeting room for example could have a device that several users could share.


A little thing but it’s got a version of BitLocker running on it that means in the event of it getting lost or stolen the data is going to be safe.


It’s got a USB port on the side that let’s me plug additional storage or keyboards, mice, etc into it without any need for convertors and adaptors. There is a mini-HDMI port too if you wanted to plug it into a bigger screen. It’ll even let you extend onto that second screen exactly the same way as you would with a desktop/laptop.


Yes I know Microsoft are slowly bringing various Office applications to other platforms but having Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote baked in is useful. That familiar feel means not having to worry about working differently just because I’m on a different device. Having Outlook with Windows 8.1 has made a huge difference to me. The mail app was “ok” but as I spend a big chunk of time in Outlook having the same experience for mail, calendars, tasks, contacts is a big plus.

The Built In Stand

A very small thing but I lose count of how many times a day I flip the stand down. It’s nice that it’s “just there” and I can prop it up easily. I frequently stand it up on the kitchen table for catching up on the news while I’m drinking that all important first cuppa of the day!

It’s not all roses though..What isn’t so good

Internet Explorer

I don’t know..I don’t mind IE as such. But the performance of it isn’t quite as snappy as I’d like. Sometimes you click a link and when nothing happens you jab it again and before you know it the first link has been dealt with and you’ve unintentionally clicked something on the next page. I’m not sure if the hardware buy ativan 1mg isn’t up to it but IE is mostly the only time I notice a “laggy” experience and I’ve had experiences with some sites that just don’t like it.

Price and Accessory Slashing.

I was rather annoyed about this. The covers which double up as keyboards are really interesting and it’s definitely useful to have a keyboard from time to but with the cheapest one adding around £100 to the price I decided it wasn’t that important to me for how often I’d actually need it. About two or three weeks after I got my Surface the prices were dropped AND they were throwing in the cover for free.

Thanks a lot….


Yeah….the elephant in the room.

The lack of apps is still THE main thing getting in the way of making this useful to a wider audience.The official Facebook app was only recently available with the 8.1 release and it’s the same problem Microsoft have Windows 8 and Windows Phone. It’s not that there are no apps..just not the wide variety that are available on iOS and Android. It’s a shame Microsoft aren’t developing more of their own apps as well as trying to convince other developers it’s a viable platform.

It’s not that there aren’t any apps to use. I’ve got Netflix, Twitter, Facebook (finally), Amazon, Skype and Ebay. Lots of things you’d expect. But on the flip side there is no official app for Instagram (the Windows 8 one is imminent) or Vine. I’m a big GoodReads user but the unofficial apps aren’t great and the website is a pain to use with a touch screen. The list of popular apps that are available on other platforms is pretty daunting when you’re comparing devices.

Also..I’m writing this on my laptop as opposed to my Surface. There is no Windows Live Writer or similar that I can use. My only real option is to use Word as a blogging tool…Bleurgh. When you’ve been using Live Writer for so long going back to Word for blogging? I’ll pass thanks.

So why Surface RT and not Surface Pro?

That’s pretty easy

Cost – I didn’t want a Pro enough to spend that sort of money, especially the launch prices. The plus points of the tablet form factor aren’t worth that much to me. If I need the “full Windows experience” my laptop is fine in those scenarios.

Battery life – My RT device lasts ages for how I use it. If I take it out on a full charge I don’t have to worry about it running out of juice.

Office – I know it it largely depends on how you buy Office, (Office 365 Home Premium is up to five devices) but having Office included in the cost of the Surface was a big draw for me. If you have to add the cost of Office on top of the Pro that total price is pretty steep.

I’m of the opinion that if they’d spent all that money used developing Surface RT into making the Surface Pro cheaper and with a comparable battery life they’d have sold so many they wouldn’t be able to get them out the door quick enough.

In my experience the Surface is really good at a specific thing for a specific set of people who want a seamless Windows experience using a common set of apps. Those people will get a lot out of it. Outlook and OneNote on a decent screen I can take everywhere is unbelievably useful for me.

The new Surface 2 model and Windows 8.1 makes lots of incremental improvements to make what’s actually good about the device even better. The two angle stand is a brilliant addition as an example. You’d only really know that after having used the current one though.

So to finish…(since this post is a little all over the place!)

Should you buy a Surface RT? It depends…

If you’ve never owned a tablet and spend a lot of time using other Microsoft products it’s worth looking at.

If you’re coming from another product, unless there is something you specific want (Office..) then you may not find anything that’s a big pull.

As always..comments, opinions and questions always welcome!

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Andy Parkes is Technical Director at Coventry based IT support company IBIT Solutions. Formerly, coordinator of AMITPRO and Microsoft Partner Area Lead for 2012-2013. He also isn't a fan of describing himself in the third person.

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