There are probably a tonne of reviews out there regarding the Microsoft Surface. So why add another opinion into the mix. Well, let me just say that I’m a die-hard anti Microsoft guy and I’ve had a strict policy to avoid any of their products in my house for the past few years. I use Windows at one place: work (where there are strict rules and policies). In addition to that I don’t like bringing my work laptop home for the same snobbery reason. That said, I wanted to give my Microsoft Surface RT review into the mix.
So you’re probably saying, “Well then, he’s probably an Android guy or a Mac guy.” Well yes! Yes I am. I own an Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 as well as my primary computer which is a MacBook Pro. The other laptop that I have is an IBM x120e running Ubuntu (which I love to death). Which also mean that you’re probably thinking, well he’s just going to slam the tablet.
Well, I’m not. I actually like it.
I’ve played around with the iPad and the Nexus 7 and there is one thing that they’re really good at: consuming content and managing the content that you already have. For example, reading ebooks, browsing magazines, and replying to email (not composing). Using the iBooks or the Kindle app, both work incredibly well and have really big content repositories that you can buy stuff from. Replying to an email? Yea, sure it works and they make it very easy to do too.
What they really suck at is creating content. For that, you still need a nice laptop. Preferably with a good keyboard and fairly large screen. Oh, I’m sure I’ll have people who would argue about the creating content using an apple keyboard, or some sort of cover with a keyboard. But let’s face it, content creation on the iPad or Android feels more like a hack than something it does seamlessly.
So what is this Surface tablet good for?
Creating things from nothing: Writing an email from scratch, writing an post (like this one) and maybe some simple video editing. Why? The experience of the tablet with the kickstand and the keyboard makes it really comfortable to work in. The apps for content creation makes things pretty simple. For this article, I started it in Evernote; while I split screened it with an episode of TopGear UK on Netflix. Big boy (or girl) peripherals work out of the box. I have a wireless mouse (that I love), I plugged it into the Surface’s USB port and the mouse just started working seamlessly. I was able to bring up a terminal window to my development environment and I was writing code within minutes.
The games are also pretty. At least the more evolved ones like the Halo game, and the Rayman game. They seem to be using the full hardware capabilities to their fullest. I’m not a big fan of games that have virtual touch screen joysticks so I’m not the best person to review games; I will say that they do look pretty.
And what sucks?
Well to sum it up in two words: the apps! There aren’t that many apps in the app store and if there are, then they usually require payment. The big names do have apps in there: Skype, Dropbox, Evernote, Netflix and the usual Office ones too (most are free). However, everything else will require a purchase.
Since my Surface version is the RT, I’m really reliant on the app store and I think I’ve purchased about $15 in apps. I’m told that the Surface Pro will allow you to install any app you wish because it’s running a full Windows 8 version rather than this pared down Windows RT version.
Also, the app selection isn’t that great. Let’s face it, developers aren’t really UX folk. When you take a look at an application things tend to not flow well (as compared to the same app in iOS). I also think that there is a certain culture flowing in the Windows App store where everything is just to make money.
I suspect that the target market isn’t big enough to port some of the other apps over. Like, erm… Plants vs Zombies. Where is my plants vs zombies app?!