I was a little surprised to see how much traffic was generated by my original post. I decided that, it would be a good idea to follow up with a review focused on the device itself.
My first experience with Windows 8 came from Samsung Series 9 tablet. I generally liked the tablet although it was a little too big and too thick and the battery life was too short to really make it a viable option to be my mobile office alternative. So when I evaluate Surface RT I do it in the context of two products, iPad (for obvious reasons)and Samsung Series 9 tablet.
Hardware-wise, the Surface is pretty close to perfect (at least for me) with respect to size and other specs. It’s just big enough to make the screen acceptable to author Word documents and build PowerPoint decks (this review is written entirely on Microsoft Word in the Surface RT), but it is also small enough to just throw in the bag and go get a cup of coffee. I would not mind if it was a bit lighter, but again, size-wise, I am pretty happy with it.
The biggest difference from the iPad is the fact that the Surface is legitimately a very viable option for content creation. I do BI for living and as it is probably apparent from my original post, the Surface RT is not there yet to replace my trusted laptop, however, for the vast majority of people who are casual users of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Surface will work just fine. I am still trying to get used to the Space bar, and of course the Touch Cover keyboard has a completely different feel from a traditional keyboard, but I would say that overall it’s very usable…just wish that Space Bar was cooperating a little bit better with me 🙂 …
I connected a USB Mouse to the Surface RT just to see if it would work and it did just fine. The Touch Cover track pad works fine, it’s just a little small, but it does support some gestures, but no track pad (and I don’t care what Apple fanatics say about their track pads) will be as good as a good mouse.
The screen resolution is OK for the size, probably it is simply good if you want to use it for work, but when I am laying in bed and using it to browse internet I sometimes wish that the resolution was a little higher, but for work related activities, higher resolution would probably make screen a little hard to read, so I think that the resolution is probably where it needs to be for this form factor.
The screen works great outside, just need to crank up the brightness a little bit. The cameras suck for taking pictures, but realistically, I would never use the Surface to take pictures. Although, I would expect better quality than what we get… Video chat quality is good, no complains there.
The biggest impression that the Surface has made on me thus far is the battery life. It is very good. I am normally paranoid to pack a charger or two for all my electronic devices even if I am leaving my office or home for just a few hours. I have a feeling I won’t be needing to worry about that much with the Surface. Surface lasts all day and what’s even more impressive, it charges very quickly. When I saw the charger first I thought “Hmmm, this thing is a little chunky”, I guess being anchored to a size of a phone charger, but even though the charger is a little bigger than the one I use for my phone, I am happy with the trade off since it charges the Surface so quickly.
So compared to the iPad the product really shines as it allows me to actually get some work done where an iPad or an Android tablet eventually gets relegated to just basically browsing the internet and watching movies. Compared to the Samsung Series 9 tablet running Windows 8, the biggest gain is the independence from the outlet. I will be the first to admit that the Samsung tablet is a lot more capable device with respect to being able to run legacy apps, but I will also have to admit that given the form factor limitations, I did not really use all those legacy apps much anyway, but again, it would be awesome if I could.
So, is the Surface a great device? It surely is. The only real shortcoming today is an incomplete App Store, but I would expect that go get better in the next few weeks. To someone who has no significant investments in either Apple or Google ecosystems, buying this device should be a no brainer. Those who are heavily invested in Xbox are also good candidates to be a perfect fit for a target audience. Those who use their iPads for work today should definitely give them to their parents or toddlers, as they will be able to do so much more with Surface than iPad without really any tradeoffs with respect to quality of content consumption.
The only people who have no real reasons to switch are those with significant investment in the competing ecosystems (and it’s a huge, huge number of people indeed).
The other category of people who are likely to be underwhelmed are power users like me. Those who need advanced content creation capabilities and ability to run resource intensive and/or legacy applications should not consider the Surface as a viable option.
I am very frustrated that today Surface is not a great device to consume certain Microsoft BI content such as PowerView, but hopefully that will be addressed soon, and that aside, I have to admit that I am liking my Surface more and more everyday, and I am also getting more dependent on it every day which I guess is not really a bad thing 🙂