This is my impression and use of the Microsoft Surface. In the two weeks I’ve had it, it’s gone everywhere with me and completely replaced my MacBook Air in non-production-specific environments. I can do my creative development and business management very well in the Windows RT space on the Surface. For the video nerd, I’m including a special feature at the end: some photos and vids from the camera guy’s phone: the Nokia Lumia 920.
My tablet adventures have been few. I bought an iPad for my wife the first Christmas they were released and last summer absconded an unused Android (Transformer) from my father-in-law. As far as mobile OS’s go, I had a Blackberry, my current Android phone and an iPod Touch. I once had a Windows Phone back in the day before iOS ever existed.
With keen interest I watched the development of Windows 8- they were taking risks like a startup and in theory, I liked where they were going. Then I spent a day on Win 8 on an HP Slate and a developer phone this last summer. I immediately fell in love with the design and interface. So after much waiting and comparing, I settled on the Microsoft Surface (almost exclusively because of the hardware).
The hardware on the Surface is outstanding. I can’t come up with a single thing I’d change- from material choice to port and switch location. When I first unwrapped it, I was surprised at its weight and solidity. There wasn’t a lick of plasticky-ness anywhere, this thing was all metal and glass! The kickstand opened and closed with a satisfying click and the construction felt as tight as a closing door on a luxury automobile.
One of the biggest selling points for me was the kickstand and the touch cover. It is super thin and does dual duty exceptionally well as a screen cover and keyboard. I bought the white touch cover (zero travel) and it snapped firmly into place with enough power to swing the tablet upside down only holding the cover. I’m not the fastest yet with zero travel keys but I’m typing this post with ease. I was surprised to find that the cover is a more of a cloth material and was initially concerned it would be hard to clean after the white started getting dirty. After two weeks though, I haven’t noticed any foreign build up on it.
The Surface feels great in my hand with the perfect amount of rounded and beveled edges to make it unique and comfortable with a design all its own. The glass is thick and smudge hiding so unless the screen is off, I don’t see a single fingerprint when using it- or anywhere on it’s metal case. I love holding and using it and it takes up incredibly little space in my bag or on a counter or tabletop without ever feeling like there’s any compromise.
The interface is greatly improved and more intuitive since I last used Windows 8. You only need to know three swipes. Swipe in from the right for your system options (search, share, start, devices and settings), Swipe from the top or bottom for your app features and options and swipe in from the left for all your recently opened apps. All other touch navigation is like it is on any other device. Font choice, design, and UI are superb and very easy on the eyes while appealing to my designer nature. The system is very easy to use with virtually no learning curve for me. The whole experience is wildly simple and very fast. No lags, stalls, or otherwise unexpected behavior.
There are a couple really cool features worth noting. The first is the system interactivity with the dual window functionality. You have independent app control when two apps are open on the screen- it’s not simply a viewer. So Swipe up or down from the edges and you get the app controls for whichever app who’s area you swiped. The other cool feature is how the Share and Settings work when you have an app open- it’s all app dependent so one place for everything related to every app. So swipe in from the right to adjust everything related to every app. Finally, the share option is for everything- printing, social media, email, etc.
Remember when they used to be called programs? That’s all.
Criticizisms of the app store are legit. There are very few apps in the store to date but interestingly, don’t feel I “need” them because of the full computer-like feeling of the Surface. I don’t feel like I’m working on a mobile device, I feel like I’m on a laptop. I have a block of tiles on my home screen of web links for things that don’t have apps banking information and my personal blogs. That said, because this is Windows 8 RT, I can’t install Dropbox or Google Drive like a regular computer and again, the web is your work around. Windows does have the largest network of developers in the world so it’s only a matter of time.
I have a few favorites:
Bento News: A fantastic news reader with almost every source you can think of and if it’s not there, you can plug in your RSS or Google Reader feeds super-easy.
Instafeed: It gives you full access, liking and commenting to your Instagram account. No posting though.
IM+: For comprehensive chat acti0n
Evernote: Very well integrated with Windows 8
Then you have your basics: Skype, Netflix, Kindle, ESV Bible, WeatherBug and others. There are others to use for things like social media if you don’t dig the built-in integration (I do).
This the most well thought-out user interface on some of the best hardware I have ever laid my paws on. I highly recommend one. If you don’t need a full laptop replacement and especially if you’re a business/productivity user, RT will work well- there is a Windows Remote Desktop app, LogMeIn via the internet and Windows Office RT Preview. If you want a full laptop replacement, wait for the Surface Pro in a couple months or compromise on hardware and get another manufacturer’s offering 😉 The app store will fill up and the hardware will keep you until then.
Special Feature- Nokia Lumia 920 Vids and Photos!
And while we’re on the subject of Windows 8, I got to play a bit with my uncle’s developer issue Nokia Lumia 920. Hello amazing camera!