My Microsoft Surface tablet review

So, I was one of these people that pre-ordered a Microsoft Surface tablet, with a “touch” cover. It came in today. I have played with it for several hours and I thought I’d write down my thoughts.

For those that just want the bottom-line:

Did Microsoft “bring it”? Yes. This is a very impressive piece of hardware and WinRT runs beautifully on it. Then again, so was the story with Windows Phone 7 – that was also a really, really great product. The question isn’t whether Microsoft can “deliver the goods” – it can, and has. The question is whether they can market it and make it “cool”; whether they can build momentum. I guess we’ll find out.

PROS:

  • It’s very light (1.5lbs) and thin (just a little over 1/4” thick!)
  • Build quality is comparable/better than iPad. This feels like a very sophisticated, elegant piece of technology – not plastic, not cheap.
  • There are enough apps in the Store to compete with how most people use an iPad. Email, browsing, NetFlix, Kindle, Ebay, Bank of America apps (etc) all work great. It is an effective competitor tablet that is hitting the ground running.
  • Comes with Office 2013 pre-installed

CONS:

  • It’s not “cool” to own Microsoft hardware. (see Windows Phone 7 – a REALLY great offering, but marketed poorly.). “It’s more important to be first, than to be better” as the expression goes.
  • Some “key” apps are not in the store (yet?): Angry Birds…
  • On Day One, this product is fighting the momentum that the iPad has developed over the last couple of years.
  • WinRT is different than Windows 8 on an Intel processor. So, when you go to a site that says you don’t have Silverlight, “click here to install” – that install doesn’t work. You can’t install the Google Chrome browser. So, you can only use IE10 – and if the site needs an old version of Silverlight, Flash, Java, etc – you will be out of luck!

As far as my other thoughts – this seems like a pretty great little device. To help subsidize the cost and because I don’t need two tablets, I sold my iPad on ebay (for $30 less than what I paid for it!). I used the iPad for a few months. In the end, I realized what a tablet is good for, for me:

  • Reading e-mail
  • Catching up on blog posts
  • Catching up on twitter
  • Reading e-books (Kindle)
  • Checking the web
  • Watching NetFlix
  • Playing games

So, going into the Surface tablet, that’s pretty much what I wanted to address. I’ve done all of that – it does all of these really well.

Feed Reader is great because it syncs with Google Reader. So, let’s say you find an interesting blog – you log into http://reader.google.com – log in, add the RSS feed and you’re done. Anytime you launch Feed Reader (on any device), it will sync up with Google Reader. Not only does it sync what has been read/not-read – it also will start showing you the posts from that newly-added feed. When you mark them as “read”, they are marked as read everywhere. I have found this to be pretty efficient way to work through the RSS feeds that I follow. Oh, and as I find an interesting post – I can bring up the “charm” menu on the right and “Share” it with Metrotwit, which posts a tweet with the link, and the title of the article and/or I can type and add my comments too.

A note on the cameras – it has a front and back-facing camera, they both looked surprising good to me. They take 1MP pictures or 720p video – so more than adequate for Skype.

Now, the “Touch Cover” – that is a really impressive piece of technology all it’s own! First, it’s sort of a “felt” type of finish. The keys don’t depress but it’s easy to type on. it’s better than typing on the screen (if you have a flat surface to work on). Also, that cover has a trackpad. I don’t know how that thing works – but it actually works well!

Lastly, the touch cover connects to the device with a magnet. Now, I know what you’re thinking “great, that thing must fall off ALL the time”. But no! The magnet is SUPRISINGLY strong. I mean you can hang the device in the air, just holding the cover – and shake it and the Surface still stays connected (well, unless you shake it really vigorously. Point is, the magnet is strong enough to hold the 1.5lb device dangling from it – so the cover doesn’t come off especially easily. But, you can remove it if you want.

The power charger also connects via a second “magnet connector” – no ports/parts to wear-out and get loose!

Should you get a touch cover? Well, it covers the FRONT side of the tablet, but offers no protection on the back. Plus, if you plan to use this mostly on your lap, the keyboard part probably won’t be very useful (the kickstand works best on a flat surface). So, maybe wait until a tradition cover comes out?

Bottom line, this works just as expected and has completely replaced what I liked about the iPad. It is NOT a laptop replacement, in my opinion, if for no other reason than you couldn’t sit on a couch and type with it. The kickstand is very strong, and it works, but it’s a fixed angle and is meant to work on a solid surface. It simply doesn’t work well sitting your lap. The touch keypad and kickstand pretty much only work reasonably when you are sitting at a table.

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Posted in Computers and Internet, New Technology, Professional Development, Uncategorized
2 comments on “My Microsoft Surface tablet review
  1. Binoj Daniel says:

    Nice hands on and unboxing review. I enjoyed reading it. I might go to the MS store in NY tomorrow.

    Like

  2. […] As I mentioned, I got a Surface tablet last week and blogged about my first impressions. […]

    Like

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