Surface / WinRT review (for consumers)

I've now spent two full weeks with my WinRT Surface. I've tried to spend as much time as possible with this device while I’m forming my opinions.

I bought the Surface Pro, and I bought both the touch cover (red, to match the SRT logo), and the type cover. I wanted to try both to decide which I liked better.

WinRT is the version of Windows8 that runs on the ARM processor. It comes with an ARM version of Microsoft Office Home and Student. (That version includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote). Other than those applications, you must install applications from the Windows Store. You cannot install applications from any other location.

The WinRT Surface has a lot to recommend it. Because of the ARM processor, the battery life is amazing. I've been able to take notes through an entire day of meetings without finding a cord or power outlet. The form factor is comfortable to work with. The screen is very clear and bright. The weight is very light, even after a full day.

As I mentioned above, I purchased both the touch cover and the type cover. I have a very strong preference for the type cover. I tried the touch cover for a few days, and I found it too different from a normal typing experience. The type cover is a much better experience, at least for me.

The restriction that all apps must come from the store was really not a problem. I've been able to find great apps for all my non-developer tasks. I'm using Tweeterlight for my twitter client. I've got IM+ to manage my message accounts. I've got skype installed. I use FeedReader for my RSS reader. I don't mean this to be an exhaustive list. It's just to give you some indication of the main applications I'm using. Overall, I've been happy. There are one or two holes that I still need filled, but overall I've been happy with what's available.

Of course, it's not perfect. I'm ambivalent about the kickstand. It's at a great angle when I place the Surface on a desk or a table, and I'm sitting in front of it. However, the angle of the kickstand is not adjustable. It's not at the right angle for me when the surface is in my lap, or when I'm working at my stand desk. However, I can work with the surface lying flat in some of those cases. My one suggestion for a future hardware enhancement would be to allow the kickstand to have a couple of different angles built in. With that said, Microsoft clearly put a lot of thought into the design: the angle of the kickstand is great at a table for me, my wife, and my daughter (all having quite different heights).

I do think that a Surface with Windows RT (on the ARM processor) is a great device for students, home users, and many business users. If you can find the apps you need in the Windows store, you will be very happy with this device on WinRT.

There are a few classes of users for whom the Surface with Windows RT is not the best choice (for their primary device). Serious gamers will not be happy because they will not be able to install games designed for Windows 7. Developers cannot use the ARM -based devices for their main machine (but will want an ARM device. I'm writing another blog post on this topic). Users that have some specialized application needs may not find their specific application ready yet for Windows 8 yet.

Overall, I'm impressed with the Surface running WinRT. I'll use it regularly because of the battery life. It's going to be my primary machine while travelling. I'll also be adding two more of these devices to our family. Both my daughter and my wife are planning on new Surface machines.

Created: 11/19/2012 1:04:43 PM

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