While others will review Microsoft’s new Surface with Windows RT tablet and then move on to the next gadget of the week, I do things a bit differently. And while today’s post focuses on first impressions of the new Surface and provides the obligatory photo gallery, this is only the beginning of a lengthy series of tips and other articles aimed at helping you make the transition from a Windows PC to a Surface with Windows RT.
But first things first.
As I noted on the What the Tech podcast this week before any Surface reviews appeared, you don’t even need to have one of these devices to understand that the hardware is amazing and Apple-like while the software is lacking, with a half-finished Metro environment in Windows RT and a lackluster collection of Metro-style apps in the Windows Store. And sure enough, that was the consensus of the first round of reviews: Great hardware, OK software.
I pretty much agree with that.
On the hardware front, Surface doesn’t disappoint, at least not from a look-and-feel perspective, and one gets the idea that if Apple had a separate professional offshoot—kind of like Lexus is to Toyota—this is what those products would be like: Gorgeous, professional looking alternatives the bland sameness that Apple stamps out for its eager buyers.
Case in point: The Touch Cover and Type Cover, two fairly expensive Surface add-ons that look like they were snuck out of a secret Apple R&D lab somewhere. These two covers, both of which provide some form of keyboard, are going to be a particular focus area for me going forward. I can say now that they’re both beautiful to look at. Do they actually work? Surprising, better than expected. More soon.
The software, of course, was already pretty well understood, if not to the general consumer base. I had used a Windows RT tablet back in September and my initial impressions then apply here: At first blush, Windows RT looks and works just like Windows 8, disarmingly so. It includes the same Start screen, Metro environment, and, yes, desktop. Virtually all of the desktop applications and utilities you know and love are present. Only Media Player and, new to Windows 8, Storage Spaces are missing. (Actually, so is WordPad, which surprised me. Remote Desktop is there.)
It also includes a very unsurprising version of Office called Office Home & Student 2013 RT, which includes fully-functional (not at all hamstrung) versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. This all appears to work as expected, but I’ll be writing future articles with this device to see whether that pans out in real world use.
Put simply, there’s little doubt that few first-generation Windows 8 and Windows RT devices will live up to the quality level of the Surface hardware. Not none, but few. Software-wise, Windows 8 makes a lot more sense than Windows RT … for now. That may—will—change over time. Today, Windows RT, and thus Surface with Windows RT, is a big bet to ask of users.
OK, I know all you really care about right now are the pictures, so I’ll move on. But starting very soon, I’ll have a lot more to say about Surface with Windows RT. One might say I have a book’s worth.