Windows Surface RT - Swing and a miss

Getting some time with Surface in the UK had been a bit of a challenge.

Given that only those with money to buy one to try out, were getting to experience the device. After selling relatively few of them, Microsoft have decided to pass them in to retail chains outside of there own. A good idea considering they only have a retail presence in North America. This meant I got to see what all the other bloggers on the net were on about.

So what are my thoughts on the Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 RT? (rolls off the tongue that name. Microsoft naming always reminds me of this video.)

Firstly, lets be nice shall we and start with the good stuff.


The industrial design of the Surface is great. That’s one of the reasons I thought Nokia had a hand in it. It would seem not though.

can it kick it

This has been an in-house development from people that really cared about what they were making. The hardware is solid. That may seem like a redundant statement, but I implore you to go to the table of tablets in most electrical stores now and pick up some of the lower cost tablets and see how easily they flex in landscape mode. Fine you say, those are low cost tablets. It’s not just them. I’ve almost boomeranged Toshibas and Samsungs alike.

This is far from the case with the Surface. When it was announced with it’s VaporMG shell most called it vaporware and they would just change material pre launch. Nope, Microsoft kept at it and brought a new material to the tablet game.

On the back of the device is a full width kick stand. A nice addition, but it only works at one angle (like most tablet cases mind). I’ve seen a number of videos online showing how easy this kick stand can bend back on it’s self and break. I didn’t try this as that’s just not cricket in a store! on the bottom edge of the tablet is the magnetic connector for the much hyped keyboard. The demo unit i had was with out the keyboard cover. A shame, as the advertising for the Surface have made it clear that clicking it on and off is the most important feature of the device 😛

There’s an issue with the hardware from a design point though. The widescreen is very familiar, as it’s just like a small laptop and is a great panel. Problem is the widescreen aspect makes the tablet almost unwieldy in portrait mode. It feels like it’s tipping forward and away from you. It may weigh the same as an iPad, but in portrait, it feels signficantly heavier.


This is the ‘head desk’ moment. My review of Windows 8 is here but basically, the Surface RT is the biggest cock-up in tech since HP bought Palm. This is frustration in a physical form! Like a rubrics cube that if you solve has sweets in side, but every few seconds it electrocute you! I like the interface you get with Windows 8 and if only the Surface had shipped with an expanded version of Windows Phone 8 I think this would have been a smash hit! It would have had all of the apps in the Microsoft store and the support from that system. There would have been benefits in battery life and would have been a shot in the arm for the Microsoft ecosystem. Instead, you get this when you try to use it as a computer:
computer says no

This is the screen you see when you try to install a Windows program from a website. You’re bounced to the desktop browser and refused software like iTunes and Creative Suite.

As Steve Ballmer had said, this was going to be all things to all users because ‘no one has done a tablet that can be for both your work and play’. Oh dear. The Surface RT cannot be used a computer replacement. Hell to an extent, it can’t be used as a tablet.

Wrap Up


That sums up my frustration with the Surface RT. It could have been so much more, been so much better. The Surface Pro is coming out soon. Packing a ultrabook matching spec and a full version of Windows 8. But it will cost as much as a typical laptop / ultrabook. Will it win people over? Will it distract consumers from the variety of Windows 8 portables from HP with their removable screens or the Lenovo’s with their smart hinges? I can’t call it as customers being presented with more choice in computing than ever before and they have yet to say what they want most.