Monday, 15 April 2013

Microsoft Surface RT Review

The Microsft Surface is a tablet device made by Microsft which was launched in the final quarter of 2012. It was one of the first devices ever running Windows 8 RT and it is something pretty special. Here is my review of it:

The Windows 8 Lock Screen
Operating System
The Microsoft Surface RT runs Windows 8 RT. The main difference between that and Windows 8 Pro is that Windows 8 Pro lets you download software made for Windows 7. Windows 8 Pro is also slightly faster however that is hardly noticeable.

Since you can not download software from the internet, the Surface RT is closely compared to the iPad and modern Android Tablets.

As soon as you turn your Suface on you are presented with your lock screen which shows live information from your calender, mail and other various apps. For example, if you get a Facebook message, a little messenger icon will appear under the date and time so you are aware that someone wants to chat to you.

You can unlock your Surface by swiping up and putting your password in if you have one set. Windows 8 has a unique option to let you unlock your device called 'Picture Password' this means that when you want to get into your Surface you use your finger or mouse to swipe along a picture you have set.

App options on the Microsoft Surface
The 'Start' screen is the thing which Microsoft has boasted the most about and it is pretty good. You can resize you apps to either large or small depending on how much you use them and, like the lock screen, it also gives you live information. This information can be Twitter mentions, e-mails, Skype messages and calendar events. All the information you could ever ask for is displayed in a 'Live Tile'.

There are four main gestures used on Windows 8:
Swipe down from the top to close an app or game.
Swipe up from the bottom to see the app or game options.
Swipe in from the right to see the 'Charm Bar'. This gives you the option to change PC settings, share something on your social networks or simply get back to the 'Start Screen'
And swipe in from the left if you want to return to a previous app or if you want 2 apps open at the same time.
The multi-tasking on the Surface is amazing because it lets you have two apps open at the same time. This is useful if I want to browse the internet and check my Twitter at the same time or if I want to check the news whilst reading my emails.

I'll admit that sometimes apps and parts of the operating system crash however this doesn't happen often and once you restart the app, everything works fine again.

Windows 8 is completely different to any Windows operating system before it. If you don't like the live tiles you can access desktop mode. This looks just like Windows 7 and it allows you to use Internet Explorer 9, Word, Excel, Powerpoint and One Note. This is where you would run any downloaded software from the Internet however since this is only the Surface RT, you are limited to those 5 programs.

Hardware is where the Surface excels. It has a built in 'Kickstand', a front and rear camera, a USB port and a slot at the bottom so you can attach one of the specially made Surface keyboards (called the Touch Cover and the Type Cover).

The extremely flat Microsoft 'Touch Cover'
Compared to the iPad, the screen is slightly more rectangular and long however the Microsoft Surface weighs considerably more. The screen is 10.6-inches. Unlike the iPad, the Surface RT has a USB port which seems to work really well with anything. So far I haven't found any compatibility issues with it and I have used it a lot.

On the right hand side of the device is a speaker, USB port, charging slot and a video port if you want to share movies or presentations onto the big screen. On the left is another speaker, a headphone jack and the volume rocker. On the bottom of the Surface is the magnetic port for a Touch or Type cover. These keyboard covers snap on with a reassuring click. On the back is the Kickstand which stands your Surface up at an angle so you can watch movies or use the Surface on a desk. It is probably worth saying though that the Kickstand only comes out at one angle which is slightly annoying occasionally if the sun is pointing directly at the screen.
Also, hidden on the back is a mico-SD card slot so you can add up to 64GB more space onto the Surface. Finally, on the top of the Surface is the lock/power button.

The 720p camera on the front is great for making Skype calls as it points directly at your face if you have the 'Kickstand' out. The camera on the back is angled 22° so when you have the Kickstand out it still points straight ahead. This camera is also 720p. Both cameras also let you take video however neither the pictures or videos are of a high quality.

The Surface Skateboard ridden by ex Microsft Senior Executive
The Surface is made from a material called VaporMg and it is ridiculously strong. If you drop the Surface when you are walking with it, it definitely would not crack or smash. Stephen Sinofsky who used to work for Microsoft has even tied wheels onto it and used it as a skateboard before. I would not recommend this however you can if you really want.

The Surface RT has 5 points of multi-touch on the screen which means you can have 5 fingers on the screen at the same time and the Surface RT will recognise where they are. The iPad and the Surface Pro both have 10 points of multi touch however nobody uses more than 2 fingers on the screen at the same time anyway so you won't notice a difference.

As I mentioned earlier, the Surface weighs slightly more than the iPad as it weighs 1.5lbs and it is also slightly thinker at 0.37".

When Windows 8 was launched last October it was said that more than 1000 new apps were getting added to the Windows 8 app marketplace every day. Obviously, that number has now decreased however some big app names such as 'Facebook' and 'Flipboard' are not there. They might still be developing apps and if you think about it, Windows 8 has only been out for around 6 months now and they might want to see how popular the OS is before they start creating apps.

The Windows 8 Marketplace luckily does have Angry Birds, Twitter, Sky News, Netflix and Cut the Rope. There are so many build in apps you forget what the Marketplace is lacking though.

The built in apps include XBOX Music, XBOX Video and XBOX games which automaticaly syncs with your XBOX if you own one and the Windows 8 games allow you to add to your XBOX gamerscore. Other built in apps include Bing News, Bing Weather, Bing Finance, Bing Sport, Bing Travel and Bing which all work extremely well.
There is also Mail, Calender, People, Photos, Internet Explorer 10, Maps, Messages and Camera. You will never run out of things to play with on the Surface because it comes packed with so much!

Microsoft Surface RT and 'Touch Cover'
Battery Life
The battery life depends very much on what you are doing. When I've been intense gaming I've only got around 5 hours worth of battery life out of the device however when just using it casually for news and email I've easily got a whole day out of it. If you want to preserve battery life even more I would recommend that you go into the app settings and tell it only to check for updates every hour or so instead of constantly because constant push notifications can be a huge battery drainer.

The Cloud
You always hear about how in the future everything will be saved on the cloud. Windows 8 helps you do that as it comes with Microsoft SkyDrive built in. This lets you upload your pictures, videos and documents to a safe place on the Internet so if anything was to happen to your Surface, all your files would be safe. Skydrive gives you a free 7GB of storage which is extremely generous compared to rival cloud storage websites so I would take advantage of that. If you want any more than 7GB you can pay Microsoft £6 a year for an additional 20GB.

The Surface is brilliant for working on the go, playing games, checking your social networks and doing both intense and light work. If you are going to do intense work though I would recommend you get the Type cover to click on the bottom as it makes typing a lot easier. As for the Touch Cover, that takes a while to get used to because it is so flat.
The Surface RT comes with either 32GB or 64GB however that is not technically true. Once Windows 8 is installed on them they actually have 16GB and 32GB. Even then 16GB is equal to the iPad so it comes with plenty of storage. It costs £399.99 plus an additional £99.99 for the Touch Cover and £109.99 for the Type Cover.