Living with the Surface

Posted On 2013-01-27 by dwirch
Tags: Surface Review Blog Windows Windows 8 Windows RT
Views: 2266

About one month ago, I became the proud owner of a Microsoft Surface RT. So far, I'm loving it. This seems to be contrary to the thoughts of the majority of folks in IT, but hey, I've always been a bit different.

Having got rid of my iPad some time ago, I've been lugging around my Dell 6410 to meetings and such. The laptop does a great job, and I have no real complaints, but I really missed the portability of a tablet.

At first, I was kind of leery about letting go of the laptop, and lugged around both devices. But after awhile, I found myself leaving the laptop in the dock, and grabbing the surface for meetings, quick document or spreadsheet updates, reading documentation, or even (gasp) playing a quick puzzle-type game. Soon, it became my go-to device, however, and I the laptop now remains on my desk.

For those who have not investigated the Surface RT specifications, here are the details:

  • 1366×768 (16:9 aspect ratio) 10.6? Cleartype display (148 PPI) and built in kickstand
  • 274.6 x 172 x 9.4 mm (10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37 in); 680.4 g (1.50 lb)
  • Windows RT including Microsoft Office home and student 2013.
  • Nvidia Tegra 3 quad core processor clocked at 1.3Ghz
  • 32 or 64GB memory with expandable SD card storage up to 64gb
  • Dual Stereo speakers, 720P front and rear facing cameras, dual Mics and dual band WiFi.
  • Full size USB 2.0 and a micro HDMI out.
  • Magnetic dock for one of Microsoft’s touch & type keyboard covers and MagSafe style proprietary charger.
  • Starting Price; $499 without the touch cover (32gb), $599 with the touch cover. $699 with touch cover (64gb)

My particular unit is the 64 GB model, with the touch cover. If you want to store anything on your Surface, you'll want to get the 64 GB model. Storage space on the 32 GB version is taken up mostly by Windows RT itself, along with any apps that are installed, so you'll be relying heavily on SkyDrive for document storage. This could be a bit of a detriment, in my opinion. There are going to be times you want to get something done, and don't have internet access. Without local storage, you won't be able to crack open that Word document or Excel spreadsheet that lives on SkyDrive.

That's not to say there isn't storage available on the 32 GB Surface, just not as much. And we all know that more is better right? Microsoft did give you an option, though. On either model, you do have the option of plugging in an SD card, up to 64 GB, to augment the local storage.

The hardware itself is pretty solid. While some will quibble over the 28 grams of extra weight that the Surface packs over the iPad, it's not really noticeable. If you are noticing 28 grams (or .04 pounds), you need to get out more often. Or get a job as an accurate postal scale.

Connectors abound, and this is one of the things the drove me away from the iPad. There is a full size USB port, a micro HDMI port, SD card slot, and a headphone jack to augment the on-board stereo speakers, even glorious Bluetooth connectivity. Have you tried to plug in an USB drive or upgrade the storage on an iPad? Give it a try, but be sure to find the appropriate proprietary cable for that jump drive first.

Speaking of connectors, the HDMI output of the Surface appears to have a minimum resolution limitation of 1366x768, which means if you hook up your surface to a 720p television, the signal will usually not be recognized by the TV. To get your Surface to output to the TV, the TV needs to be 1080p. Microsoft says this was done to protect the integrity of the Windows 8 interface. This is a real bummer for me. Most of my TVs are 1080p, with the exception of one, which happens to be the one that I like to watch movies on. Guess it's time to upgrade the bedroom TV!

The Surface comes with Office 2013 Student Edition, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. With the exception of PowerPoint, I have been using the suite quite a bit. Each application runs in the desktop space, and each is touch friendly. One thing I would recommend is to get the type keyboard with your purchase. The touch keyboard is usable, but takes about 3 days of use to get used to it, and until then you'll be making quite a few corrections.

OneNote is spectacular, in my humble opinion. It integrates nicely with my two desktops (work and home), as well as my Windows phone, via a connection to SkyDrive. This means I can take notes or even sketch with my finger or a stylus, within OneNote, and by the time I get back to my desk, the information is already there.

Yes, the app store is a bit thin on offerings as of now. However, I've not had a problem locating apps that I need. I'm not talking about fluff apps such as random number generators, but useful apps. More applications are being released daily, and I'm sure you won't have a problem finding what you need.

In summary, I think the Microsoft Surface is a good alternative to an iPad or an Android tablet. I've owned all three now, and I find the integration between the Surface and my other Windows devices is superb. I don't have to buy an application to view PowerPoint presentations, and all manner of data is easily synchronized between all my Windows machines.

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Comments On This Post

By: dwirch
Date: 2013-01-27

One other thing about the HDMI connector.

If you go the route of purchasing a non-Microsoft HDMI cable, note that you will have to perform "surgery" on the cable end. The side of the Surface has a nice little 22-degree bevel to it, which prevents full insertion of a standard connector.

I actually used my pocket knife to shave down the top of my HDMI cable, which allowed it to fully insert into the connector on the side of the device.

By: dwirch
Date: 2013-07-12

Ok, I am now officially pissed. Just got word that the price has been cut to $349, starting this Saturday. That's what I get for being an early adopter and supporter. I feel like Microsoft just reached into my pocket and stole $350.

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