Recently, I bought a Surface RT. I was looking for a tablet, for I have a proper laptop as well. I was aware of the closed ecosystem of the RT, so no problem about that. Here is a bit of my user experience.
Look and feel
What I think is outstanding, is the look and feel of the device. It feels solid, rugged and fit for the purpose it was intended for: to be a proper mobile device. The VaporMG case feels sturdy and it gives confidence. I really like it. I also like the kickstand. It gives a good viewing angle of the tablet when placed on the table, and it can be supported by the key cover (type or touch) when placed on your lap. Although mine has only 32 GB capacity, of which about half is absorbed by the OS and apps, there is an SD slot hidden behind the kick stand, so you can add extra memory instantly and easily. Besides, Windows RT has integrated SkyDrive even more than Windows 8, so whenever internet is available, your documents and photos will synchronise with cloud. It is a bit heavier than a device with iOS or Android. But then, when you want a proper keyboard for those devices, their weight will increase. For the Surface RT, you can buy a touch cover keyboard (see below), which is very thin and doesn’t add a lot of weight to the device. All in all, the weight doesn’t differ too much.
Personally, I think that an overfilled app store is overrated. The SurfaceRT comes with OfficeRT home and student pre-installed, so Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote is available. And for me, nothing beats Word and Excel. Really. The freeware office suites aren’t just it for me. The native apps for reading, viewing Pdf’s, watching videos and photos* work just fine. It is never truly outstanding, but it is never really bad. It just works. Period. And that is fine for me. The music app connects with your Xbox account, if you have one. If so, you can stream music, buy single tracks or complete albums, which can be played on your devices. If not, you can make your own playlist by adding your own music*.
Connecting to any wireless network is no problem. The SurfaceRT doesn’t support 3G, but Huawei has a nice dongle which seems to work fine with a data simcard. It does also have a bluetooth connection, but I keep it turned off so I will not drain my battery. There is no GPS on the tablet. This seems a bit strange, but since most people already have a smartphone with GPS and a navigation app, I do not consider it a problem. Besides, GPS also drains the battery, something I do not want. The email and calendar app work pretty well. There is no problem with connecting to my several IMAP email accounts, and my calendar syncs well with my Live calendar (my main calendar). The main issue may be the lack of connectivity to POP accounts only, this is not supported. Connecting with SkyDrive goes seemlessly, but for off line work, the documents needed can simply be downloaded. They will upload again when there is any connection with the internet again.
Screen and keyboard
The screen is 10.6″. This seems to be a strange size, but since WindowsRT supports dual screen, just like Windows 8, it makes sense. Now, you can have e.g. your Twitter client open in a small screen, and work on a 3:2 (or something like that) size on your document or read the news, which is still pretty good for reading and working. It is nice and responsive, though you may see a sort of waterlike circle when tapping the screen, even gently. This may be due to the way the screen is built. No worries about that. It has no retina display, but an “ordinary” IPS screen. However, by using smart technology, the screen is bright enough for watching movies, photos etc. It gives a good view from most angles, but when you need a little more privacy, a special screen protector is for sale which makes sure that you can only see the screen when you are right in front of it.
I have bought the type cover, the cover with physical keys. It works just as a small keyboard of whatever brand, so nothing bad about it. Because of its flexibility, it is advisable though to place it on a flat surface, like a desk or a small table in order to get the most out of it. It connects with the Surface by using little magnets, powerful enough to carry the tablet (if properly connected). When flipped totally to the back, the connectors know that one will not use the keyboard and the function is automatically switched off. Very handy.
Update: I have bought the touch cover as well. It is nice and thin. According to Microsoft, it takes about a week to get used to it. Make that two weeks, but then you can type almost as quick as with a physical keyboard. The touch cover has two markings on the letters F and J, so you know where to put your fingers. Therefore, typewriting blindly is really possible.
How does it work
As I have read that – according to several benchmarks – it is not the fastest tablet, it is not slow either. Only the “desktop” apps take some time to load, just as with normal windows. When loaded, they work as most people are used to. The battery has an average time of 8-9 hours. Long enough for a working day. It can be enhanced by turning off wifi (flight mode), handy when you are going to a place where no internet is available, and you’re bound to work off line anyway. Switching apps is fairly easy. Just swipe from left to right to change. By swiping from top to bottom quickly, you will find additional options (e.g. in Internet Explorer the option to open a new tab), when swiping from right to left, the charms bar will appear. The OS is designed with touch in mind, and so the user experience will be great. When using the touch pad on the cover, it just works like any laptop touch pad.
There is a desktop app, which looks just like the familiar desktop in Windows 7. However, it is an app, ,just like in Windows 8. It makes it possible for certain applications to run properly. As it is a technical design story, I don’t understand half of it, and I will not bother you with it. But this is handy when you want to quickly move files from one place to another, for it has an explorer. It has a recycle bin. The office apps work in this environment.
Will it work for you?
When you do not expect a full Windows tablet, but you can perfectly live with a tablet fit for both content consumption and creation, this is a good alternative for the iPad or an Android tablet (which are mainly designed for consumption). If you are looking for a full spec Windows tablet, do not buy this one, while this is an ARM tablet, just like the iPad and Android tablets.
Make sure you read several reviews, since a lot of review sites are very Apple minded. Since that does not matter when they would admit it, a lot of sites pretend to be independent technology sites.Truly that is a joke. Get yourself informed. If you have the opportunity, try one for yourself. Play with one in the store. If you know someone who owns tablet, ask if you can play with it (just respect the owner’s privacy and documents).
Update: Don’t worry about the price. The Surface RT isn’t offered with a telco contract, so you can only buy it in selected stores. However, the price compared to the iPad3 is lower. The iPad2 may be somewhat cheaper. Only Android devices are really cheap, compared to Microsoft and Apple, due to the several manufacturers (and differences in building quality). Overall, I think the Surface RT has a very reasonable price.
And it is just that I am very happy with it.
For a full spec Windows 8 tablet, consider one of the other ones.There is the Surface Pro, and Lenovo, Samsung, HP, Dell, Acer and Asus have these tablets on sale. It must be said that the battery life is shorter, because of the type of processor.
* Use the C: drive (my documents, my music and so on) to stream. only then it will work as you might expect. Use the SD card for storage of documents and multimedia content you will not use immediately. It is – after all – Windows RT with its restrictions.