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Customer Review

361 of 388 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stop Wondering And Buy A Microsoft Surface, 29 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Microsoft Surface with Windows RT 64Gb Tablet (Personal Computers)
31.12.12 UPDATE - It's been over a month since writing this, you'll now need an even bigger mug of coffee before you start reading, as I feel the need to add more information to my review. The experience has got even better.

Approaching 50 yrs young, I've been into gadgets since I was young. I'm not a "fan boy" of any particular manufacturer. So, as such I own:

MacBook Pro
iPad 3 "Retina"
Windows 7 Laptop & PC
Samsung Galaxy Note

I hope in advance that you can therefore see I'm going to give a balanced view point.

Firstly, just to dispel some myths about the Microsoft Surface.

1: You can easily type really well on the touch cover!

I've my own version of touch-typing, like many of you - I've typed for so long that I know where the keys are. Despite the "new" experience of typing on a keyboard, that lacks tactile-feel obviously, the experience is great. It is no more taxing than adapting to a keyboard that has different spacing's - like typing on a new laptop for example.

2: You can use the Desktop side of Windows 8 RT fine with your finger!

I've no idea why educated people on many technical websites have been negative about using a finger to navigate the Windows 8 desktop environment. I can only imagine that the aim was to mislead readers, and help them drag the review score down. Quite a few sites are sadly biased towards certain platforms.

It will cause you no hardship at all, to explore the areas you would on a home PC with a mouse, on the Microsoft Surface with your finger. You can liken it to simply navigating internet links on your iPhone, Blackberry - or anything else with a touch screen.

So what does the Win 8 experience hold for those moving from XP, Vista etc?

A nice new touch one!

Being on Facebook and having a Hotmail account, when I set the Surface up, I log in using my Hotmail info - this is the norm now, or will be.

After updating the built in app's online (it tells you that updates are available) anyone who has entered their date of birth now is highlighted via Calendar alerts. I'm warned when a friend has a Birthday tomorrow! It's an amazing, yet simple touch. I didn't have to do a thing! If you haven't guessed already, I work smarter, not harder.

Yes most home users, will have a learning curve with regards to Win 8 - but it's well thought out. That much is obvious, again - despite what you may have read!

Surface RT boots fast! Navigating the tiled interface is also fast/fluid. Don't forget though, that this version of Windows is for ARM CPU's. Similar to those found in Android devices, and the iPad too. Due to the fact that basically ARM processors are budget versions, full Windows code does not run on them. So - any old Windows software you own, will not run on a Surface RT.

If this is a major issue for you because you have a huge collection of software that you cannot replace, you need to look for devices that mentions either "Full Windows 8", or "Windows 8 Pro". Currently these devices are not only hard to find, but they'll cost a minimum of £720 and upwards! That's if you want to go for a powerful Intel i5 CPU. The Surface Pro will reportedly launch in Jan 2013, the UK price hasn't been announced, and should launch with the i5 chip.

You can easily/quickly expand your Surface RT with app's. This is done via purchase/download from the built in Store that's included. Searching the store is simple. You can view choice by rating, by how new it is, and price etc., etc. Remember that Windows RT is brand new, obviously app's will take time to grow. If gaming as a hobby floats your boat, 46 of the top 50 games are coming. There are already app's available now, that have been available on Android/iPad. They are being updated and having new content added.

Whenever I bought iPad app's, I was very critical of the value that I got for my money. Yes, IOS has more, but it also has a lot of crap. Android is no different. Since writing my review I've added extra content to my Surface RT. The first game I bought was Angry Birds Star Wars. I'd not seen any games from that franchise, hence the reason to start there. The game looks, sounds, and moves amazingly!

I've added several Microsoft games too. In the Store Microsoft has published (not necessarily written) quite a few applications. I've used Mahjong and Pinball FX2, both decent games that show off what can easily be done with a Surface RT. Both games are free.

As I mentioned above, those familiar to the huge app-scene on tablets or phones will recognise things in the 'Store'. WinZip, Skitch, Pilot Brother's, etc. For sake of review, and wanting to get maximum value from my Surface I added Pilot Brother's, Chimpact and a Solitaire games to it. They all look very nice, and perform superb.

One great thing I noticed, since buying the full desktop Windows 8 operating system for my self-built PC, was that all the content (free or paid) that I had decided to get for my Surface RT was available to download and run from my home PC! This is exactly the way that purchasing through a single account should be. The programs were free to add to my PC though, so I only paid the once.

When you view applications in the store, they'll state "ARM, x86, x64". It is shown when clicking on the 'details' tab.

This highlights the difference that I mentioned earlier, that only ARM code will work on the ARM Surface RT. BUT thankfully, having bought the software, it gives me the right to download the program on my other devices if the app has a x86 or x64 version. SO FAR, everything I have viewed has shown that it will run on all 3 scenarios. Hence, my home Windows 8 PC. The x86/x64 reference simply means it'll run on a PC with 32bit Windows, or 64bit Windows installed, but don't worry about those 2 differences.

It's nice to be on the receiving end of value-added experiences. Having my RT app's available for free download for my x64 Windows PC, just broadens my enjoyment. It's one of the reasons I wanted to update my review.

In the Store, there are already image editors available. If you want to be able to edit pictures before uploading them to wherever you choose, then you'll be fine. When I compare like-for-like usage on my Surface RT, with Android and IOS, there are compelling reasons to recommend it. Regardless of whether you are a gadget freak, a person using Windows on a tired laptop (or broken for that matter), or someone considering an iPad.

This portable tablet/laptop hybrid easily gets a huge thumbs up from me.

When you use a program in Window 8, if you swipe a finger in - from the right edge you can access settings for it. As such, what you use is "clean" and uncluttered. Also, when you have the settings/widget area ("charms") in view - say for example in Internet Explorer, if you select to search, it will choose to give you results in Internet Explorer, but you can still change it.

When using Internet Explorer if you swipe down from the top edge, or up from the bottom edge you can get access to features such as new tab, refresh, back etc. Again, at all other times you see full-screen web pages. If you have the cover attached then you can use the shortcuts to "home", "page down" etc., etc. When you've done with your session, if you want to close Internet Explorer (or any other app for that matter) before you shut down, simply drag your finger from top to bottom, and the program is wiped off your screen and closes automatically. Quick and simple.

For traditional desktop users, if you prefer to browse whilst looking at your internet tool bars, you can do that too. You have the best of both worlds. I have hundreds of favourite sites saved in folders, so depending on how heavy my usage is going to be, I can use the desktop version of Internet Explorer if I want. I'm also a huge YouTube fan too, it really amazed me when the iPad wasn't allowed to view native Adobe Flash content! Now I have the full awesome YouTube site back!

Despite being used to the Retina display on the iPad 3, the screen on the Surface RT is completely fit for purpose. It's an awesome screen.

One thing that always bugged me a little about Apple's marketing machine, was the fact that despite of the resolution - you were left looking at exactly the same information when comparing iPad 2 to 3. Yes a web page may have looked more defined, but you couldn't see more of the text on a Retina display. You got an identical view regardless. The way that Internet Explorer works on Surface RT actually means you see "more" of a webpage when compared to an iPad 3.

To illustrate what I mean, I viewed my home page on Facebook. I had to scroll down to information on the iPad screen, that was already shown on my Surface. I much prefer less scrolling, as it's quicker to consume information this way. It just matches the way that I work.

I'll assume that some of you may have read other opinions on Surface RT.

Possibly you have read about features and simply believe that you wouldn't use them?

The other day I was listening to a music track quietly as I did something else, and I'd simply multi-tasked and got both the music up on my screen shown in the 1/4 - 3/4 view. It can and will alter what you do as you learn to adapt to the Windows 8 experience.

When you buy a new Surface you actually are allowed to stream music for free on it, via the built in app. You do not get access to every album, by every artist, but my music tastes aren't "the norm", and I'm easily able to listen to albums I like.

How often do we ever complete a single task from start to end without getting side-tracked?

Seldom, if you are anything like me. Even the swipe gestures to bring back on screen all of your open applications, one by one in sequence, is a quick and easy touch away. I love the way Microsoft and Surface have increased my enjoyment of using a tablet.

Right here, and right now I appreciate that I can look at live tiles which show me I have 4 new emails. I also prefer, that if I spend a few moments watching the notifications scroll within that same tile (which can be resized to my liking too) I can also decide if I need to read 1, 4 or none of them! If they are all adverts, why will I need to bother right? It just makes me more productive.

I'm also (this could be a little sad I know) more inclined to read news now!

Headlines and pictures are updated in the Windows 8 tile environment too. The only time that I ever read news before, was when I spotted a scrolling news banner as I logged in at the Hotmail site. So Windows 8 and Surface RT has also changed my pattern of behaviour, and surely if I consume more on the device - I'll get more value from it. I think the tiles are a nice new way to view information, before deciding whether to jump in and dig deeper. The way the aforementioned news tile works is quite like a glossy news magazine, that's updated live. You get a pictured tile, and it has the headline over the top. A small detail, but all of them add up and work well.

Your family, friends, partner, work colleagues, when they update their Facebook profile pictures, they'll feed through to the People tile, which randomly pulls images through all the time. Add images yourselves to your albums in Facebook, and they'll also appear in the Photo tile. This includes Cloud photo albums, images from the Surface camera roll, and also includes Flickr images too if you have an account.

The other day, a friend's Autistic son created an awesome Sonic The Hedgehog inspired drawing. She uploaded it to her Facebook page. I downloaded the image, edited it, and saved it as my Facebook profile picture. Not only is it saved on my phones lock-screen, but it also gets scrolled through in the Photo's tile too. Which makes me chuckle every time I see it. He's only 8. It really makes my Surface mine, simply by using the new features in Windows 8. If you've seen the new TV ads pushing the new Windows Phone, you'll understand the logic.

Even the new way of searching is easy, yet so powerful. You select to search and dictate what you want to search within. You can search the built in apps, the MS Store, and so on.

Now Microsoft unfortunately get the chance to cause most home user's as much personal grief as they can, when they release new versions of Windows. It's refreshing then, I hope, that possibly contrary to what you may have read - Windows 8 isn't the experience some are painting. Let me compare a simple task, within Windows 8.

Running the calculator!

Whilst typing this review, I swipe the screen to bring up the "charms" and touch the search option.

I then touch the option to make my search look for apps inside Win RT.
I type "calc" and as I do this, the left of the screen is populated with matches.
I now touch (which runs) the calculator software.

Time to complete, under 5 seconds.

No start buttons, no menu's, just type and touch. I'm quite shocked at how this mixed input works, and how efficient (despite how it sounds) the experience is!!

Of course, you can opt to "pin" a calculator tile to the Windows 8 start screen, or add a shortcut to the desktop side of Windows 8, like you could do in previous versions.

Again, on technical websites I've read people moan about such a simple/powerful feature, and about mixed touch/typing input.

If you had to close the program you were using in Windows XP etc, then go to start, then go to programs, then accessories to run the calculator, you'd still be no more productive in comparison. Yet, many sites are trying to brainwash readers into thinking Windows 8 is a mess. To this day (29/11/12) 40 million people have paid to upgrade to Windows 8. That doesn't sound like a nightmare to me.

I could search for any content in exactly the same way on the Surface. With a small Wikipedia app installed, I can even choose to search Wikipedia without going online first and it'll deliver its internet search engine content to me. That's how well thought out it all is.

You are here at Amazon reading my words for a reason. If you don't already own one - you'll probably be wondering should you bother? Let me close this off then.

Yes!

Shop around, I paid less for my 64GB version than what MS would have charged me directly for the 32GB version with the touch cover! Mine was less than £460! Delivered! It was bought from a popular UK auction site, from a long-standing trader.

With a MS Surface RT - you'll get a light, stylish, and thin 10.6" device, the build quality is second to none. More on the quality later!!

I am absolutely amazed at the quality of the Microsoft Surface. Trust me when I say I've spent many years pulling them to bits for one reason or another, when needed.

A Surface RT will likely do everything most households require. Be it email, internet, watching movies, listening to music, Skype calls via the built in camera's, running MS Office - or playing games.

If you are on this path because a PC/laptop you bought in the last 5 years has died - you're pretty much looking at plugging your printer, scanner, or other accessory in and it working straight away. Windows has a HUGE driver base installed. A staggering amount of hardware is supported!

You'll get 2 days use from this Surface too, unless you use it for 8 hours each day unplugged. I take mine to work, and use it at home too - 2 long sessions is fine. Really good reserve from a single charge. I've not timed it, but it'll be 10-11 hours.

You can add memory card storage too. So if you think you may fill the 46GB of available storage space, you can easily add another 64GB as well. Many apps you can download are between 10MB-100MB, so 46GB is going to take some filling. If every app you wanted was 50MB big - you would have room for over 900!

Just in case you think I've made an error about the available storage, there is a back-up partition on the Surface, just in case you should you find yourself needing to reset and reinstall it back to factory fresh again.

As I mentioned earlier, a whopping array of drivers for hundreds of thousands of hardware accessories are built into Windows 8. Which is why, once you talk about "formatted space", and then deduct the space taken up by everything else off - there is 46GB left.

As it stands my device is obviously fully updated through the windows update process too. With every single Windows Update applied from day 1, and the extra app's I've installed, I have over 42GB free still!

The Surface RT screen is the same resolution as almost every other 15" Windows laptop out there, at 1366x768 pixels. Most of your friends on Facebook won't have images anywhere near as big as that uploaded. So, for most families/user's you'll be blown away by what you see.

Don't get caught up in the Apple "Retina display" madness. You already know that it would have you looking at the same web page, and seeing much less information when you use my iPad3 vs Surface scenario. If you MUST have app's, app's, and more app's - don't worry, even with Surface RT being so new, these are increasing weekly.

For 90%-95% of the time, I imagine you'll be very happy to sit with your Surface, and spend time doing whatever you normally do - and type using the on-screen keyboard.

I've also read recently that people say you have to use Surface on a desk, or table. I'm sorry, that is utter garbage! I'm sat on my bed, with my back up against a wall chilling and typing on the virtual keyboard. I use it like this often, for hours at a time!

Another positive for you, and again opposite to what many are writing, is that the built in stand does not limit your user experience! The viewing angle on a Surface is huge. I'm talking about the fact that you can tilt it from level-with-the-eye, to 20 degrees and view the content. Of course it'll alter the colour reproduction if you are wanting to watch a movie, but the angles you can easily read typed text at, is insanely good. I've no idea why people are claiming otherwise.

If you plan to load MS Office and type for huge periods (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One Note are included free) then you may lean towards attaching the touch cover. But then, only by personal preference to be honest. By the way, seeing is believing! The power lead is actually deeper than the keyboard is!! The power lead is about the same thickness as the plastic stem on a cotton bud!

You will grow to love Windows 8, I truly believe this.

You may even wonder how you ever completed tasks quickly, without touching the screen on any other computer you have ever owned before now! You'll love swiping the screen in Internet Explorer to take you back to the previous page, or forward if you have that option turned on when reading multiple pages.

You'll use the function where you can see 2 things at the same time, on the same screen. Even if you only read one thing - to be able to type a reference to it elsewhere. You'll love getting distracted and returning back to your task, by swiping and bringing it back in view.

You'll grow to love spending £5, £3, or less on programs in the Store, when you've been used to spending £30 or more on programs on previous computers.

You'll love the free Microsoft "Cloud" storage, that will back up the content you care about without the need for a USB drive, or a CD writer. If you use Windows 8 on your home PC, or plan on upgrading, then data like website favourites will be taken across to your PC too.

You'll love it when you turn it on, and it boots 2 to 4 times faster than the Windows PC you were likely using before!

Press the power button on the Surface RT, and you'll booted to the password screen in 25 seconds!

You'll like the fact that when you choose to attach the touch-cover, it just aligns itself every time! Magnets guide it into position, then more magnets pull the tablet and cover together.

You'll enjoy putting your own little personal stamp on your Surface RT too in Windows 8. Deciding what you see, and where on the screen you see it. Then there's your scheme colours, and the background and your lock screen. By the way, if you grow to own/use more than one Windows 8 device you can set them to share all of these settings too. Or, you can choose to keep them different, you decide.

I'll bet money, you'll appreciate the built in flip-stand that folds away when not in use, and is perfect for when you set a movie going and don't want to hold it for 1.5 hours.

There are small things too, part of the design and software experience that are hard to put into words.

I'll explain one of them.

I often use the UK Lotto website for checking results. Annoyingly, on an iPad whenever you click from one box to the other to enter the whole line for it to check - the way IOS is written changes away numbers to letters when you move a box. So for every set of numbers you have to change it back before you can input the next group in the sequence. It's slow and awkward.

On a Surface with Windows 8, it just works the way I expect it to.

For most families/individuals, this is one device that does 2 jobs. Both JUST AS WELL! Why? It was designed that way. Laptop, tablet, you decide, and when.

Order a clear screen protector too, and some optical lens wipes too - because you're about to become infatuated with your new Windows 8 touch screen experience!

Ok, you've now got through the whole review, with all the updates added in - congratulations.

One guy did kindly comment that maybe my review was kind of "gushing", it made me laugh, and I can kind of see the point.

But, if you knew how many times I've ranted at Microsoft over many years, then you'd understand why I wanted to sing their praises this time around. Credit where it's due.

ONLY APPLE could have made tablets with almost no expansion cool, finally Microsoft are scared enough to gamble on touch computing properly. With the number of desktop PC's being sold in decline, I'm sure they are worried about losing market share. Maybe this fact alone, made them produce some of their finest work to date.

I don't recommend this final bit of advice, but as a laugh, type the following in YouTube (Microsoft Surface drop test live on stage!) and look for the video that is 1:01 long. It was taken from a very long "Surface Release" event in the USA.

The best thing about the Microsoft Surface, is choice. The more we all have, the more we all benefit.

Cheers
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Showing 1-10 of 31 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Dec 2012 05:28:35 GMT
msCX says:
Thanks for taking the time to produce such a detailed and helpful review. Much appreciated.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Dec 2012 22:23:27 GMT
Kind words msCX, have a great Christmas

Posted on 26 Dec 2012 23:08:33 GMT
Yokomoko says:
That's my mind decided. Thanks.
Although, having used Windows 8 (Desktop) on a touch screen, I tend to disagree with a few points. I have a Windows 8 Phone (Nokia Lumia 920) and love it, the interface works well. I will soon have the surface and I am sure that it is a superb hybrid (I've never really needed a laptop, and when I had one, it just stayed in one place 90% of the time anyway!!), however, if you're using Windows 8 on a non-touch PC, or especially a bezelled touchscreen, things start going downhill, I've yet to upgrade to Windows 8 on my home PC. In your example of opening up Calculator (which I do a LOT!), in Windows 7, you literally press the start bar and then type in calc, total of about 2 seconds, and certain options just don't work with me, as much as I try to like it.

I will soon be developing apps for Windows 8, so I may eventually need to ditch my W8 virtual machine and upgrade my PC, but I will fight that for as long as I can.

I really do want to like Windows 8, but I can't help thinking they have deliberately released another ME/Vista so their Windows 9 sells at a crazy rate.

It was a toss-up between this, and an Asus Transformer, but as this was mainly for work, the USB and Office support is what sold it to me, hopefully they'll improve VPN support on RT devices whilst they implement this in to my phone.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Dec 2012 10:50:46 GMT
Good luck with the app development Yokomoko.

In many areas Windows 8 has moved in a positive direction, and for the app's we love we can pin on the new start screen, or create shortcuts in the desktop side of Windows 8. Compared to stuff like ME and Vista this will be shape of the next 3 years to come. I love the speed of the thing. My desktop (ok it is clocked at 4.6Ghz and is an i7, running SSD) boots in like 8 seconds. Sure it ain't perfect, but when I think of the home users it is aimed at, they have done a good job with Win 8. Yes, agree the 920 is a cracking phone, I'm using it as a 4G hotspot on my Surface whilst on my break at work.

Not sure I'm going to be rushing to add a 27" touchscreen to my home computer though!

On a portable hand-sized device touch makes more sense. A wireless touchpad for the desktop would make much more sense than spending 4 hours a day wiping prints off a huge monitor.
:)

All the best

Posted on 27 Dec 2012 11:43:24 GMT
mathitha says:
A well written view, and I think I shall have one,I had almost made my mind up, but not quite. I have an ipad but hate the fact as connections to other things are so convaluted. thanks

Posted on 31 Dec 2012 12:23:40 GMT
Dajazzman says:
What a great review. I have looked at getting a 7" tablet but can't justify the £150-200 spend. I have been excited by the idea of Windows Tablet and as an Xbox owner and having upgraded to Win8 on all pc's (desktop & Laptop) was thinking that I had to wait for the Pro Tablet to be released before buying. Your review however has removed that concern. Let the saving commence!

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Dec 2012 18:39:22 GMT
Thanks for sharing your point of view with me mathitha, my experience of using Windows 8 on my Surface RT has even improved since writing my thoughts. Good luck, whatever you choose.

Happy New Year...

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Dec 2012 18:43:55 GMT
Good luck with the saving Dajazzman, the Surface is worth every penny. The experience keeps getting better!

Happy New Year

Posted on 1 Jan 2013 13:45:01 GMT
Pepper says:
Colin, a great review - one of the best I've ever read. Love it! Happy new Year. Regards Paul Madge

Posted on 1 Jan 2013 23:53:58 GMT
Solid review, I also own the 64GB model although it was wrapped up for most of the month have only got my hands on it since Santa dropped it round. I did not come from a tablet background so really cannot compare the benefits over an Android or iOS model directly. I do though feel very happy with my choice especially having the office 2013 suite connected to the cloud (although not immediately apparent how to upgrade from the preinstalled preview to the full version.

I also bought Angry Birds Stars Wars and was pleasantly surprised to find it available on my Office laptop, had a sneaky game. Just swipe up when in the App store and select your Apps and it lists all the Apps you have purchased on your Windows 8 PC with your Surface or visa versa.

All typed on my Surface whilst snuggled up in bed, keyboard tucked back and using the screen keyboard and with kick stand out.
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