Thursday, 6 December 2012

Microsoft Surface Love Hate

OK, I have been playing on and off with one of the new Microsoft Surface RT tabletty laptopy doodads for a week or so and have been having a very mixed experience.

When I ordered the machine there were only black keyboards, so I have the standard machine with the quite clever latch on keyboard that protects the screen very nicely and works as a keyboard quite well while lending a softer more tactile feel to the device. I still would have liked a funky coloured keyboard though.
Anyhow, the hardware itself is nice, with the much trumpeted kick stand and a small array of ports including a USB. One of the key benefits here is that we have Windows 8 running on the tablet - yes only the RT version in this case which does impose a suite of limitations (see later), but it is here and running. I still applaud Microsoft for trying to unite our devices in this way, but having the RT version feels limited. We get a preview version of office 2013 (well parts of it) which means we can run actual Word and Excel.
So there are positives and some of the metro apps are starting to look good.

[Promo Surface RT image via the Microsoft site]

OK, time to burn my way through a raft of frustrations then.

The ARM processor in the RT version of the Surface just isnt up to the task of giving me the Win 8 functionality needed. My basic notes doc which for this year was at 50,000 words is barely useable and even if I hack off 3/4 of it it still isnt a nice experience.

Yes, the whole point of the RT version is to hold us to the metro Win8 apps - that may be ok down the track, but right now that means no dropbox, Lync, Outlook and a score of other helpful things that I have running nicely enough on my HP 2760p.
The apps we do get are a little flat in many places as well - the MAIL app has some nice things but is a far cry from Outlook or the GMail interfaces. The onsceen keyboard is nice - but gets in the way of some actions such as entering a WiFi password...

Some things feel very 'version 1'. The rotation sensor is very sensitive and I keep needing to re-orient the discplay. Sometimes the brightness is way too low or it takes too long to sense that a change is needed. I fail to find settings for things much of the time - configs and interfaces are different for each metro app and system prefs are harder to navigate through than ever (maybe I should just be searching).
The dual Metro/Desktop interface thing is still awkward - at least app switching should ignore this differentiation as that would help unify the experience. Why would I switch to Desktop to get to an application running there?

Soooo, here we have a device with plenty of potential but lots of issues for now, I am really hoping the PRO version is exactly what we all really want - alas it is still 'coming soon'. The real selling point of Win8 on a tablet is the application richness of Windows (including Office, Adobe, Autodesk etc) so the RT Surface fails to claim that territory - bring on the PRO. I do like the picture unlock - that is a nice addition and as the metro apps mature my start screen is looking more and more interesting. I will keep going with this baby for a while yet though, see if I can find workarounds for the speed and application holes.


Hak said...

I was considering a Surface device, but mainly for editing Word docs, some many times the length of what you got. They are lauded as devices that run the full Word experience, so I was interested. The slowness you saw is good to know, thanks for the honest review. One area I will be watching on Pro is how fiddly non-touch apps respond to touch, will Photoshop be usable on a Pro?

Gloria said...

boooooooo! I can't believe you didn't get to get a fun color (I hope it was at least cheaper?!). I have to admit, I have played w/ my boyfriend's for a time, but the speed was so annoying I was turned off. I'm on the hate side (esp for you w/ a black one!).