So far PC tablets have been sort of meh for me until getting a sneak peek at the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT during a private meeting at BlogHer in August. Like with most new tech devices, I was immediately intrigued by this new Windows tablet but wondered if the sleek, seemingly easy to use, and gorgeous device running the new Windows 8 would be too good to be true. Early reviews were mixed but since getting my hands on one around the holidays, I have to say that Surface lives up to and exceeds my expectations.
One of the first things I noticed while unboxing the Surface with Windows RT is how Microsoft has differentiated their product from others on the market with its packaging. Lots of thought has been put into the design of the box itself, making it evoke the high style of the iPad, Apple’s competing tablet with largest current market share.
But make no mistake, Surface is not an iPad wannabe or copycat.
Sure, it’s highly portable thanks to its slim (.37”) and light (1.5 lbs) design. It has a front and rear facing camera, magnetic attachment for the power cord like many Apple’s devices have, and features a metal exterior (Surface is made of magnesium alloy versus the stainless steel back of the iPad) but those similarities are where the comparisons end.
Microsoft has taken the Surface and raised expectations of future iPads thanks to some nifty features that Apple simply hasn’t included in the design and smart accessories that aren’t yet available to accompany their popular tablet.
Surface features an integrated Kickstand that is perfectly angled to avoid the chopped off head look when using the front or rear facing camera. It’s pretty smart that the rear camera in the Surface is angled at 22 degrees so it looks straight ahead when the kickstand is engaged. Hooray for no more cut off heads when Skyping!
Apple may have the Smart Cover for their iPads but the Surface’s Touch Cover is even smarter. The iPad Smart Cover and Surface’s Touch Cover both attach to the tablets magnetically but the Touch Cover does double duty as a protective cover and keyboard. The slim Touch Cover features a pressure sensitive keyboard, Windows shortcut keys, trackpad that require a gentle touch to use, and can be folded back like a magazine cover for times you want to just use the touchscreen capabilities of Surface.
Most other keyboard accessories for tablets require a Bluetooth connection. Not the Touch Cover. It just snaps in and works. There’s no frustration of being able to connect via Bluetooth or remembering to keep the extra accessory charged. Parents who let their kids use their tablet will appreciate that the Touch Cover is easy to clean and spill resistant. The Touch Cover’s price may seem steep ($119) but honestly, good iPad keyboards cost almost as much and aren’t nearly as cool or easy to use as this. For anyone who prefers the click of real keys over touching the keys on the Touch Cover might like the Type Cover ($129).
One of my pet peeves on my touchscreen devices are endless fingerprints. Thanks to the anti-fingerprint coating on Surface, I’ve been able to put the Windex away. I love that the screen always looks perfect and I’m not having to look through smudges.
Yes, there is one USB port on the right side of Surface for additional storage for connecting a wireless mouse. Of course, if you have the Wedge Touch Mouse, it connects automatically via Bluetooth so you can keep your USB port free for other things.
Windows RT on Surface
The Surface comes preinstalled with Windows RT, a version of Windows that’s specifically designed for Surface and other laptops. For those who are familiar with Windows 8, Windows Phone 8X by HTC, or the XBox interface, Windows RT features tiles to provide a similar visual experience across various Microsoft products.
Just like Windows 8, Windows RT allows you to customize your Start Screen so the items you use most are front and center. Having pinned many of the same apps to the Surface Start Screen that are our HP ENVY 23 TouchSmart AiO, I’ve found the experience to be similar and seamless when switching from tablet to desktop machine and also when using the 8X phone.
Windows RT also comes with Office Home & Student 2013 Preview that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote so Office documents and has many of the same features available on Office Home & Student 2013 on PCs. The main difference between the two is that Windows RT is designed with mobility in mind so documents can be accessed on the go and saved to SkyDrive. When you aren’t using the built in wifi to connect to SkyDrive, you can still access your documents. And if you’re concerned about the fact that it is called Preview, don’t be. According to Microsoft,
“A special early edition, sometimes called a beta or preview, installed on your tablet before Office Home & Student 2013 RT testing was complete…After the final editions release, you’ll be automatically updated for free via Windows Update….Additional features may be added to the final edition of Office Home & Student 2013 RT”
Microsoft Surface with Windows RT features:
- ClearType HD touchscreen delivers a crisp picture while being fingerprint resistant thanks to the anti-fingerprint coating
- Full-size USB port
- microSDXC memory card slot for storage
- Two cameras (front and rear facing) for video chats or taking pictures
- Great sound: stereo speakers, headset jack, volume control, dual microphones
- Wireless: Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth®
- Looking for more technical information about Microsoft Surface RT? Read the full tech specs.
- To view the differences between Windows RT, Windows 8, and Windows 8 Pro, this comparison chart is incredibly helpful.
- Microsoft also recommends visiting the Surface site for additional resources. Additionally, Windows RT support is available and the Microsoft Community is also a good source of information about Surface..
- Questions about Windows 8? Microsoft offers these support options.
- Learn more about Office Home & Student 2013 Preview.
- For those who are visual, love interesting virtual experiences, are style mavens, and enjoy knowing interesting tidbits about products, Microsoft’s Holiday Lookbook is definitely worth a look. Hovering over the images provides product info and tidbits while all of the products are shareable through social plugins.
For PC users who have been resistant to getting an iPad, the Surface with Windows RT is a fine choice. The innovative engineering behind the Kickstand and thoughtful features such as the camera angle as well as the must-have Touch Cover make this a fantastic tablet to own. It’s certainly portable thanks to it’s size and weight but yet robust enough to function better than many laptops on the go.
If you’ve been waiting to hear more about Microsoft Surface Pro before making the jump to Surface, CNET noted that they were “impressed” with the Intel based machine that will run full Windows 8. For more information about Surface Pro, read Hands-on: Microsoft Surface Pro lives up to hype.
Microsoft Surface with Windows RT starts at $499 and is available at Microsoft Store retail locations and Microsoft’s 32 holiday pop up stores. Visit CNET for a list of Microsoft pop up store locations.
GIVEAWAY: Since Microsoft wants you to learn more about Surface, they’re providing a $200 gift card to the Microsoft Store!
Having visited Microsoft Store locations in my area, I have to say that they’re a great place to get to know Surface and other Microsoft products such as Xbox or Windows Phone 8X by HTC since the store experience is all about hands on time with products and trying before you buy. It’s also a place where you can get your questions answered by experienced employees.
Enter to win a $200 gift card provided by Microsoft by using the Rafflecopter form below.
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I am a Microsoft Windows Champion and received the products mentioned in this post for review purposes but all opinions are my own. As a Windows Champion, I occasionally receive Microsoft products such as hardware, software, and accessories to assist me in developing content for my site. No compensation was received for this post or hosting a giveaway. Amazon Affiliate links are included in this post. Images courtesy of Microsoft.