First full review of the Microsoft Surface RT

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PCMag let slip their review of the Microsoft Surface early, giving us our first full insight of the device in use. The review has now been pulled, but the cache remains.

The 4 page review is summarized as below:

PROS

Comes with a full version of Office 2013 (Home and Student). Good battery life. MicroSDXC slot. USB 2.0 port. Compact. Includes Touch Cover. Touch Cover sleeps and wakes the tablet. Micro-HDMI port. No fans. "Always connected." Dual band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz).

CONS

Kickstand assist only on left face. Only one angle on kickstand. Requires flat surface to use with Touch and Type covers. Speakers are very soft. Few apps on Microsoft’s Store. Not compatible with existing Windows 7 and XP programs. Proprietary charger port.

BOTTOM LINE

The Microsoft Surface with Windows RT bridges the distance between tablet and laptop for many users, particularly if you use the Web or Microsoft Office constantly. The Surface has very good hardware and some innovative design, but Microsoft Office RT is the killer app that comes to the Surface and makes it shine.

The review has some flaws, for example claiming the Surface is $699 compared to $499 for the iPad, ie not comparing similarly specced devices, which may scare of buyers.

They appeared to like the touch cover, calling it “one of the most responsive ones we’ve ever used and when installed, turns the Surface into the quasi-laptop.”

They note they could mirror the Surface’s screen to an external display via microHDMI, as well as extending the desktop, something one of course expects from full-sized Windows and which is fortunately not missing in RT.

They note typing on the Surface while it sits on your lap does work, but only just. with they touch cover being a bit long and the supporting flap digging into your legs. They recommend a flat desk, at which point the angle of the tilt of the flap is also just right.

On the typing experience they write:

While the Type Cover has actual tactile feel, the Touch Cover has better responsiveness. At first try, the Type Cover feels just a bit sloppier while typing than the Touch Cover, until you get used to it. Both are better than using the on-screen keyboard, partly because the screen has no "give," but mostly because the on-screen keyboard takes up a lot of space and will obscure on-screen elements like the browser or a Word document. You’ll also welcome the fact that the Touch Cover has a softer feel than typing directly on the screen…

… the Touch Cover is comfortable for about half an hour of steady work (or hours of IM and surfing); and the Type Cover (or an external Bluetooth keyboard) is necessary for serious writing (1,000+-word sessions).

They said the included Office Suite is suited for up to University level work, being the Microsoft Office 2013 Preview (Home and Student Edition).

They note 720p YouTube videos played well, and Flash sites also seemed to function mostly fine, as did the Netflix app, but Amazon Instant Video did not play in IE10.

They complained the speakers were quiet and the headphones very loud. The former may be a problem if one were planning to use the device for presentations.

In terms of performance, they said on Rightware’s Browsermark benchmark test, the Surface performed a bit slower than the New Apple iPad.

Battery life was good, with the Surface managing  7 hours 45 minutes in their video rundown test from its 31.5 WHr battery vs the iPad’s 10:54 from its 42.5 WHr battery .

They noted taht “All in all, the Surface is pretty good and certainly powerful enough for day-to-day use.”

They concluded:

Conclusion
In terms of its hardware and operating system, the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT is a very good product. It’s very light, and powerful enough to run a version of Windows, so it’s very attractive to Windows early adopters as well as business users who have plans to migrate to Windows 8. It’s powerful enough to be a daily carry device for work, always with you on your commute across the state or across the country. It shares some programs and its main interface with Windows 8, which is a boon, provided you get used to using the new Windows UI. Users who haven’t yet tried Windows 8 will have to get used to the new way of doing things, but since Microsoft has mandated that all new PCs come with either Windows 8 or Windows RT, you’ll have to start using the new UI on new Windows PCs and tablets eventually.

So should you buy a Microsoft Surface instead of an iPad or Android tablet? If you use Microsoft Office for work or school, then it’s a no-brainer: Get a Microsoft Surface (or one of the other upcoming Windows RT tablets). Even though Pages and QuickOffice are pretty good programs, you really can’t beat a real copy of Office when your work is on the line. If you use Office programs constantly, the Surface is the tablet and laptop replacement your inner road warrior has been searching for. Discounting Office, the Windows Store’s limited selection holds us back from giving the Surface an unequivocal recommendation, since the iTunes Store and the various Android stores have significantly more vast collections of apps. There’s no doubt that the most popular apps will be ported over to Windows 8 and Windows RT, but when that will happen is still up in the air. If there’s an app you can’t possibly live without, then you should check if it’s on the Windows Store before plunking down your money for the Surface. It’s because of the limited selection in the Windows Store that we can’t give the Microsoft Surface the tablet Editor’s Choice over the Apple iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 $159.99 at Amazon Wireless. But we see the potential. If you’re a tech pioneer or someone who appreciates well executed design, then you probably have already put the Microsoft Surface on order. In that case, enjoy.

The device scored an “Excellent” rating of 4 stars out of 5.

Read the full review here (Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4)

Do our readers think the review was fair? Let us know below.

Thanks Sean for the tip.

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  • Joe_HTH

    I’ll repost this here.

    In most ways, the Surface looks like the best ARM tablet on the
    market. In a few other ways, it comes up short. For Microsoft to have
    such uncompromising design principles for the Surface, only to fail in
    three key areas is beyond me.

    1. According to PCMag, they got 7:45 on the video rundown test.
    Pretty good battery life overall, but less than good for an ARM tablet.
    Why did they skimp on battery capacity. The iPad 3 gets over 10 hours
    because they put a 42.5W batter in the iPad 3, in spite of having a much higher res screen. The Surface only has a 31.5W battery. Ridiculous Microsoft. Choose a larger battery for the Surface 2. I’m betting the Surface Pro won’t even get 5 hours with it’s 42.5W battery, especially with much more power hungry processors.

    2. 1366×768 resolution is not good enough for a $500-$600 tablet,
    especially when the cheaper Kindle Fire HD and the iPad offer far higher
    resolutions. The upcoming Nexus 10″ tablet will also have greater than
    1080p resolutions. The Surface should have had 1080p resolution as a
    bare minimum.

    3. Tegra 3 processor! Why use this processor when there are better,
    faster processors on the market with integrated LTE? Not to mention the
    Tegra 3 also is one of the worst ARM processors when it comes to battery
    life. The Surface 2 better have the top CPU and GPU available.

    I’d also suggest the next Surface to have NFC, 3G, and 4G LTE. As much as I want a Surface, I’ll wait for the second revision because of these shortcomings. While the Pro looks enticing, battery life is likely to be weak and cooling fans in a tablet is annoying.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Bannor/715701807 Peter Bannor

      I don’t think it actually has fans but I could be wrong on that. Microsoft incorporated the perimeter venting design so the heat disperses evenly across the entire perimeter of the tablet. It was also design so that wherever you hold it you never actually cover it. That’s the reason for the added thickness on the Pro

    • dogooder

      Your input is making me reconsider the surface. I pre ordered 2 of the 64GB models. I will probably get another WinRT tablet.

      • Joe_HTH

        Don’t get me wrong. The Surface is in most ways the best tablet on the market. USB 2.0, microHDMI, microSDXC slot, Office, superior UI, real OS, better cameras, etc. It’s just Microsoft should have know better than to skimp in these three areas if it wants to compete against the iPad, and that’s what they’re competing against.

        In spite of those three areas where Microsoft could have done better, the performance is supposedly fantastic, butter smooth, and fast. The question is do you care about those things I mentioned.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gavin-Tom/100001144097567 Gavin Tom

          The problem you are forgetting is that they wanted it to be light and thin, bigger battery, and all those other things add weight, thickness, and cost and potential spacing problems. I’m glad to be an early adopter the build quality on this thing is unreal.

    • http://twitter.com/Adiliyo Adil

      no fans in the RT tablet,

      the pro has perimeter venting so the active cooling system (if it does use a fan) can spin extremely low. having a fan of some kind in an i5 based tablet that’s still quite thin i could live with.

    • nabberuk

      and all of that would of added to the cost, would you of paid more for those specs. Also wait till we can see one in person before using the line “higher resolutions are better” line, It could end up being like the megapixel race.

    • Vish2801

      Well, why do you need 4G LTE when you do have USB 2.0 which can run data connector.And I’m sure careers will port their drivers if their devices are not compatible with win 8 RT.Resolution doesn’t matter much when you actually do something productive instead playing Angry Birds, even for playing AB you don’t need to have retina display.Resolution is good enough.

      • mrdeezus

        Why do you need 4g when you have tethering?

    • http://profiles.google.com/kflo411 Kevin Florian

      Specs are only one of the many facets of the package you’re buying. Design and build quality abound in this RT tablet like no other OEM offer right now. Sure, same $$ can get you a slight increase in pixels or somesuch, but you can bet your marbles that quality of product and the pride of ownership are far more lasting and impressionable.
      Yes, that’s presuming since we haven’t touched the thing – but given what we’ve seen from Microsoft thus far concerning this hardware — rest your marbles on it. The pride, research, and investment in this unit is likely as dense and valuable as the feel of magnesium will be, come Oct 26.

      These aren’t exactly shortcomings for them. To think so superficially about price and value is a shortcoming.

      One could have argued against the simplistic design approach they took with METRO; what benefit would they garner with solid color blocks?? I mean come on, “I can get super glossy bubble icons on iOS that take weeks to Photoshop.” A discerning eye and tasteful person could see the need for such a fresh, modern, minimalist new approach in Metro.

      And it was well received.

      Slowly but surely, Microsoft’s fresh design tact will show for itself. Hardware aside. This is just a beginning I think.

    • http://www.facebook.com/markoostveen Mark Oostveen

      the battery life of the in general better rated review of Engadget was over 9:30 hours and very close to that of the iPad 3. http://www.engadget.com/2012/10/23/microsoft-surface-rt-review/
      so the Surface with a smaller battery last nearly as long as the iPad 3 with a 30% larger battery… I will stick with Surface!

  • http://twitter.com/Coreldan Core

    They did the mistake of comparing the cheapest version of iPad to the most expensive version of Surface when talking about pricing.

    • Sunovavic

      Mistake? I don’t think so… it’s intentional.

      • http://twitter.com/counterblow the person

        EXACTLY. But since they have pulled the review, Microsoft has a chance to give them a call.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Longshot9 John Hough

    ~~Kickstand assist only on left face.
    Is it really that difficult to do this for a right-handed person that it would be a con? I’m a lefty so I don’t know.

    ~~Only one angle on kickstand.
    It’s pro enough for me that it actually INCLUDES a kickstand. They could have easily sold this as an optional item. I’m sure the one angle was researched as the best angle for viewing when propped up on a desk or table.

    ~~Requires flat surface to
    use with Touch and Type covers.
    How often would you use their keyboard on a non-flat surface??

    ~~Speakers are very soft.
    I can see this being an issue depending on what “soft” is. If I can play a youtube video for people sitting around me and they can hear it in a quiet room, that’s fine. If you’re trying to use the internal speakers to DJ at a party, then yeah, I can see that being a problem….

    ~~Few apps on
    Microsoft’s Store.
    This will change so fast once W8 comes out that this won’t be an issue for very long.

    ~~Not compatible with existing Windows 7 and XP
    programs
    That’s what the regular W8 Surface is for. People that want a MS version of an iPad buy the RT. Power users will buy the regular one. This isn’t a con.

    ~~Proprietary charger port.
    Ok, I can give them this one. I don’t know about Android tablets, but isn’t this the case for MOST products that use a external power supply?? This is a CON for just about every device. I’m no power/charging tech genius, but I don’t get why the majority of products on the market can’t use the same power connector.

    • DEKRA

      That charger port is actually one of the biggest PRO’s for the Surface. It uses a similar approach to Apple’s MagSafe, a charger that latches on with magnets. Easy to detach if you want to, but more importantly detaches easily when you need it to,

      Chances of hurdling a Surface across the floor by its charging cord/port are minimal.

      • http://post404.com/ Randall “texrat” Arnold

        Nokia’s wireless charging technology may have made better sense, then. Surely Microsoft had access…

        • ohh23

          It’s not Nokia’s technology…

          • http://post404.com/ Randall “texrat” Arnold

            True, it’s a Qi standard, but you’re splitting hairs. Nokia has done actual development work that could benefit Microsoft IF their partnership runs along such lines.

          • Tumultus

            And it would most certainly have raised the price because of licensing fees. Additionally, you would have to buy another accessory: the wireless charger pad!

            Even with Nokia, I don’t think the wireless charging is more than a gimmick! Just think about it: you’re wirelessly charging your phone. It rings and you lift it up to answer the call … charging has been interrupted. Not so with a good old wall charger. :)

            Now, translating the above to the Surface, I wonder how much you could use it while it is in the awkward charging position … !

            Some technologies sound neat but they’re not practical at all.

          • http://post404.com/ Randall “texrat” Arnold

            Wireless charging is very practical– it’s just still in its infancy and easy for naysayers to dismiss. Just wait.

          • Tumultus

            Wait for what? I am not the one complaining about the Surface not having wireless charging! :)

          • http://post404.com/ Randall “texrat” Arnold

            No, you’re the one misrepresenting what I wrote.

          • Tumultus

            Yeah, whatever! After all, you were the one telling me to “wait for it”! :)

          • ustudio

            on a tablet cam relly see that, as the charging pad would be big, a charging dock would be better which willl probally happen as that port will have many options

          • Tumultus

            Yeah, which proves my point that wireless charging isn’t much more than a gimmick. Sounds good in theory but has it’s downsides in real life. :)

    • http://post404.com/ Randall “texrat” Arnold

      Regardless of the reasons behind lack of Win7/XP app compatibility, it’s still reasonable to cite it as a con. Win RT fragments the Microsoft ecosystem and will likely cause confusion for customers.

      • Tumultus

        So, is it a con that iPads / iPhones can’t run Mac OSX apps, software and programs? Just wonder because it would basically be the same thing!

        • http://post404.com/ Randall “texrat” Arnold

          No, it’s not the same thing at all. The Surface brand will be applied to otherwise identical ARM and x86 products.

          • Tumultus

            So will the “i” brand from Apple! “iPad”, “iPhone”, “iMac” … :)

            But on a serious note: This is why it is called the “Surface RT”. If there weren’t any differences between the “Surface RT” and the “Surface Pro”, do you think they would have those differntiation in the name? As you wrote yourself: this is a “product line”, not to be confused with a single “product” that comes in slightly different configurations.

            ” The Surface brand will be applied to otherwise identical ARM and x86 products.”
            Seriously? :rolleyes

          • http://post404.com/ Randall “texrat” Arnold

            Roll your eyes or whatever other childish response all you like; there’s nothing wrong with what I wrote.

          • Tumultus

            Already your assumption that Windows on ARM is the same product as Windows on x86 is more than wrong! But then, I’ve no time to play with you. There is enough written about it all over the web, so, before you throw out such “wisdom” in comments and confuse not tech-savvy users, I would suggest you do some reading.

          • http://post404.com/ Randall “texrat” Arnold

            Cool. I’ll return the favor and suggest you work on reading comprehension. So far I have to give you a C-. Being generous.

  • Edson Nascimento

    I want a Video REVIEW!

  • Sunovavic

    Wow Apple just up the ante with the 4th gen iPad and iPad mini… if 3rd gen is faster than the surface then 4th gen will run circles around it. So for now it’s going to be a battle between a full OS with barely any apps V.S. a mobile OS with hundreds of thousands of apps with better battery life, faster and probably better display (unless what they say about the surface display is true).
    Having said that… I really hope Microsoft can deliver this Friday with more surprises other than what we already know. Crossing my fingers and toes on this one!

    • Bugbog

      To me the “4th Gen iPad” announcement was just comical :)

      Firstly. When have Apple (since the advent of the iPhone) Ever performed a product refresh SIX months into its cycle?!

      And to combat the advent of the Surface “we added a microSD slot”? (yes, I’m deliberately leaving out the CPU and GPU upgrade) No software/GUI update?

      I will give them their ‘bitch-slapping’ of Google’s Nexus 7 though. That said, my visualization of their stated USP for the mini was “..and you can hold it in one hand!”

      ??

      That’s it?!!

      If to say Saturday Night Live were spoofing them, I seriously doubt the script would have, or Could have, been written better!

      All-in-all, a pre-emptive strike. The next few months will tell us if it was enough.

      • Sunovavic

        Well to the average consumer… that’s all they need to hear! So hopefully MS can do better!

    • Joe_HTH

      No, what they did was a cynical money smash and grab. They screwed their customers big time. Their pricing on the iPad Mini is also laughable.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Vasquez/1752362185 Richard Vasquez

      wow and apple dont go together anymore. Apple up the ante with 4gen ipad, does it have office, hdmi? usb? expandable storage? please get real ipad are toys even compared to a surface rt

  • http://www.mainstreetchatham.com/ JimmyFal

    4 stars, missing a lot of apps. I don’t see anything to cry about. Battery life could be better but if it lasts the flight across the country I don’t see the big deal really. MS is in the game now, and that can only mean the game has changed. I look forward to the future. That keyboard is innovation, different sizes of the same devices is not… anymore.

  • xma1e

    Okay, switched off when compatibility with windows 7 was a “con”. Morons.

    Seems any part can be a “journalist” these days.