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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