geekiviews: Microsoft SurfaceRT

Microsoft SurfaceRT
Microsoft SurfaceRT

I’m a Microsoft Girl. It’s not sexy and probably not cool but Windows is my operating system of choice since the DOS days. Now while I might be a windows junkie, I’m also very, very slow to adopt new versions. I ran Windows 2k and XP till the bitter end. I skipped everything in between XP and 7 and only reluctantly started using Windows 7 when it came pre-installed on a Dell laptop. So just as I’m getting comfortable with 7 here comes Windows 8. My aversion was at high alert again. I read about how differences in the OS, including the moaning of the missing Start button. I started thinking about how long I could put off upgrading again. The Start button is life on a Windows platform. A constant reassuring feature that every Windows user understands. Now that I’ve tried a flavour of Windows 8 I don’t have the same extreme aversion I used too. I got over myself a bit.

I don’t do well touch devices. I’m a staunch Blackberry lover. I need my keyboard, its life to me. Touch screens are too inefficient for my old school ways. I hate typing on them, with a passion. These quirks of mine keep me attached to my laptop as the workhorse and the tablets as playthings. I love my Kobo Arc but it’s better as consumption device. I don’t create on it, that’s my laptop. Yes, it comes back to the keyboard plus I like the flexibility of a mouse for fine movements.

I followed the launch of the Surface by Microsoft in June of 2013 and it surprised me. Of course I loved the cover slash keypad. They stressed that it’s a desktop replacement that can do all the work and still have tablet accessibility. I wasn’t in the market for a desktop replacement so that was it.

Microsoft SurfaceRT
Microsoft SurfaceRT

Fast forward to now and through the Work Your Game program, Microsoft Canada provided me with a 32GB SurfaceRT. My operating system change phobia wouldn’t allow me to jump right in and put Windows 8 on my Dell XPS. I needed to see it somewhere else first or have it forced up on me via a new computer purchase. So here I have this fun thing to play with and get to know Window 8.

From a hardware standpoint I love the SurfaceRT. It looks slick and durable. The kickstand is genius and pairing with the keyboard makes the happiest tablet user ever. There are two types of keyboards: Touch and Type which is perfect for old schoolers like me that crave tactile feedback. It’s light and small enough to fit in my Rider bag with the touch keyboard attached. The SurfaceRT has a USB 2.0 port, HDMI port and a microSDXC card slot that lets to add up to 64GB of extra storage.

Microsoft SurfaceRT
Microsoft SurfaceRT

The swipe gestures in WindowsRT are easy to learn and execute. It comes with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview. So you are ready to go with spreadsheets and word processing. IE10 isn’t a mobile browser you so get the full Internet browsing experience. With WindowsRT I find myself using the search feature much more. You just start typing on the Start Screen and the search automatically displays and allows you to search the device, your apps, the Windows store and the Internet via Bing.

Overall, I’m very happy with the SurfaceRT. However there are a few things that I’d like to change. I wish the SurfaceRT ran the full version of Windows 8. I don’t like being tied to app stores on my devices. I have control issues. The Windows Store is lacking a lot official apps and I’m finding this to be limiting as I can’t efficiently duplicate tasks I perform on my laptop. It would be really great to be able to use those applications with the tablet and keyboard combo. With time I imagine the selection will be better as more and more people start developing for Window 8 but it’s just not there yet. One bonus is the fully function browser for web apps that don’t have nd official presemce in the Windows Store. The camera was disappointing. It’s not good but this seems to be a common feature I run into with the various tablets I’ve interacted with or owned. Centralized social profiles can be unmanageable if you have a lot of contacts like me. It took longer than normal for WindowsRT to sync with my all social profiles.

Overall, I like the Windows 8 platform. I didn’t require a long period of adjustment which I liked. The Start button absence is a small shock. After I started looked at the Start Screen as my Start button it fell into pieces. I think the OS great for touch devices. It’s easy to navigate and I find myself using both the keyboard and screen together. I like navigation advantages of the touch screen but having that stability of an external keyboard. WindowsRT has a touch screen keyboard. I avoid it like the plague. I do like that you can choose different layout styles for it. I’m not sure how much I’d like to run Windows 8 on a non-touch device though, however the upcoming Windows 8.1 update might change my mind. Windows 8.1 is Microsoft’s response to customer demand for the return of the Start button. Shows you how important this featured introduced in Windows 95 is so fundamental to the user’s experience and expectations of a Microsoft operating system.

There are four versions of the SurfaceRT tablet available:
32 GB tablet – $499
32 GB tablet with black Touch Cover – $599
64 GB tablet -$599
64 GB tablet with black Touch Cover – $699
If you purchase any SurfaceRT tablet in June you will receive a free touch cover.

This post was sponsored by Microsoft Canada. The views and options expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.

By Anita Clarke

Anita Clarke is an Engineering Storyteller and the founder of the fashion blog “I want – I got.” She was one of the first and most prominent online fashion writers in Toronto and Canada.