Some quick first impressions of the Windows Surface RT

  • Hardware is quite nice, but
    • the default cover/keyboard is unusable
    • the posh cover/keyboard is actually nice to type on, but very expensive
  • There are two completely separate versions of IE on there
    • one you launch via the 'overlay'
    • the other via what used to be the task bar (dock? pinboard?)
    • they don't share anything, cookies, logins, sessions…
  • text can be laggy. You can easily type faster than it can process your keystrokes. I witnessed this in Word and the Mail client
  • A supposedly "nearly full" Office. Word seems to work, as does Excel, but there's no Outlook. There's the aformentioned Mail app instead.
  • Figuring out how to add additional users, with no prior experience of the machine at all, is an exercise in guesswork and guess-swiping.
  • The app store's cupboards are bare. No twitter. Obviously no Firefox or Chrome. The requisite (and superfluous) corporate presences are there (eBay etc.) but pretty much nothing useful.
    • Google appear to offer an app which puts them in the "tile" as oppose to setting your search preferences, but "your hardware does not meet the minimum requirements" for it.
  • It's priced way too high.
  • limited support for USB devices. A mouse worked, a 3G dongle didn't.
  • Compared to a laptop, it's… well. Compared to a laptop joined to a domain, with serially-executed policies, lots of churn and firewalls set up so that there's a 20 minute wait when you boot up if you are off site, the instant-on nature is quite attractive. Compared to a tablet it's expensive and offers no unique selling points. Font rendering is poorer than an iPad. The keyboard and mouse are quite nice, equally so to the Asus Transformer.

I just can't figure out what Microsoft are aiming to achieve with this. They've overpriced it and sold it short at the same time by promising a much better amd64/x86_64 one in the future.

The end-to-end secure code execution means they're stuck waiting for the app store goldrush but there's no market for people to bother porting software to it. Even the most basic apps (google link on home screen/whatever it's called) don't work/can't be installed. It's telling that Redhat, a multi-billion dollar company, don't feel it's worth investing the $99 required to get an ARM Fedora boot path signed so that you could run Fedora on the hardware. No doubt that is a convenient side effect for MS: As much as it would be nice to imagine they consider Linux enough of a threat to have purposefully locked it out, I suspect the resilient to viruses is the key reason. And indeed, in tablet land, poor Android is the most pest-ridden platform. Who would have seen that coming?

The USP, if there is one, is "full office", but the text lag makes it a fairly unpleasant experience to write anything serious on it. The basic keyboard is utterly unusable, and the posh keyboard pushes the price deep into proper laptop territory. Heck, my beloved x121e, the machine I live on for work and play, cost less than the tablet with even the basic keyboard.


Comments

There's a hidden optional update for Office in Windows Update which supposedly fixes the text entry lag
Comment by Jo Shields
The IEs share history.
Comment by Julian Andres Klode
I believe there is an update to Office available from the desktop windows update (not the metro update - WTF?!) which improves the responsiveness of office apps. I didn't apply it, only through laziness.
Comment by Simon Woodman
RedHat (or anyone else) can't pay $99, MS doesn't allow third party code to boot on Windows RT devices.
Comment by James