Surface RT - brief view from an iPad user
A work colleague bought a Surface RT (64GB, touch keypad) in Houston and has it with him visiting our office. So I got to play for an hour or so
In tablet mode, the touch interface is excellent. The tiles move smoothly and consistently. I'd used Win 8 on my Imac so was familiar with the interface but it is much better for full touch.
The swipe in to bring up charms and last app are really neat, the multitasking bar less so - seems to take a few goes to get it some times but it is a great way of accessing stuff. iOS could learn from this. I did notice it starting to lag if you have a few apps with big documents open. The Search system is excellent - again iOS could learn by having the search screen selectable to device/apps/web.
The built in Metro apps work well, particularly IE10 which is very fast and smooth. It still renders some sites differently to Safari/Firefox but this is more an observation than an issue. The "snap" to have two (actually 1 1/2) apps up is very easy to use (but see below). The build quality of the actually device itself is excellent - solid nicely assembled and durable. It is noticeably heavier than my iPad2 but not excessive (except if you try holding in one hand/portrait). Screen quality is great and excels at playing video (he had ripped Avengers to watch on the plane). Resolution only shows up poorly if you zoom text or drawings pretty big. Brightness and viewing angles great
I no like.
Pretty useless in portrait as I'd thought. The OS isn't really set up for it and the thing is clumsy to hold. Put an A4 document up on it and an iPad side by side and the iPad is much easier to view even though you get more of the length on the Surface's screen.
It is great having full Office on there but not any better, in fact significantly worse, than on a proper laptop - it is back in the realms of netbooks. Office (and file manager) really requires the use of the keyboard , it is just too small and fiddly to use only touch. It also starts lagging very badly if you have very large documents loaded (15mb Powerpoint with a lot of photos but no video or animations takes noticeable seconds to load each slide for editing). The reverse is true with the Metro apps - they aren't very nice in mouse mode. The keyboard (the cheaper touch one) is horrid. Reminds me of the old Sinclair Spectrum "dead flesh". My colleague is thinking of buying the click one when he gets back to the US.
The trackpad - being used to a MBA and a Mac with trackpad, it is pretty dreadful. I have a Dell Laptop at work which I hardly ever use the track pad on but tried for comparison and it was similar in terms of response but the feel of the Surface one is .. bleh.
The oncreen keyboard dominates the screen to the extent that is very little space to see much of the document underneath. There is no easy way of propping the tablet at a comfortable typing angle. I doubt many people will use it. There is no voice recognition! I don't know why but I assumed it would have. It is something I use a lot on iPad even though I have only the Dragon Dictate app, not Siri (i have an iPad2). I dictated most this post as a note on my iPhone. Snap: This is one "unique selling point" that should be so good, but it falls down a bit. It is fine if you want keep an eye a static app that doesn't need much space (like a mail app, RSS feed or similar) but the main reason I use two apps side by side on my PC or Mac is to copy and paste information between them and the "one third" app just doesn't give you enough to do that. It is fairly easy to flick the divider over to copy and back to paste but it is also only slightly more to swipe the apps back and forward on iOS. Don't get me wrong, it is a great feature but it isn't really two app working, it feel like a halfway house. I was thinking it would be nice to have this in iOS but, if fact it would be better to have a horizontal split view in portrait for what I want. It is certainly no substitute for a windowed system
I was pleasantly surprised by the tablet UI, it works really well in tablet mode. Then again I have always liked Windows Phone. The problem is this tablet mode is limited (effectively) to landscape. I probably use my iPad 40/60 portrait/tablet.
In "laptop mode" it becomes a rather clumsy netbook. I suspect it will be a lot better with the hard keyboard but the soft one is worse than many of the iPad add-ons I've tried.
The trackpad is nasty and encourages you to reach up to touch the screen rather than use it and that is just a horrible, ergonomically unsound action.
The guy who bought it is having a touch of "buyer's remorse" and is considering EBaying it here in the UK while there is demand and getting a pro or one of the larger hybrids later
It's a nice piece of hardware but I cant help thinking this is MS trying to pull potential tablet users back to the keyboard/mouse/desk way of thinking which is where their (MS) comfort zone is. Ultimately it tries to do two things and does neither particularly well.
I'm hoping Apple pinch some of the tablet ideas for iOS7 though!