tablets
  • Editors' Choice

Microsoft Surface Tablet Review

It may look the part, but the Surface RT has a long way to go before it can compete well.

October 26, 2012
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Controls

Controlling your Microsoft Surface RT 32 GB is an interesting challenge to say the least. While the Metro interface (the one with all the tiles when you tap the Windows icon) is fairly intuitive, the fact remains that Windows RT is a strange, smashed-together chimeric creation of a netbook OS and a tablet OS, which leads to some very bizarre inconsistencies. For example, the touchscreen is often not sensitive enough to hit exactly where you need to in the netbook side, but is perfectly okay in Metro. Also, despite the hyped up benchmarks, there is some input lag.

Unlike Android, main control functions are not always app-agnostic, which means that unless you have the keyboard, there are only so many functions that are at your disposal in the same way across all programs. They are as follows: swiping from left to right on the left bezel will bring you through your open apps. Swiping from right to left on the right bezel will open a small menu, and tapping the Windows icon will call up the Metro tiles.

We'll have a more comprehensive piece up in the coming days, but we need to mention that you're NOT getting Windows 8 when you buy the Microsoft Surface RT 32 GB. Instead, you are getting an operating system called Windows RT that is a bit on the bloated side, and definitely has a cadre of nuisances. To its credit it does feel familiar to users of Windows 7 and XBox, but there are several shortcomings.

HDD.jpg

On top of that, the 32GB hard drive size that you think you're buying? Not exactly. There's a system restore partition that cuts out about 7GB that can't be used by you, and then the operating system is apparently almost another 8GB in total. Without a system update, you'll only have 10GB free on your hard drive. After the system update, it's expanded to 17GB free with nothing else on there but the operating system; no cached data, no files, no additional apps installed by you, nothing. Very misleading at best, it seems, though we at least know where all of that space goes. Still, shame on you Microsoft. Fie and shame.

Connectivity

Microsoft built its Surface RT with connectivity in mind. Boasting a full USB 2.0 port which can be used with a thumb drive, 802.11n wireless card, Bluetooth 4.0, and a microHDMI port (which currently doesn't work), the Microsoft Surface RT 32 GB will be able to satisfy many people who are looking to use the Surface RT as a platform to base presentations from, as it's able to handle light office applications as well.

It's very important to note that Windows RT (the Microsoft Surface RT 32 GB's operating system) has a lot of rough edges right now, and some that may not be fixed until the release of the Surface Pro tablet. For example, most of the advanced options cannot be accessed through metro, but the Windows 7-like desktop is very hard to control with your finger because it is scaled so small. Additionally, many of the included software applications are not the full versions, so those of you looking for the full version of Office 2013 will be given only a very scaled-down version.

While it is true that Windows is an OS that enjoys rather frequent updates, it's not clear at the moment just what will get updated in the near future to take care of glaring problems like the microHDMI port. It's frustrating to get a machine that's very clearly unfinished, that's not to say that it won't be fixed in short order.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Battery Life

Possibly the best things about the Microsoft Surface RT 32 GB is the fact that its battery will last a long time, even on full brightness. In our labs, we were able to squeeze out 8 hours, 52 minutes on video playback, and 8 hours, 8 minutes reading an eBook. While it's not enough to set the bar for all other tablets, it's better than many of the main competitors to the Microsoft Surface RT 32 GB, and that's saying something.

{{product.manufacturer_specs['EBook Battery Life']}} {{product.manufacturer_specs['Audio Battery Life']}} {{product.manufacturer_specs['Video Battery Life']}}

Our tests are conducted with the backlight at maximum, and all wireless/additional programs disabled, so your mileage is almost surely going to vary depending on your usage. For example, if you turn the brightness down, you may be able to squeeze out some more run time, or less if you are downloading huge files and playing games (eating up more system resources).

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. Product Tour
  3. Screen
  4. Battery & Controls
  5. eReader
  6. Music & Audio
  7. Movies & Video
  8. Internet Apps
  9. Conclusion
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Compare Prices
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

What's Your Take?

All Comments