Monday, November 5, 2012 by Frogboy | Discussion: Personal Computing
I'm writing this with my brand-new Microsoft Surface. The best way to describe it is that Surface is to tablets what the Zune was to music players. It's not terrible but the $500 device has nothing to recommend for it.
As a notebook device, it's certainly better than the iPad. It supports multiple users. It supports mice (and on-screen mouse cursors). In short, you could realistically use this device as a very very light work machine. In theory. It comes with a Windows RT version of Office Preview which works adequately, if slowly.
Ironically, it's as a tablet where it falls down. I always assumed that the "Metro" experience would shine on a tablet. It doesn't. It's annoying and perplexing even there. Give me the option of having the charms bar up all the time and the specific app bar up all the time and it would be much more tolerable. I really don't like having to swipe at the screen in just the right way to get options to display. Getting around the Metro experience is a chore, even as a touch device.
It's very frustrating, at times, to navigate around Metro. I'm still new with I accidentally closed my editor because I was trying to switch to another tab (Which you do by swiping down from the top and selecting the tab). However, if you swipe too far down, it closes the app. Bam. Gone.
What's worse is the app selection is pitiful. Don't even think about using Office apps as a pure tablet. It's very frustration trying to use what is clearly a Win32 port with a touch screen. It does much better once you've sat down, hooked up a mouse, and started working with a real keyboard. The situation with Modern UI apps (which I'm just going to keep calling Metro) is even worse. The included ones are slow. Very slow. I also couldn't find decent third party apps that I'd use. If there's a Pulse/Flipboard quality RSS reader for WinRT I haven't found it yet. There just isn't that much to do with it.
The form factor also makes it an awkward tablet. It's very long (or wide, depending on how you look at it). It's also quite heavy. Too heavy to want to use as a tablet for an extended period of time.
Getting more apps for it is also painful. The Windows Store is terrible. As anyone who has used Windows 8's store knows, it's an assault on the eyes. Lots of multi colored blocks that tell you nothing about the app. It's just very hard to find things.
Here's my friend Paul (former guest on PowerUser.tv) trying it out.
Just a few points to take home from this from my notes:
- Note Facebook app
- No bundled Twitter app
- No bundled RSS app
- Apps load extremely slow
- Very hard to navigate around
- Too easy to unload things entirely
- Too heavy to use for an extended period of time as a plain tablet
- It's ergonomically inferior as a tablet
- The Office port is embarrassingly half-assed
- Lack of app selection makes it hard to justify using vs. an iPad or Android device.
- UI usability lacks a lot of polish, awkward to use at times
- You cannot use this as a laptop (the stand requires a desk)
- The mouse and on screen cursor is a huge win.
- It's actually a pretty decent notebook PC if you buy the upgraded keyboard.
- The screen isn't bad.
Overall, for $599 it's not a bad little notebook PC. But I can't imagine why anyone would want to use this as a tablet versus its competitors unless you have some specific enterprise need for multiple users and superior security.
I am really digging the form factor. It's replaced my MacBook Air for light computing. But it's pretty mediocre as a tablet. It's a light PC.