Microsoft Surface With Windows RT Hands-On Impressions
How does the Surface RT hold up after a weekend of use? We put it to the test.
I originally wanted to do this entire story with the typos left in.
My first day using the Touch Cover was plagued with so many typos, I figured it would be a fun way to show off how steep the learning curve on the new Touch Cover is. But then, miraculously, after a weekend of use I stopped making so many typos.
My words per minute is still nowhere as fast as it is on a normal keyboard, and dragging and dropping is a huge pain, but I’m pleasantly surprised with what I’ve been able to accomplish on the Surface’s Touch Cover. When the Microsoft employees tell you it has a steep learning curve they mean it. But it is learnable.
That steep learning curve is present in more than just the Touch Cover though. Just take my horrific day of setup as proof. For some reason, you need to use the same Microsoft Account as your Xbox Live Gamertag is connected to upon setting up your administrator account, or else you can’t access your Gamertag. As far as I can tell, once you’ve created an administrator account, there’s no way to switch the administrator account – shy of reformatting your Microsoft Surface. Which I did. Twice.
Sure, it doesn’t sound like a huge problem, but I had to reformat my Surface twice in single day just because there was no clear instructions during the setup process. Weird glitches happened throughout the process (perhaps most bizarrely, it told me it couldn’t accept @outlook.com addresses, which Microsoft invented.). It was a nightmare, and there is no way people like my parents would have figured out how to fix it.
But enough about the weird, frustrating setup process. I have been consistently and simultaneously shocked by what the Surface RT can do (and at times what it cannot).
With the tap of a button, the Surface can display a full desktop, which allows you to quickly sort through your file hierarchy. This is the kind of dream people on iPads have – a computer OS-style folder format for their files and media.
This alone gave me the impression that RT really was something just a bit more than a tablet pc. Similarly, the hardware has a few tablet/PC-hybrid tricks up its sleeve. The USB port works flawlessly, and allowed me to quickly add a keyboard when I needed to get things done faster than the Touch Cover allowed, and worked with a mouse as soon as I plugged it in.
everything in Surface RT is designed to be done by touch
Adding a mouse is hugely valuable, as the Touch Cover’s trackpad and small buttons are a bit hard to use. But ultimately, you may not need it – everything in Surface RT is designed to be done by touch, and frequently I found myself switching between touch and Touch Cover.
I cannot emphasize the mind-boggling accomplishment this represents. If Microsoft can successfully get us to simultaneously use touch and hardware for input, they’ve created a brand new way for us to use a device, and it frequently felt like something completely different from its competition.
Still none of that matters much if you just want to use the Surface RT as a gaming device, and unfortunately our initial impressions are not favorable. On the first day of using the device, the Surface had significant slowdown playing every single game we tried. Jetpack Joyride dropped significant frame rate whenever touch input occurred and Pinball FX was rendered virtually unplayable due to a delay in input and paddle action. However, later in the weekend I was able to play Jetpack Joyride without significant stutter, so further testing is required.
Some other snap judgments: the charger is tough to fit in the device, the speakers aren’t great, and finally the Surface is super easy to use as a tablet with a folded Touch Cover behind it.