To set things into context you need to know that I pretty much moved away from Microsoft Windows PC to Mac OS X 5 years ago. The only Windows products left in my house were a Windows Media Center PC for TV recording with 2 x XBOX 360 as Media Center extenders to watch TV on other TV in the home.
I have been using iMac and Macbook as my computer platform for day to day work since 2007. In fact my iMac from 2007 is still alive and kicking. It is still quite fast as an OSX server. Those iMacs are built to last.
I also own 2 iPads (1st gen and 3rd gen), 4 iPhones (1 x 3G, 2 x 4 & 1 x 5) and a bunch of iPods and iPod touch. So one could say I am sold to Apple.
So this bring us back to Windows Surface RT running Windows 8. When Microsoft announced it I had a feeling it was going to be an interesting platform and at that moment I already decided to order one when it would become available to try it. It has been 3 days now with the unit and I must say I am very pleased with it (minus the fact that I am still waiting for the Touch Cover to arrive… come on Microsoft, how could you ship my unit without the ordered touch cover…)
The tablet is very responsive and fluid. OK, there are some areas where the animation could be better like the change or screen orientation animation. But overall it is on par with the iPad 3.
The applications on the tablet and available on the Store are quite good if you ask me. I am not a big user of apps on the iPad so others might have different opinions. But for what I do (at work) I feel the Windows Surface RT is actually better than the iPad. The OneNote application I just started to use is awesome. I also quite like the Microsoft SkyDrive and associated Web Applications. I can take notes in meeting (using the screen keyboard as I don’t have the touch cover yet) and then open them on my work computer using SpyDrive. Very handy. I feel that SkyDrive is a better cloud solution than iCloud as it act as a true cloud storage available as a drive and not something integrated in individual applications. Different approach than Apple and I think I prefer this one over iCloud at the moment.
I also tried the Windows Surface RT as a dual screen setup and was pleasantly surprised by the result. It behaved just like a regular laptop once I attached and HDMI cable and USB Keyboard/Mouse to it. I was able to edit Word documents and PowerPoint presentations stored on SkyDrive using both screens. I almost forgot I was using a Tablet and not a full blown PC. I would not be able to do this with the iPad. I can certainly see using the Windows Surface RT as a full laptop replacement on short business trips.
Another thing I found Surface RT to be better than iPads is at accessing network resource. Just like a full blown PC I was able to map a network drive to other SMB shared on my home network (from both iMacs and the Windows Media Center PC running Windows 7). I could then open movies and music from those shares to consume on the Tablet. With iPads this would require me to make sure the media was added to the iTunes library but you see I use the Windows Media Center PC for that and I don’t load everything in iTunes so this is another +1 for Surface RT.
The one thing that Microsoft need to address is the lack of LTE support. When i am on the road I had to use my iPad3 LTE as a WiFi hot Spot for the Microsoft Surface RT to stay connected. But I would rather bring only one device and not two tablet to do the work. Microsoft, you really need to add this sooner than later.
Oh, and I also bring the Surface to bed now to consume website and emails and I have not missed the iPad as I feel websites are actually rendered better on the Surface vs the iPad as it offer a full blown browser experience. It is hard to put the finger on exactly what make it feel different but it does.
So as a conclusion I must say that the Surface RT is starting to get me to change my mind on Microsoft. I think they have a good product on their hands and I am looking at the next revisions. And no, Microsoft is not paying me to write this. I actually bought the unit so this is not a paid review. It is a true to heart review and I want to give credit to Microsoft for coming up with a true alternative to Apple iPad.
I tried RIM Playbook and Google Tablets and neither come close to what Surface has to offer.