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Microsoft Surface Tablet Review

December 18, 2012

Summary

I purchased the new Microsoft Surface on October 26, 2012. The device as an upgrade
for my old iPad, a first gen device that couldn’t be upgraded and it was
sitting around the house (I also have a newer model), so I figured I would give
the Surface RT a shot. To be very clear, my assumption was that the Surface would
be used in the same way I had used the iPad. I could play some games, surf the
web and get occasional work done when there was no other device handy. Sure, I
knew the device would have the full version of office, but really, it’s a
tablet, right?

Well, to make this story short, I have found that the Surface was not only a replacement for my
ipad, it has also replaced my laptop and in most scenarios it has also replaced
my desktop. I know, I know, let me pause for a second so you can take that in.
The device with a 10 hour battery life, weighs under 1.5lbs and only runs apps
from the app store…has replaced my iPad, my laptop and my desktop. I will
explain exactly how that has happened in the remainder of this review.

Replacing the iPad

The iPad has been a great device for me. It was light, the battery life
lasted all day long. I could get some light work done in a pinch. It also had the
games I wanted to use to kill time or hand to the kids to keep them busy.

For starters, the Surface is just as light. It has the same all-day battery
life (I have been getting 10-12 hours of pretty regular work). I started by
loading different versions of Angry Birds, Plants versus Zombies, Cut the Rope,
and one of my personal favorites, Wordament. Needless to say, it fit the bill.
It might not have as many apps as other platforms, but it had many more apps
than I would ever try to install or play.

There were also a couple things I didn’t originally count on. The news apps are simply superior to any
other platform. I configure a news section on my home page and it’s constantly
updating with breaking news. My home screen
becomes live with relevant information
. Turns out, it does the same thing
with social media where information from Facebook, Live, LinkedIn and Twitter
all come to the homepage without too much digging. In a word, Awesome!

Also, Xbox Music and Movies, are incredible. I spend a fair amount of money
on music for myself and my daughter. With Xbox music, I pay a flat fee of about
$9.99 and I can download or stream as much music as I like. When I connect the
Xbox to my BT speakers it provides all day music while working. The ability to
download and stream music is also available on my laptop, Mac, desktop and
Xbox. I will write more on that service later, but for now, goodbye iTunes. I
am finding Xbox music to be a fantastic music app.

As for the light work, well, as I mentioned it has the full version of
office and that topic takes me right into the conversation for replacing my
laptop.

Replacing my laptop

My daily laptop is split between a Macbook Air and a Toshiba Portege. Honestly,
the Toshiba has been getting far more use since I have started using Windows 8.
Although I really do enjoy the form factor of the MBA (I use bootcamp to dual
boot it with Windows 7). It’s just getting a bit long–in-the-tooth.

How do I use the laptop? Well for starters, it’s my “bring your own” work device.
I use my personal device for work and play. For work, like many other large
organizations we use a combination of Microsoft/Citrix technologies to make it
possible to work completely on work data in a secure way.

I have discovered that using technologies like Citrix/Microsoft terminal
servers, the Surface is a great device. The Citrix receiver allows you to
connect into work and run applications with the full power of a corporate
device. Additionally, when in the office, I use a USB hub to connect a
keyboard, mouse and printer along with the HDMI out to a big monitor so that I
can run full dual screen. In this scenario, the Surface works perfectly.

On the plus side, compared to my laptops, the Surface has a much better
battery life. Also, it’s touchscreen, so that it quickly converts from laptop
to tablet. Quite honestly, it’s this ease of conversion that gives it another
advantage over my laptop. That is, when I take my laptop to the office, I would
also carry my iPad. Now, I literally walk into the office with a single device.
No need for a charger, no need for a bag. Ironically, it’s the same ease of portability
and ability to context switch between work and play that gave my ultraportable
laptops the advantage over my desktop when at home.

Replacing my desktop computer

At the end of the day, to be completely transparent, I use my desktop to
crunch very large data files as part of my research analysis. My surface doesn’t
do that. However, when I am sitting in front of the TV, I now run a remote
desktop app on the Surface to connect to my desktop in my office. The surface,
just like at work, functions as the personal device which accesses a much more
powerful machine to get “more complex” work completed. What does that mean?

I am a power user. I would guess that I need more processing power than
probably about 99% of the people in the world. However, I don’t always need
that processing power on the device in front of me. Also, the vast majority of
the time, I am not crunching huge data files. Instead, I am reading and
composing email. I am surfing the web for research and at the same time using
the Office products: Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I access web portals and conduct
conference calls using Skype/Lync. Guess what? 99% of the time, I have no need
to even connect to my desktop because the little Surface device can do it all.
BTW – Just like in the office, if I need to have a bigger screen, or if I want
a bigger keyboard/mouse, I do exactly like my work. I connect the HDMI cable
and the USB Hub. Just like that my little iPad replacement has become so very
much more than I ever expected.

Addressing other reviews

I don’t want to say that many of the other people who have conducted reviews
are not intelligent. I don’t want to say that many reviews are small minded
from the perspective that they take a new technology and instead of saying,
“what’s the best way to use this device”, they instead say, “I
am used to old technology and this new thing doesn’t behave the same way”.

Here’s the real deal folks. Picking a laptop or a tablet is really a
personal preference. What style of device, brand preference, etc.
However, to be satisfied with your device, you need to understand what you
do on the device. For me, I have no problem saying that I will only run apps
from the app store. It’s easier to find apps, it’s easier to manage upgrades,
it’s just easier.

When I look at my laptop usage over the past several years, I use Office. I
use the web browser. I use a couple old apps written for prior to
Windows;7 computers. However, in looking through the app store, I was
comfortable that I could use other apps to replace my old legacy apps. Oh,
yeah, and then there’s this. Something I haven’t seen on other blogs, something
that makes the Surface tablet heads and shoulders above other tablets, it’s
a real desktop companion. While it can replace the desktop in many cases, it
can also be used to remote control your desktop for anything you need that is
not loaded in the app store.

Look at it this way. You can buy a Windows RT device for less money than a
full PC. You can have all day battery life, a touch screen interface that
allows quick context switching from work to play, you can run the remote
connection app to connect to a desktop PC and then run any “old computer” type
app that is not available in the app store. By the way, did I say that you can
do this on a device that is smaller, cheaper and generally capable of doing anything
you need?

I was so surprised by the performance doing this on my home network that I have since realized this is a viable alternative for so many people today. Do you have a desktop computer in your home? Does it work? Can it do everything you want it to do? How about this, use it! Combined with the Surface tablet, you can use the remote desktop to do just about anything. At the end of the day, you are going to find that 99% of what you need to get done, you can get done just fine by using the Surface as your sole computer.

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From → Technology

12 Comments
  1. Sounds very interesting! However, I am more the Apple guy. I think the Surface is pretty neat, it’s really powerful Hardware, but I don’t like the operating system. And I really love how smoothly and seamlessly the syncing across my Apple devices (iPhone, iPod and MacBook) works.

  2. Sebastian – I have been where you are…I forced myself to try other products and well, let’s just say, I was surprised when, by comparison, things weren’t as seamless (ipad/ipod/iphone apps) or smooth (iTunes) as I had told people.

    I started working on a video blog to compare the technologies you listed: iPhone, iPod, iPad, MacBook and Apple TV with the Microsoft technologies: Windows 8 desktop, Windows 8 tablet, Windows Phone 8, Office 2013 and Xbox (Games, TV, movies and music). Since I have all consumer products I can compare them side-by-side.

    I decided not to go there because I didn’t want to get into the religious war. At the end of the day, I could demonstrate how to make each work effectively. Obviously, the Mac ecosystem still uses the Microsoft solutions in a big way. Office, Silverlight, Xbox. In fact, a large percentage of Mac computers also run a Microsoft OS on bootcamp or VM. For about 90% of the businesses in the world, even if you are running your end device as a Mac, you are connecting to a Microsoft Email system, running your applications on Microsoft servers, most likely collaborating on the Microsoft collaboration platform, and potentially managing your business critical CRM stuff on a Microsoft solution.

    The bottom line is this, The Microsoft ecosystem is much more expansive and as a result, I am going to stay focused on the Microsoft stack for now. Let’s see how the articles turn out and what kind of responses/requests come in.

  3. You do like technology don’t you? I will come back when I can

  4. I have been browsing online more than 4 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It is pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content
    as you did, the web will be much more useful than
    ever before.|
    I could not refrain from commenting. Exceptionally
    well written!|
    If i get one of these, does anyone want to buy my old one!

  5. Excellent observations. Honestly, I think the Microsoft Surface tablet is exactly what the industry needed to get itself moving again. Let’s stop trying to “kill” the iPad; how about we just start making other good/useful devices. Based on this, I think this’ll start the juices flowing and we’ll see start to see some cool new and innovative products come down the pike.

  6. Precisely what I was searching for, thanks for putting up.

  7. This really answered my problem, thank you!

  8. tell us what you think permalink

    How come you dont have your website viewable in mobile format? Can not view anything in my iPad.

  9. iPad works fine. If you are trying to connect to a second monitor, try using the Surface instead. 🙂

  10. I went over this site and I think you have a lot of good information, bookmarked (:.

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