Living with the Surface RT for 4 weeks


Across the new years holiday, I took a long four week holiday off in Indonesia with my family and in-laws.  Previously I have always taken my Dell laptop(s), but this time, I decided to take my Surface RT tablet.  (Yes, the first generation one, not the Surface 2).  I have owned the Surface RT for over a year and while I always thought it is a decent device, it lacked the number of Apps that the iPad has, and lacked the ability to run old x86 apps.  I wanted a decent attempt at using only the Surface RT for a number of weeks, and figure out where I stand on the device.

My Surface RT has been regularly updated and runs the latest Windows 8.1, it also synchronizes with my Microsoft Account and shares the Apps I have purchased on my main machine. 

In Indonesia, I have access to slow internet, based on where I was.  I didn't have mobile data, and turned off roaming.  So I relied on the Surface RT for both online and lots of offline activity.

So, consider this my report card.

The good:

  • Mail (not Outlook)
    The built in Mail app is very handy.  It downloads both my gmail and emails, which are available and fast to browse and read.  I can compose emails offline which is very handy.  I did not use either gmail or websites during my 4 weeks.
  • Internet Explorer
    Is surprisingly useful for almost everything else:
    • Newsblur
      Runs great and I was able to catch up on all my blog reading.
    • Twitter
      Runs fine and I was able to read and write tweets.
    • Facebook
      Runs fine.  Although the people Tile was updated regularly, I find the browser experience for Facebook on par with what I have at home.  My wife isn't so impressed with many of the Flash-based Facebook games, some do run, but is sluggish.  I wondered if the new Surface 2 would handle these a lot better.
    • Reddit
      Actually works very well.  The only thing I missed is the Chrome extension: RES.  But I've stopped using Google Chrome a while back and increasingly don't really miss that plugin.  I will probably look for an App for Reddit next time.
  • Office
    I had to read a number of attachments: Word, Excel and PowerPoint on my holidays.  The built in Office did the trick, and I didn't feel I missed a beat.
    I had not set up Outlook to my office exchange server, and didn't want to start downloading a lot of emails on a slow data connection.  Luckily, my colleagues were really nice to me and didn't send me much work!  All the Office documents I was reviewing are related to conferences and activities throughout the year.
  • Apps
    I wanted to download a bunch of games and play them everywhere, but honestly I've stuck with Tiny Death Stars and Frozen Freefall - both great apps by Disney and available across both Windows 8 store as well as WindowsPhone.  Very happy with the games.
    I also downloaded a manga application and had it download some manga for offline reading. 
  • Account sync
    I really enjoyed the tiles' positions being synchronized across my Windows 8.1 desktop at home and the Surface RT.  I had no trouble remembering where my apps are. 


The bad.

  • Touch Cover
    The touch cover, oh how much I wanted you to work, but you are just not comfortable.  I can type reasonably well on the touch cover, but I'm afraid I will never be able to type perfectly.  I need the Type-Cover.  Rumour goes there is a better Powered-Type Cover coming.  I can't wait.
  • Windows Updates and poor battery management
    Windows Update must have ran at some point, and I found the Surface poor at handling the battery when I'm not using it.  I did read there was a firmware over December that was causing a lot of issues but I thought it was only with the Surface PRO devices.  This one was not good.  I could use the table for half a day.  Close it and put it down.  And there won't be any battery left when I pick it up again in the evening. 
  • No Windows Live Writer
    I wanted to update my blog, but without a good blog writing software, I was stuck with the web interface.  I ended up writing most of my blog on OneNote, and then copy the text over to the web interface to post to my blog site.
    A Windows 8 Store Blog Application needs to be a thing.


The surprise.

  • Dropping the Surface RT
    I dropped the Surface RT - face down, from a bedside table onto the wooden floor.  Luckily there was no damage.  I... don't want to try this again.
  • Rotational Lock and reading manga
    Rotational Lock and how easy it was to access from the charms bar was great.  On the Windows Phone rotation lock is a bit harder to reach in the settings.
  • Fast charging
    The Surface charges really quick.  From a depleted Surface it can be charged within 2 hours.
  • Take picture from lock screen
    I discovered that you can swipe down from the lock screen and the Surface RT will activate the camera!  I was not able to do this on my laptop - I can't swipe the lock screen down.