Surface RT

A year after joining the smart phone revolution, I’m taking it to the next level with the purchase of my first tablet. Through a not particularly scientific process, I chose a Microsoft Surface RT. Here’s why.

Firstly, I’ll talk about what I’m not expecting from a tablet.

I’m not expecting a mobile workstation. My mobile workstation is a Sandy Bridge laptop with 16GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, running half a dozen virtual machines under VMWare. We’re a long way out from having tablets that can replace that.

I’m not really expecting a mobile comms hub either. I already have all the communications I need on my phone. Because it’s a Windows Phone, I can at least read (if not easily write) Word, Excel and Powerpoint files on it.

I don’t need a mobile entertainment hub. Tiny movies aren’t my thing (yes, I still class tablet screens as tiny for movie purposes) and my phone, again, handles all my music and podcasts. As for games – seriously, the games on PC are so much better.

Finally, I don’t need a gazillion apps. I’ve spend the last few years watching friends and colleagues lovingly show off their latest app downloads on their i-devices, and frankly I haven’t seen anything that’s as exciting as email+web (and let’s face it, for anyone who has a life email+web are only exciting up to a point).

So what do I want?

I want to be able to type on the plane. I want to be able to read on the plane, things that are too bulky to carry or too dull to waste paper on (like technical journals). I want Word, Powerpoint and Excel, because those are important for my job. I want a quick web browser for when my PC is off and it’s not worth booting it up. Oh, and I want battery life. Anything less than a full day isn’t going to cut it (so hyperbooks and Surface Pro need not apply).

So, to the Surface RT. I by no means did an exhaustive comparison, but here’s what I thought I was getting in the surface. Solid hardware design and implementation, an excellent keyboard, good battery life. Excellent UI – better IMHO than anything Apple has done in years. The right mix of software. Good price.

So far the Surface ticks all these boxes.

As for the FUD about desktop mode – frankly, I love desktop mode. 90% of the time I’m in Metro (or whatever it’s called now) mode, like any other tablet but better. For Office apps I’m in keyboard-centric (but still touch-friendly) mode. Plus I have access to a command prompt, I can map network drives, use standard RDP – all stuff that makes my geek self feel right at home and yet doesn’t impinge at all on the tablet UI. And no, I don’t care that only Microsoft can write for desktop mode – see comment about mobile workstations above.

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