With the Windows surface tablet finally out in stores, we should be expecting them to hit Nigeria anytime from now. You are sure to find them in the hands of those who had taken the pre-order option, and maybe some of your friends who had somehow had it bought or sent to them. Surface was the single biggest genuine tech surprise of the year so far. Microsoft tantalized us with a tablet that suggested the iPad as old fashioned. It promised the future of computers with its snap on keyboard, light weight and the gorgeous looking Windows 8; which gave us the idea that we would finally have the revolutionary tablet that could finally double as a laptop. We guess that was what you were hoping for when you heard about Surface.
Straight to the point, Surface is more like most of our naija governors that promise so much and then give not as much. Yes folks! We had looked forward to all of the hype to have our dreams flushed down the WC. Sure, Surface is good, but Surface RT sure isn’t the future that we had always hoped.
The truth is everybody needs a computer these days; not another tablet. The laptop is about as far advanced as one can imagine already. The tablet isn’t exactly pushing civilization forward; it’s still fundamentally a luxury device, a delightful toy for reading email on the couch or watching movies on the go. It’s a lovely, superfluous thing with limitations of what you can do effectively with a laptop. Microsoft’s promised that Surface was to pioneer a strange new kind of gadget: all the grace and leisure of a tablet, combined with the ability to actually make stuff that a computer brings; that Surface will bring together the best of everything that exists — the elusive union of laptop and tablet… yes! Finally! No more of those ultrabook clones! Get to work and then… get to work!
We have used the Surface so we can tell you our experience. Surface is well designed but rather heavier than the iPad 3. The screen is indeed colorful in every sense; Windows has done a good job with the artistic presentation of Windows 8 and even though Surface’s display doesn’t have a crisp as the retina display on Apple products, it still works. There is a USB port which is a very welcome property. Open the Touch Cover keyboard/track pad hybrid; snap out the kickstand, and lay the thing on your desk like a laptop. Start writing an essay. Flip the cover all the way around, hide the keyboard, and give yourself something substantial to grip like a tablet. Start swiping the web. Or prop the kickstand against the folded-back cover to create a stable base while you can make everybody jealous and wish they had one when you watch your movies. Switching configurations is so cool and easy. The Touch Cover feels as integral to the Surface as the binding of a book to the sandwiched pages. There’s every reason to believe most computers will look and feel something like this, someday soon. It’s beautiful to look at, and certainly more charming than any Windows device before it.
Tablets aren’t for work. That’s the old refrain. But if they’re going to be more than great toys someday, tablets have to become every bit as viable as a desktop tower as a way to write (and edit) long emails, presentations, and poems. Surface RT is the first evidence we have that this is possible, because you’ll use it like you’ve never used any computer before. Your brain starts to rewire itself, and it’s delightful.
But as much promise as the Surface can really provide, it is really as good as a delightsome meal that ends up undercooked. Surface RT does not really deliver all it claims with little issues here and there and instead of trading in your laptop and tablet for Surface, a cocktail of compromises that fracture the whole endeavor, you might miss them both urgently.
The keyboard idea was cool no doubt. It surely does better than tapping an iPad screen but it is still not the complete experience. It is not as terrible as those irritating Bluetooth keyboards at Ikeja but still not the exact thing you have always dreamed of. Accuracy is very limited and you will feel clumsy; your hands will begin to hurt like you are some pianist playing Liszt for the first time. You may get used to it though… we hope. The track pad is nowhere near good. It’s sludgy, not-so-responsive and nothing compared to the touchscreen option – and unlike the keyboard, it would probably always feel that way. You don’t believe it? Try typing an essay on your lap and see how it feels. We will be sure to remind you that we told you so.
You may not have heard about it but the touch cover of the Surface comes at an extra price; like buying an iPad with extra for the keyboard. What?! It feels like selling your windshield wipers separate from the car! Microsoft also offers a Type Cover; that promises actual physical keys instead of the flattened solution, but that will add critical bulk to your Surface experience and yes, you guess it, it’s more expensive!
The beautiful letdown, is Windows 8 RT. It is NOT to be mistaken to be Windows 8. Visually, you cannot tell the difference but you certainly will when you use it. Windows RT is underpowered (everything opens and syncs slightly too slowly), under-functional (you cannot install a single app that’s not available through the Windows RT app store, which offers a paltry selection), and under-planned (the built-in apps can’t feel like Lite versions of something better). After a while, the makeup gets washed off and then you ask yourself: “is this all?” I mean, Android tablets and iPads have apps for almost anything you can think of (and we mean everything really… but trying to be realistic here); we wonder what you would think about those available for Surface.
In the end though, this is nothing more than Microsoft’s tablet. There’s no Twitter or Facebook app, and the most popular 3rd-party client breaks often. The Kindle app is completely unusable. There’s no image editing software. A People app is supposed to give you all the social media access you’d ever need, but It is impossible to write on someone’s Facebook wall through the People app. Surface’s social hub; the only workaround, is to load Internet Explorer. Oh come on! Something as simple as loading a video requires a jumbled process of USB importing, dipping in and out of the stripped-down desktop mode, opening a Video app, importing, going back into the Video app, and then playing! What?!
The app selection, overall, is worse than the already pathetic Windows Phone app fare, as scanty as… as… one of those road side cell phone shops. The difference is that Windows Phone, used in quick, informative bursts, skates by on the strength of its excellent with integrated features. The truth? Surface is weak because Windows RT is weak; a tepid tablet OS pretending to be a computer’s.
You can do work, yes. But productivity is limited to a “preview” (beta) version of Microsoft Office. It also hurts that Office requires plunging into Windows RT’s Desktop mode, where users of actual Windows 8 are able to install a decade’s worth of legacy software. Normally, this would compensate. But RT users can’t install any of this older software; none of it. Desktop mode is entirely worthless in RT, a cruel tease of non-functionality. It’ll only remind you of how much you can’t do with your Surface, and is going to confuse the living hell out of most people who buy one — especially when Surface Pro, built on x86 architecture and perfectly compatible with all of those legacy programs, steps in a few months from now.
It could be quite expensive for all of that you know. But of course, to buy it depends on you… because we won’t!