Microsoft Surface RT Impressions
As mentioned in last week's newsletter (Newsletter 78) I got myself a Surface RT.
I know, it's not Android, but whenever something "different" comes along, I tend to pick it up, and with the Surface RT being completely new in terms of form factor and the operating system, I couldn't pass it up.
The Surface RT features a Tegra 3 at its core, and runs a mobile version of Windows 8. The operating system looks and feels the same as the desktop version, however, because it runs on a different processor type, it is not capable of running full desktop apps. Because it is a brand new system, it doesn't have a lot of apps available, but it does have other things going for it.
The operating system has 2 display modes. You have likely seen the big color-blocks interface, which is touch enabled, but it also has the common Windows desktop as a secondary interface, enabling you to run some things next to each other, which works really well.
The image above shows the Surface next to the Xoom and Nexus 7. You can tell that the Surface is quite a bit bigger than both. It is big, and thankfully it's the screen that makes it that big. Not a super-high resolution like the Nexus 10 or the iPad3, it is actually very clear and easy on the eyes thanks to ClearType.
I'm still getting used to how it all works, and there are some things that don't work as well as they should yet, but I'm sure it will grow over time.
My biggest gripe is that there is no direct connection option. It doesn't come with a USB/Sync cable, so things like transferring files is all done through the network, or by means of taking out a MicroSD card, plugging it in your computer/card reader, and putting it back in the Surface when you are done copying files. For smaller files, using something like SkyDrive (MS Dropbox) works great, but if you want to transfer videos, things get a bit tricky.
Of course the first thing I did when it came in was take pictures of it next to some other devices I have. There are plenty of reviews on the web that show pictures of the Surface RT by itself, but not many that show it next to its competitors.
I have a few more pictures on my website, including pictures of the Surface RT next to an iPad3 and a Kindle Fire HD.
Comparison Pics - Surface RT iPad3 Nexus 7 Xoom Kindle Fire HD | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Handy Desktop Stuff:
Because the Surface RT is build on Windows, you can actually perform some of the common Windows stuff as well.
Device manager works:
As does the command prompt:
And if you are into tweaking, you can use Regedit:
During the first day, I spent most of my time with the Surface RT on trying to find a way to transfer videos over. Creating compatible files for it was a breeze with DVD Catalyst 4 (it has profiles for the Surface), but actually getting them on there, not so much. No USB cable, so either everything through networking or with a memorycard.
Using Windows 7 as a desktop, I had issues with the networking. The Surface RT seems to prefer a HomeGroup setup, and I never use that. I did set one up, and got it to transfer files back and forth, but doing a few GB's of video files resulted in disconnection issues, incomplete transfers etc. After that, I started playing with the more advanced Windows settings (before I started DVD Catalyst I worked as a network specialist/admin), and got some things to work that way, but again, incomplete transfers and disconnection issues.
So I switched to a memorycard. Earlier last week, Amazon had a deal on a 64GB MicroSD card, Sandisk, Class 10, which I ordered specifically for the Surface RT. Unfortunately, with the card I experienced similar issues as I did over the network.
The next day, I found out that the card (brand-new, ordered directly from Sandisk) was bad, but here is an article on my site detailing some of my first experiences:
First evening with the Microsoft Surface RT | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Not knowing yet for sure if it was the card, on Saturday I blamed my own messing around, and did a factory wipe on the Surface and started fiddling with it again. I looked at the originals of the corrupted videos on my computer, and they were all fine, so I copied them over again, and tried playing the replaced bad ones, without luck. I formatted the card to NTFS, thinking that that might fix the issue (the Surface RT can read NTFS) but again some files (different ones) I copied over didn't work.
I grabbed a different MicroSD card, and copied the same videos over, and it worked fine. Problem solved, and a refund request filed on Amazon.
More about my second evening experiences can be found here:
Microsoft Surface RT - Second Evening | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Its a bit tricky for me to come to an actual conclusion at this point. For the first 2 days, Friday and Saturday, I've been playing with the Surface RT during the day, and it works well. With the Touch Keyboard, and a trackball attached to it, it works and acts more like a PC than a tablet, and in the evenings, I've been using it more as a tablet, and it works good for that.
It still has some quirks and some things that I need to figure out a bit more.I think that with a Windows 8 computer in your network, it will make the Surface RT a bit easier to use with file-transfers, but I had to shuffle some of my test systems around so I haven't had a chance to test the RT with a retail Windows 8 setup.
The Surface RT is sort of where the Xoom was when it first came out. It lacks apps that make it shine. The similarities between Windows 8 and Windows RT will make it a lot easier for new users, once Windows 8 is more mainstream. Visually things work look and work the same.
Right now, I think it is too early to tell if you should choose a Surface over anything else out there, but as a newcomer, and from an early adopter perspective, it does show a lot of promise. I hope, over time, that it will deliver on that.
About DVD Catalyst:
DVD Catalyst 4 converts your movie and TV show collection (DVD, AVI, MKV, ISO etc) to great quality video files that are perfectly optimized to play on portable devices.
It includes pre-configured profiles profiles for 1000s of devices, including Apple's full iPad/iPod and iPhone product line (including iPhone 5 and iPad Mini), Amazon Kindle Fire (all models, including the HD and HD 8.9),the Barnes & Noble NOOK (NOOK color, tablet, HD, HD+), Asus Transformer (original, Prime, Infinity etc), all Samsung's Galaxy models, including the Galaxy Note 2 and the Galaxy S3, Blackberry Playbook, Sony Xperia, Toshiba Thrive, Motorola Xoom and much more.
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