Tuesday, November 6

My initial impressions of the Microsoft Surface RT

I've had a 32 GB Surface RT in my hands for about 18 hours now, 11 or so of them waking, 6 or so of them working, so apologies if this review is a bit light.

It's also not going to be overwhelmingly positive.

First, I'm very disappointed in the pre-order process. I placed my order the second day of pre-order, and was told my device would be delivered by October 26th, the standard message displayed when you went to pre-order. Nothing was said about backorder, yet I didn't receive shipping notification until Friday, November 2nd. Thanks, Microsoft, way to burn a fan. If I had known it was going to backorder, I would have bought it the minute the doors opened over at the Oakbrook Terrace Microsoft Store.

Second, the activation process. Having Binged this a bit, I see I'm not the only one whose Surface refused to go beyond "limited connectivity" after being provided valid WiFi information. Connectivity couldn't be established without a restart, which as far as I know means you need to complete signing in before doing a restart via software. Therefore, I'm forced to create a new local user to sign in as, instead of using my Windows Live account like I did with my Windows 8 Pro installation process. You win no points, Microsoft, for the awkward WiFi and non-uniform sign-in and activation experience you thereby force on users.

Those are my big beefs. The rest of the experience is OK. I don't really understand the extreme PR around the hinge mechanism. It's OK. It's not great.

How do I see all active applications? How do I decide to kill/exit from an application? This is not obvious to me at this point in time. I feel like I leave a lot of applications running in the background. Maybe user deficiency here, remains to be seen.

The Maps experience is OK, could be pretty good ... but I wish it had GPS and 3G/LTE. How truly useful is a Maps application on a mobile device without GPS? And how useful is a mobile device with only WiFi connectivity? Microsoft needs to at least offer the OPTION to stick a SIM card in there, even if it's not a feature of the basic model.

The gestures afforded by the interface and software are growing on me, as is the screen sharing between apps. The gestures feel more intuitive to me than Mac trackpads and iPads I've used occasionally in the past.

The 1.0 MP cameras are disappointing.

The Windows Store experience is OK. The Office RT experience is OK but not great, not highly touch-centric.

I did two conference calls to a free VoIP teleconference services yesterday using Skype with a USB headset over 802.11n. Seemed like there was a fair amount of noise that was due to my client, other people on the calls said their ends sounded fine. I do Skype calls over the same Wireless-N access point using different hardware (HP laptop usually) all the time without these issues.

The fit and finish is pretty nice. The screen is pretty decent. The resolution seems pretty appropriate for the screen size, especially when held at arm's length. Video viewing at same distance was pretty good. Can't envision a lot of setting this up on a table and watching from a distance however. Will eventually explore the HDMI-out capability as well. I had thought it was supposed to be proprietary, but it looks like it's simple MicroHDMI?

The Touch cover is ok ... not loving it, but it may grow on me. Judgement not yet rendered. Not necessarily feeling better than typing on glass right off, but it's nice not to obscure the screen with a keyboard.

Finis for now.  If you have not, and you're in the US, please go vote today!