Saturday, March 23, 2013

Surface RT post mortem: Pleasantly surprised.


I think the title pretty much says it all. I mean, I've already said my piece regarding the Surface RT on the review that I posted earlier, and for the most part my opinions haven't changed ie. I wish we didn't have to have desktop mode, since there aren't any apps outside of IE and Office that can run on desktop mode in RT, and the targets in desktop mode are are not very finger friendly.

But an interesting thing happened on the week that I was testing the RT - the official twitter app became available on the Microsoft app store. No offence to the other twitter clients, but there was always something that I didn't like with Rowi or metrotwit (probably a combination of unfamiliarity, and UI elements that were counter to my expectations), so I was happy to finally have the official app with its familiar UI and swipe to refresh. With the official twitter app occupying the smaller pane of the two pane multi-tasking you can have in Windows 8, I find myself being able to do two things at once on a tablet - something that I was not able to do on any ARM based tablet I own. Having my feed scrolling by as I was watching youtube videos, or window shopping on my favourite website was a breeze; and when the occasion warranted it, I would just make the twitter feed occupy the larger pane by switching the middle border separating the two windows. No animation to switch the screens out, no leaving one screen to view another - it was seamless, and something which I didn't realise I missed when I switched to using an iPad and Android tablets for most of my home computing needs. I still didn't play much games on the RT as I normally do on my iPad (mainly due to lack games that I wanted to play), and I still miss the depth of the app selection that are available in the iOS and Android app stores, but I had finally found the ideal use for the two pane multi-tasking in Win8 that actually enhanced my experience on the RT.

So just some final thoughts:

  • I really like the Surface RT build quality, and I really like the kickstand - having the one fixed angle might have been an issue in theory, but with the wide viewing angles of the IPS display it didn't actually matter.
  • Battery life is great - I only have to charge the RT when I no longer need it (when I go to sleep), so it's effectively untethered to power while in use. Furthermore, it doesn't seem to take very long to charge either, which is a definite plus.
  • I really like the Tile/Metro interface in Win 8 when you're navigating via a touchscreen - I thought the gestures were gimmicky at first, but I like them so much now that I find myself trying to do that with non Win 8 toushcreen devices.
  • I'm using the the base model with 32Gb of storage (~16Gb available) - I have yet to hit this limit, so it wasn't as much of an issue as I had originally thought...though this might change if the App store selection got better and I download more games.
  • The widescreen aspect ratio makes the surface hard to hold in one hand, and also means it's quite long in portrait mode. This is a problem that also affects android tablets, but seems more pronounced as a tablet screen gets bigger than 10 inches.
  • The win 8 onscreen keyboard occupies a lot of screen real estate in landscape mode (its native orientation), and this doesn't change when you use the split keyboard - it would be nice to be able to resize the keys (like on WebOS), or to be able to change the opacity of the keys.
  • If I had to choose between an Android tablet or the Surface RT, I think I would choose the RT. The two pane multi-tasking just isn't available on any other platform, and since Android Tablets and Win 8 RT are not so far apart in terms of available tablet optimised apps, it would be enough to sway me to getting the RT.

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