The Microsoft Surface tablet is great, many reviewers agree, but its weakest aspect is in the new operating system that Microsoft also launched today.
The first release of Surface runs on Windows RT, a sort of poor man’s version of Windows 8 that is not compatible with all of the same programs. The lightweight version of Microsoft’s new operating system allows for snappier performance on ARM processors, while the full Windows 8 Pro will run on Intel’s multi-core processors. The apps it can run are lacking, according to reviewers. Here’s a look at what they have to say ahead of Surface’s imminent release to market:
David Pogue, New York Times
Great hardware: “On the hardware front, Microsoft has succeeded brilliantly. Read the specs and try not to drool on your keyboard.”
Disappointing software: The Surface RT “requires all new apps. They’re available exclusively from the online Windows App Store, and there aren’t many to choose from; for example, there’s no Facebook, Spotify, Angry Birds, Instagram, Draw Something or New York Times app. The total in the United States is about 3,500 apps so far; many are bare-bones or junky.”
Mathew Honan, Wired
Clear display: “We ran two blind tests, pitting the Surface RT against a third-generation Retina Display iPad. Both tablets were side by side in a room with ambient light from large windows. We cranked the brightness all the way up and hid the devices behind a sheet of heavy cardboard with two holes of equal size cut into it, so viewers could only see the screens. We then asked members of Wired’s staff to come in and judge for themselves, without knowing which device they were viewing.
In our video test, running an HD version of The Avengers, twice as many viewers preferred the Surface to the iPad (six to three). Two others expressed no preference. Most noted that the difference in video quality was negligible.”
E-mail suffers: “What’s not in the Office suite is Outlook. Microsoft’s Mail program has improved tremendously from its early iterations in preview versions. However, it still isn’t well-suited to power users. If you deal with lots of e-mail every day, there just isn’t enough screen real estate to display messages.”
Jon Phillips, PC World
Keyboard cover a winner: “You never need to worry about aligning finicky connection points. In fact, you don’t even need to look at the tablet and keyboard when snapping them together. Just move them toward each other, and magnetic attraction will attach the two sides—perfectly, every time. The connection interface also provides the data link between tablet and keyboard, and just like the kickstand, it comes with its own mechanical soundtrack that Microsoft expressly designed to push emotional buttons.”
Confusing touch gestures: “Microsoft doesn’t include a freshman-orientation packet in the hardware box, and I suspect that many newbies will never take the time to do their homework. These are the people who will slander Surface RT as a confusing mess.”