Microsoft Surface first reviews recap: the reaction is a mixed bag
It needs the positive reviews to get the attention of people, so does it get them? Well, not exactly. Most reviewers agree that the Surface is likeable, but not all would recommend it and even those who do, do so with a couple of words of caution. Summing the Microsoft Surface all up in one phrase would be “it is different.”
Here is the feeling we got about the tablet from reading all sources with their different perspectives: from the businessy Wall Street Journal, the techy AnandTech, the fun and concise Gizmodo to the gadget lovers from TheVerge.
First, everyone admits that design is beautiful and build quality is extremely sturdy on the Microsoft Surface. Also, get the type cover. Both the touch and type covers snap quick and easy, but with the tactile keys on the type one you can reach almost your regular typing speed.
Hardware performance is mostly okay, not stellar. The screen is a mixed bag - good for watching movies, but not so good for reading. The cameras are crap, but they are there.
In software, Windows RT is misleading with its extremely limited destkop mode, Microsoft didn’t explain well what it really is. The Windows app store is a ghost town with no basic apps like Facebook or Twitter.
Finally, the Surface can’t replace your laptop but comes the closest from all tablets. It’s not all that comfortable for media consumption, but it’s great for typing and for Office guys. Hit the slideshow below for all the juicy details, spicy metaphors and more conclusions.
Microsoft Surface first reviews recap
"Nearly every app I tried crashed completely at least once while I was testing the tablet, third and first-party."
"The whole thing is honestly perplexing. If this device is not as good as (or better than) the best tablet, and not a complete alternative to a laptop — who is this for? What is it supposed to be?"
“It’s a tablet of both compromises and confusion. It is a true hybrid — neither fully a desktop nor mobile device."
“The Surface’s 10.6-inch display has a 16:9 aspect ratio. That’s fantastic for watching movies when it’s in landscape mode … but it’s also lousy for reading when you hold it in portrait mode”
“Surface is the most flexible tablet I've ever used.”
“From a distance, without using one, Surface is easy to judge. It’s a Windows tablet that doesn’t run most Windows applications, that doesn’t have most of the same new mobile apps that iOS and Android have, and it’s not priced aggressively enough to make those facts disappear. After living with Surface however, I understand the appeal. It’s worth a discussion, perhaps even consideration as it does some things better than any tablet on the market, and it does others worse.”
“But more importantly, Surface is handsome. That ineffable Hey, this thing feels good quality is lacquered all over Surface. You'll appreciate it every time you pick it up and turn it on. It's a simple, joyful experience.”
“In the end though, this is nothing more than Microsoft's tablet. And a buggy, at times broken one, at that, whose "ecosystem" feels more like a tundra. There's no Twitter or Facebook app, and the most popular 3rd party client breaks often.”
“Still, there are rough edges to the Surface. The biggest is a paucity of apps for the new touch interface.”
“Mediocre battery life.”
“It's in the other half of the equation, that of the content consumption and entertainment, where the Surface is currently lacking. It needs a bigger pile of apps and games to make up for that and, while we're sure they're coming, we don't know when.”
“When combined with either of the keyboards that Microsoft offers at launch, this becomes a surprisingly capable laptop replacement. Or surrogate, at least.”
“Paired with a keyboard cover, Surface is an excellent Office productivity tool (the best in tablet form) and if your entertainment needs don't go far beyond movies, TV shows, music, and the occasional simple game, you're covered there as well.”
“The Windows Store currently looks like a ghost town, after the apocalypse. Also, though I've come to really dig the interface and appreciate its elegance, there's a high learning curve here if you're used to iOS and Android.”
“The Surface RT is a product of unfortunate timing. The hardware is great. The Type Cover turns it into a small convertible tablet powered by a promising OS in Windows RT. That said, there are simply more mature options available right now.”
“The Surface RT isn’t a tablet. It’s not a legitimate alternative to the iPad or Galaxy Note 10.1. That’s not a bad thing. With the Touch Covers, the Surface RT is a fine alternative to a laptop, offering a slightly limited Windows experience in a small, versatile form. Just don’t call it an iPad killer.”
“The Surface RT's 1.4GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor and 2GB of system memory handle their workloads without drama. Gesturing through the OS itself is fast and fluid. Ditto browsing in Internet Explorer.”
“The Windows Store inventory is alarmingly short of high-profile apps. The U.S. version of the Store is still well below the magic 5000-app plateau, and at this point you won't find official apps for CNN, Dropbox, Facebook, Hulu, IMDb, Twitter, and YouTube, among numerous other big-name stalwarts of the mobile world.”
“The Surface is full of potential, but until its software performance and apps are as strong as its hardware, I, unfortunately, will still drag both a laptop and an iPad through security.”
“With its 1.3-GHz, quad-core Tegra 3 processor and 2GB of RAM, the Surface with RT had enough power to take on all the tasks we threw at it. However, we often ran into small delays while apps launched. On several occasions, the touch screen was less than responsive when we were trying to swipe to change apps or tap on charms; rebooting usually fixed these problems.”
“Surface is so different from any tablet I’ve used before that it took me a few fays to fully warm to it, but now I like it — quite a bit. Part of this is because I am a Windows user with a Hotmail account and Xbox Live at home. This is a Microsoft ecosystem and the Surface fits it like a glove.”
“There’s no doubt that Surface will appeal most to Windows users. In fact this is the tablet for Windows fans.”
1. absolete (Posts: 12; Member since: 04 Apr 2012)
Yea.. I didn't expect much from the RT version, but wait for the win8pro i5 version... That will be much more useful than any tablet (for executive functions especially) and much more portable than a lot of laptops for it's price
13. MeoCao (unregistered)
I read a review which said Surface is laggy and that is surprise as Windows RT is supposed to be smoother than JB :(
17. edxlucero (Posts: 2; Member since: 18 Oct 2012)
Surface RT's sunspider score is more than 2x than the current android tegra 3.
23. -box- (Posts: 3749; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)
You are a known troll. Stop spreading lies.
44. MeoCao (unregistered)
I just say about the review I read in the Verge, have you read that 1?
It's not me who is troll but that's you are a pity blind WP fanboy.
24. The.Dark.Knight.Rises (banned) (Posts: 72; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)
See. I was right. The surface sucks balls. Ipad 4, galaxy note 10.1 and transformer infinity 700 are the best tablets available.
26. The.Dark.Knight.Rises (banned) (Posts: 72; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)
Also add transformer prime, Xperia tablet S. this is the 9-10 inch category,
36. Whodaboss (Posts: 176; Member since: 18 Nov 2011)
And similarly I read where it's NOT laggy. That said I'll be the judge for myself. Relying on someone else review it's like someone telling me how great a movie is and when I see it it's peice of junk.
45. MeoCao (unregistered)
well at lease the reviewer has played with the real thing and we have not. But of course you have the right to distrust some1.
21. -box- (Posts: 3749; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)
Why the flying fudge do people want apps for stuff that is done ON THE INTERNET? Launching an app takes as much time as launching a link to the related website, but l, surprise, the website has even MORE functionality because it is a WEBSITE, not some poorly written program to mimic what the website does because the native browser of the device is incapable of working correctly with the website (looking at you, ios). The only "apps" one would have a desire for would be things to be used offline, like games and programs, like word processing (included) or a calculator (included), PhotoShop, etc, but even those are mostly unnecessary with online versions of the same (Google Docs, OpenOffice, online photo editors, etc) with the exception of those that need the full paid installable versions for their tasks (CAD programs, feature-film-length videos, etc). So whoever is complaining about no Facebook or Twitter apps, put a link yo their website on the Start screen and STFU.
22. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5605; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)
Sounds like something of a work-in-progress. Maybe wait for the v. 2.0 (Pro) edition?
28. The.Dark.Knight.Rises (banned) (Posts: 72; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)
That's more of a PC than a mobile device. It's really thick and heavy.
29. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5471; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)
Interesting way for identification, brick is also thick and heavy so according to you brick is also PC...
33. The.Dark.Knight.Rises (banned) (Posts: 72; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)
Dude you're ridiculous.
38. joseph98 (Posts: 167; Member since: 03 Feb 2012)
I am waiting for the surface with win 8 pro, but also might get samsung slate or other oem but sure win 8 pro is a winner with intel i5 cpu.
2. Non_Sequitur (Posts: 1111; Member since: 16 Mar 2012)
Hm. Maybe we'd all be better off with the Pro version, lol.
Hope Microsoft steps up the app game.
14. lubba (Posts: 1310; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)
price of RT is already steep. pro version might be beyond average consumers budget.
16. MeoCao (unregistered)
And the Pro is way too heavy and big to be used comfortably as a tablet.
41. Non_Sequitur (Posts: 1111; Member since: 16 Mar 2012)
Yeah, probably so.
I have to say, I like the Asus Vivo Tab a lot better.
42. blattlaus (Posts: 60; Member since: 12 Dec 2010)
You can get Atom powered Pro versions for the same price as an RT.
34. Commentator (Posts: 2339; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
Samsung's pricing its WP8 tablets at $1000+, I wouldn't expect much less from Microsoft. Let's face it, not too many people are going to shill out $1000 for what will basically be a $700 laptop with a touchscreen... although that's what people do with Macbooks, so I could be wrong...
8. Muhannad (Posts: 455; Member since: 20 Sep 2011)
I noticed that too, its like he doesnt want to like it just like his Lumia 900 review. It seems he hates the damn thing.
10. StreetNerd (Posts: 700; Member since: 08 Dec 2010)
its known that the verge are apple fanbois
43. CannedKarma (Posts: 19; Member since: 22 Oct 2011)
Did you read the same review I did?
Josh said plenty of good things about the Surface, and all his complaints were legitimate ones. Why would he praise software that has a pitifully small ecosystem, apps that don't run anywhere near as well as they should, and an OS that provides an inconsistent experience? That has nothing to do with hating Microsoft and everything to do with common sense.
4. scnix (Posts: 41; Member since: 01 Jul 2010)
Whose bright idea was it to say that Windows Surface RT was meant to replace the laptop? 'Cause it's not suppose to. Windows Surface Pro on the other hand....
31. KingShango (Posts: 89; Member since: 16 May 2012)
I totally agree. All the negative reviews seem to review it as a laptop replacement where it clearly comes up short. While all the postive reviews treat it as a tablet with some added desktop features. Either way that lack of apps is disapointing but with a brand new OS thats to be expected. They'll come with time.
5. pongkie (Posts: 497; Member since: 20 Aug 2011)
nah i'll pass till the intel haswell version
6. schinnak (Posts: 81; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)
RT was never meant to replace laptops. Its the more economical version of the two to compete with other lousy tablets out there. Yes, I mean really lousy! If you have a high end android phone with a big screen, why would anyone buy a tablet that offers you the same? Its just a smart phone with a big screen. Beats me!
Which is why I am eagerly waiting for surface pro. The specs are on part with competent mid range laptops today. If pro clicks, it will not just be an ipad killer; its gonna be a laptop killer and thats what I am waiting for!
7. sony_timescape (Posts: 4; Member since: 27 Jun 2012)
Surface will win against other tablet in the foreseeable future especially the Pro version where we can install and use most of our daily used real software on laptop & desktop not the apps version.
The most important factor that will make Surface (pro) will win at the end against iOS & Android is that people can use their software which normally installed on their Laptop or Desktop on Surface too.
There are always software we use them frequently and we cannot find them on apps stores neither we want to use alternatives because for example we use them in our daily computer usage in home or in work, so Surface will not be only a tablet but also a normal (High Ultra) computer with strong hardware relatively. As a web developer I just need to use my FTP client software plus the Sublime editor, maybe some other adobe products like InDesign for other purposes, so I can have control on my job wherever my Surface Pro will be with me.
The Big advantage for Microsoft against their competitors that with Surface Pro they can use the very big library of software which have been produced originally for Computers. Other tablet could be useful for fan, chatting, bla bla bla, but not really for business & production environment.
This argument is based on the ability to install normal software on the Surface Pro which I think it is possible.
Good job Microsoft.
9. Bluesky02 (Posts: 1439; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)
For RT version, i wasn't expecting anything great. But the review came OK. not good, not bad. But OK.
However, i'm seriously looking forward to Surface Pro Version
11. StreetNerd (Posts: 700; Member since: 08 Dec 2010)
i rly wanted the surface pro untill i saw the asus transformer book :D
12. lubba (Posts: 1310; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)
"Hardware performance is mostly okay, not stellar. The screen is a mixed bag - good for watching movies, but not so good for reading. The cameras are crap, but they are there."
I'm I reading this right? MS priced RT to compete with iPad and didn't they test their products and compare before putting on shelves? I don't want to believe but it's hard not too because it's from different reviews. I have w8 on PC and its awesome. How can this be?
15. remixfa (Posts: 13902; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)
give it a year, most of the gripes will be gone. Though they need to drop the pricing a bit until they have at least the basic apps and such that users expect.
18. ogy_dogy (Posts: 453; Member since: 29 Jun 2012)
interesting how all these reviews point out the lack of apps, people, windows 8 isnt officially out yet, apps are sure to come, i have no doubt about it. if wp7 at its start had 2000+ apps and had facebook and others i have no doubt that windows store will fill up all the names very very quickly... it isnt all there yet, but the potential is ginormous, and i can see it. im not getting the surface pro cos i dont want a single fan in my tablet, so the rt model seems perfect.
25. -box- (Posts: 3749; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)
Right, and on a tablet with an excellent modern browser, most apps are superfluous. All one would desire is either online or would be downloadable very soon. The people who have wasted their money on inferior tabs are just hunting for something to complain about, same way the ipadders think having more apps than Android tabs makes them better somehow, when in truth it just means the maxipads are so hobbled and useless without third party programs they are mostly useless except as media players, which requires a junk program to work on the restrictive ios.
19. protozeloz (Posts: 5371; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)
Ha! I knew it won't run most windows apps ;p don't get me wrong windows guys the reviews are rather nice so far, and is a really nice tab but it needs a more competitive price , they could use a 7' surface with a 250 price tag... honestly they can cut some stuff in there and make it possible as an entry device. It helps more people get it and as soon As they are into the ecosystem they are less likely to change OS
27. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5605; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)
Yeah, I was thinking the exact same thing about a 7-inch edition. Maybe that is v. 2.0 for the RT?
I am starting to think 7-inches is the sweet spot for tablets. So far, the Nexus 7 seems closest to getting it right (performance, OS features, apps, and price). Apples Mini could be another competitor, but it was basically obsolete the day it was announced (an A5, really?).
I think if VZW doesn't get their act together and release the Note II, Plan B for me may involve a Nexus 7 tethered to my GS III.
30. speckledapple (Posts: 878; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)
I think there were many reviews that expected too much or rather put forth their own wants and expectations on the device knowing that it would not meet them; then write a review about how much it "let them down". Its clear that its great in build quality and style. The software, which seems to be the biggest issue, I think lies in there being limited app selection for the masses. And since we judge a device these days by its app selection, the device regardless of its new tag automatically losses in most books.
The thing I see is that its an amazing starting point for a company trying to transition and for doing something that many users who purchase iPads have been sorely lacking in, productivity.
32. pookiewood (Posts: 566; Member since: 05 Mar 2012)
Unless a 7inch RT version comes out from any manufacturer in a nice package then the Surface RT is the device I want. I still have my laptop for PS, Sony Acid pro 7, etc. I want the RT version as a quick qo to "screen" to consume content.
35. Eonnaydra (Posts: 197; Member since: 23 Oct 2012)
Surface RT is laggy and it doesnt have apps )) only 5000.(over 500 $) In my opinion Gnexus 7,Note 10 and the iPad are far better than surface.im waiting for surface pro .
37. Whodaboss (Posts: 176; Member since: 18 Nov 2011)
Really, am I suppose to take anyone's review without knowing their likes and dislikes? If someone is a fan of iOS and/or Android they can easily write a review criticizing the Surface. And don't give me that objective junk either. People bring their own bias when submitting reviews. So, I'll try the device out myself and be my own judge. Thx.
39. 7thspaceman (Posts: 1051; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)
Microsoft is now investing in porting it's Windows software to ARMS CPU"S AND THEIR SUPPORT CHIPS. It will take time for them to make the tweaks to get Windows to work well on ARMS CPU tablet computers. for instance they said it's response was not fast. This will be fixed fast. The main thing is for the Apps makers to make the Windows 8 MU (Modern User interface) Apps for Microsoft's Main Tablet computer PC the Surface "Pro". because these Apps will also work on the Windows RT. The Surface Pro is Microsoft's main Tablet PC device. IF it sells well then the Surface RT will get the Apps to make it successful because they use the same MU Apps. it is kind of strange that the strength of the Windows 8 surface Pro MU apps determine the survival of the windows surface RT.
40. Jyakotu (Posts: 818; Member since: 12 Dec 2008)
I like the idea of the Surface, but I don't see how Windows RT is confusing people. In simplest terms, Windows RT is basically Windows 8, but only using the Metro ("Modern") UI style and apps. I'm using Windows 8 Pro now and the OS is amazing and while it definitely can work on a traditional laptop, which is what I'm using, it does make me wish my laptop screen had touch capabilities. Hardware wise, the Surface tablet is amazing, but for the average consumer, even I would tell them to wait for more apps in the Windows Store. I'm using the Metro ("Modern") UI more and more because I love it, but the Windows Store just needs more apps.
46. pikapowerize (banned) (Posts: 1869; Member since: 03 May 2012)
ouch... thats harsh.... they should take note that RT will compete with iPad and android tablet...while win8 will compete with notebook!
if you ask me, i better get a BlackBerry PlayBook...the gesture base OS of PB is better than win8... you wont get lost while on win8 (tried consumers preview) you'll get lost...
but i think we'll get use to it.. i mean its microsoft windows OS.. the world's most famous and use OS for PCs...
47. charms55 (Posts: 41; Member since: 08 Nov 2011)
I've read most of these reviews first-hand and I came away with the same sense that the Windows RT was a better than average tablet. Some reviews (Gizmodo comes to mind) completely missed the mark. Here are my main criticisms:
They all knew there was a huge difference between the RT and the upcoming Surface Pro. Some reviewed as though that distinction didn't exist. It is fair to point out the lack of legacy support, but that should not be the millstone to hang around the neck of the RT. Point out that if people need full-windows support, they best wait or go for the many OEM offerings, some wonderful. Review it as what it is, an RT device as to Windows as an iPad is to a Macbook OSX machine. But without the umbilical cord. People are failing to note that this machine will sync with your other Win Pro desktop automatically when tied to your Micosoft ID. Wait to review the Surface Windows 8 Pro when it comes out. And some reviewers simply have not used the device for very long, or paired it with another device running W8. All tablets will allow this, but a main selling point of the RT is that it will be part of a larger ecosystem.
It is NOT a notebook, a laptop, or PC. It is a tablet and yes, it is squarely positioned against the iPad and present Android devices. Recognize that it has many features the others do not (USB, MiniSD, video out, keyboard cover) and then stack it against the hardware of the other devices. Do not forget that it will allow native Office integration, particularly when bundled with Skydrive or other Cloud services, online Office apps, etc. In this case, it is completely fair game to note the weak app ecosystem. It is not designed to be on your lap with the kickstand and no one has ever intimated it should. The form factor with the wide screen was touted for entertainment from the get go, so don't bash the portrait mode, though I fail to see that that can't be nice for browsing web sites, reading documents, etc.
That being said, there were moments of truth regarding the actual performance of the ARM version when multi-tasking, limitations on memory and battery life, legitimate usability concerns with the wide form. All noted the hardware was solid and well-designed, but do rightly point out the limitations and foibles and short-cuts. Let's all give it one more day and then go nuts finding out that this device is REALLY all about.