Ok, so you have read our comparison spec sheet on Surface RT and Surface Pro, and you want to know more. Well you have come to the right place.
In this article I’m going to explain what comes with Surface, what it does and what it will enable you to do.
Built using VaporMG technology (MG stand for Magnesium by the way) Surface RT is durable, and wonderfully thin at just 9.30mm and weighs 1.5lbs. The battery is a 31.5W-h unit which Microsoft say will give you approximately 8 hours of constant use.
On the side there is a full USB 2.0 port which will (with the exception of printers) accept almost any hardware that is USB 2.0 compatible. Be that cameras, phones, or even Xbox 360 controllers. Thats right you can actually charge your phone off this!
There are stereo speakers installed to give a fuller sound when watching media, or listening to music and podcasts. At the back there is a MicroSDXC card slot which will enable you to increase your storage by an additional 64GB. *Note this is for media and documents, you cannot save or side load apps via this card slot.
A headphone jack is of course included as standard, and at the bottom is the cover port where you can ‘Click in’ your keyboard. There is a Video out port however you will need to purchase a proprietary cable from Microsoft which converts to HDMI.
In the box you will find the Surface itself, a black or different coloured touch cover keyboard (if you selected that option) and the charger.
Lets start with the operating system. Windows RT is NOT Windows 8. It is not a full version of Windows, it will not run your Windows programs that you currently use on your PC.
The Microsoft Surface team stated in a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) session that the base model of Surface RT with 32GB will have roughly 20GB available for storage, with the other 12GB taken up by the Windows RT operating system itself. 12GB is a lot, but 20GB is still more than the base model iPad.
Take the iPad for example, its runs on iOS, it doesn’t run on OS-X (Mac version of Windows if you didn’t know) and therefore doesn’t run the programs that you would naturally use on the Mac. There is integration of some programs so that they can talk to each other (notification centre as a prime example) but generally they are all stand alone programs.
This is the same for Windows RT.
Like the iPad or an Android tablet there is an App store, in this case its called the Windows Store, and this is where you will find all the ‘apps’ you require to have a full and rich experience.
So to re-iterate, you cannot take your current version of Photoshop, or Outlook or iTunes and install it on this tablet. It’s just like the other main stream tablets on the market with its own eco-system.
A whole suite of apps will be available from the app store at time of launch not to mention apps that will be pre-installed by Microsoft, the star of the show is Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview. Its a clever name I know, and don’t worry about the ‘preview’ wording in the title, this is because the full Office 2013 suite won’t be released until Feb 2013. Once the full version is ready and available, you’ll get the full upgrade for free. Office RT includes the 4 main programs used in Office, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
I will post a full article on Office RT soon, and then an updated version once I get my Surface delivered.
So that’s the a big pull as far as app’s go for consumers, not to mention the £120 you would be saving by not buying it separately. Office is not a cheap suite of programs!
Xbox Music, Video & Game’s
I’m going to give a generalization of this app, as I’ll be posting a full article on this soon, and as per the Office article, update it again once I get hands on time with the app.
To summarize; Xbox Music will give you access to approximately 30 million songs (depending on global location) and will enable you to play any of the songs in that collection on your Surface device, Windows Phone 8 hand set, or Xbox 360. You can also pause it on one device and resume it on another thanks to it all being stored in the cloud. Think of it as iTunes crossed with Spotify. Its a brilliant idea, and if it works, will be incredible. There is of course a subscription which looks as though it will be priced at roughly £9.99, and for it to work on Xbox you will need to be an Xbox Gold member.
If your happen to purchase a Surface however, this functionality will be free for 6 months and then will be restricted to 10 hours of radio play back per month.
The subscription will also give you access to thousands of music videos available to stream on any 3 of the devices, so if you like watching music videos, or fancy your own style of MTV but based on your favourite genre then this will be a bonus.
The games section, whilst located in the Xbox Games hub, does not mean that you can play Call of Duty or Halo on Surface RT (although fingers crossed for a mod of some sort!) it means that all the games for Surface RT will be stored here. Downloadable from the Windows Store much like the iPad, a payment will be required for some, and some will be free. If you do have an Xbox account, you get the added bonus of gamer points adding to your Xbox score whenever you unlock an achievement on Surface games.
You’ll also be pleased to know that Xbox 360 controllers WORK on the Surface. Yup, that’s right, simply plug the controller in the USB port on the side and your good to go!
Everyone at some point has had a Hotmail account. Even you. Yes you, the one that won’t admit it. Many have since migrated to Gmail or have Yahoo! mail from when the internet was nary a dream, and that’s fine. Windows Mail on Surface RT will allow you to sync all of those accounts into one handy app. Whilst I haven’t had hands on time with it, it is supposed to have similar and improved functionality akin to the mail app on Windows Phone, and that I do have.
Mail on Windows Phone is a very integrated and highly intuitive experience, and if Windows mail on Surface is anything like its mobile cousin, it will be an unrivaled mail application on any mobile device. I have used many on both iPad and Android, and have yet to use something as well thought out as the Windows Phone version.
In all seriousness, the threading is easy on the eye, its simple to delete multiple messages, you can compose an email from any number of email accounts, and yes, whilst I know that the iPad has the same functions, the interface looks to be a lot slicker. Of course I can’t say this for certain, and I am basing this on my Windows Phone experience, but its good!
If your a chat type of person (apparently people still use instant messenger) then the mail app will also include facebook and Microsoft’s instant messenger. It’s unknown as to whether it can support multiple chat’s of how it would do it, if it does.
Another leaf taken from the Windows Phone 7 platform, this application contains your, well, people. Essentially this is your contacts app but it is also so, so, much more.
Your people app not only contains your contacts, its links with Facebook, LinkedIn, & Twitter to provide you with a seamless social media experience. All of your feeds are amalgamated so that you see all your feeds in one slick application. You can reply to a tweet, comment on a Facebook post, view pictures that people have posted.
On the Windows Phone platform the information is provided by your primary Hotmail account, you then enter your other social network details and Windows then marries them all together. You will of course get some duplicates if people have different names to which you have them in your phone, but linking them together is simple.
Once you have everything in sync you can select a contact and you have a plethora of information at your disposal.
You can send them a tweet, an email, see photos they have posted on Facebook, you can call them via Skype, and you can even get directions to their house via the map app if you have their address in your contacts.
It really is a wonderful application, and so far having used an Android and iOS device I have not found a better social networking and contacts application on either platform.
*Please note, I have not had any hand on time with a Surface RT device. The above information is taken from Official Microsoft RSS feeds and news sources. Once I take delivery of my Surface RT device, I will of course update this article and write more elaborate and in depth articles about the app experience.