Having now had my Surface for a week I decided it would be a good time to write down some of my thoughts on this new device. First thing to say is that this review is purely based on my use of the Surface and what I want to do with it.
For a few years now I have used an iPad to access my emails, social sites etc while happily sat watching the TV or travelling, it did the job, albeit with some downsides. So when my surface arrived I decided that the best way to test the device was to ditch the iPad and see if I missed it.
I have broken down the review into neat little chunks so you can read all of it or just jump between sections. Its not an exhaustive review, I am no journalist, but hopefully it will give you a flavour of my thoughts on the device.
When it arrived the Surface was nicely boxed up in its small packaging, if I may so say, very Apple like. One thing that did surprise me when I ripped of all the packaging is actually how sturdy the Surface feels without being cumbersome. It feels well built and gives you a confidence in its construction that you don’t get very often with devices this sort of size.
The kick stand is particularly helpful, putting the screen at just the right angle for typing and viewing.
Now the real test was once I had it all setup (covered below) what was it like sat on my knee. For an avid TV watcher and conference goer it has to be able to stay on my lap when typing and despite a few wobbles it was perfectly adequate.
The power block supplied with the Surface is also very well designed and the way it clicks into place for charging feels very sturdy.
As you know the Surface has two types of keyboard; the touch cover and the type cover. The difference between the two is the keys, on the type cover the keys are more like a normal keyboard albeit with only a small amount of downward movement.
For myself I prefer the type cover to the touch, it may be me but the touch cover seemed to need a little bit too much pressure for the keys to register. Although if you don’t want to pay out the extra for the type cover then I think the touch will be perfectly useable.
Both keyboards click into place very nicely and again with that sturdy feel that gives you a confidence in the build of the Surface.
Of course you won’t want to use the click on keyboard all the time and in those cases the on screen keyboard is perfectly useable. You can choose to have the keyboard appear as a standard QWERTY layout across the bottom of the screen or as a ‘thumb’ keyboard split to either side of the screen so you can hold the Surface and type the keys with your thumbs from either side. Being honest I couldn’t get on with it in this configuration as some of the keys seemed a little too far away from my thumbs, so I quickly reverted back to the standard QWERTY layout.
Setup of the device was simple to the extreme. The default way to create an account on the device is to use a Microsoft account, as I have an Office 365 account I used this to create my Surface account and it all worked perfectly.
If you don’t have a Microsoft account then you can create one as part of the setup or just use a good old fashioned local account. One of the downsides to using a local account is that you won’t be able to synch your devices; because when you use your Microsoft account with your surface you can use the same account for all your other Windows 8 devices and doing that means your accounts will synchronise between devices.
The Surface with Windows RT is designed to only use apps installed to the device from the Microsoft store or apps that come built in. The Surface comes with all the standard apps that you will find on any Windows 8 device; Mail, People, Music, Video etc
The main one for me is the Mail app, its in here I can setup all my email accounts and view all those lovely emails that I seem to get on a very regular basis.
Setting up the Mail app was not the easiest thing to do, sure it gives you a prompt for your email address and password but if it can’t find your settings, which for most of my accounts it didn’t, then you need to know all the server names and settings to setup the email account. Once setup, the mail app is very simple to use. The attaching of files, images etc to an email is also very simple once you accustom yourself to the way Windows 8 works, simply start your email and swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up the menu for attaching files.
The nice thing about the apps is that they are all interconnected, so once you have setup the Mail app with your accounts all the other apps will follow suit. So for example accessing the calendar app after setting up mail you will find all your appointments in there, the same goes for all the other apps, it really does make it extremely simple to get all your files, documents and media in one place.
Lets face it the other main reason for sitting with your device is to check out all your social networks and the Surface does not disappoint in that area either. The Microsoft store has plenty of choice for apps for your social networks and a simple touch installs them. It even has a Lync app so I can connect to my corporate Lync environment and converse with my colleagues.
For me one of the major benefits that the Surface has over the iPad is the built-in Office 2013. The version of Office 2013 that comes with the Surface only has Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote but the fact that Windows RT has the built in Mail app I can’t say I have missed not having Outlook and that is one application I really did think I would miss having on any device.
The versions of each application in Office 2013 is not cut down functionality wise and so you get the full benefits of having a device with Office at your fingertips, which for me is the killer when it comes to competing against any other device.
So the sections above cover for me what were some of the areas I was looking at when comparing the Surface with other devices such as the iPad, but its not an exhaustive list. For me the device fits my needs perfectly, its designed and built well and has apps that cover nearly all of the functionality I want from an ‘occasional’ device
There are however a few things that have also annoyed me since using it; flash support while according to Microsoft is built in, it doesn’t support all websites in fact all the websites I visited that needed flash didn’t work. Another strange omission seems to be the support for Silverlight, I am at a loss why a Microsoft product would not support another Microsoft product especially Silverlight, which Microsoft have been pushing for so long.
The setting up of the Mail app was fiddly, but this may be down to the fact that my Office 365 account uses a verified domain name and not the ‘onmicrosoft.com’ domain, plus my other mail accounts are all onPrem Exchange based accounts so needed additional logon details to access the accounts.
So after a week of use will I continue to use it – yes is the answer to that, in fact I actually wouldn’t be without the device now.