stuff.... random stuff....

Review: MS Surface RT - 3 days in

, posted: 7-Nov-2012 17:58

Who am I?  

Whenever I read a review I like to know a bit about the person who wrote it to get a feel for how they may or may not be biased. I am a senior technical consultant for LANWorx ( Usual disclaimer this work is my personal perspective only and does not represent the views of my employer etc. I work primarily in windows based corporate environments.

I own 2 x iPads a V1 and a V3 I have owned the following iphone’s 3Gs, 4, 4S. My current phone is an iphone 4S. I don’t at this stage intend on getting an iphone 5. The change of connector and sim was just too much for me, but that is a story for another day!

I have been happy with my iPad. I use it for meeting notes, web browsing, facebook videos etc. I mostly use it for content consumption. I also use it for aviation with navigation charts, flight planning and navigation.

First Impressions / unboxing

Given all the mixed reviews the device had been getting online I was quite keen to see just how the Surface RT would run so like any self-respecting geek I left work early went direct to DHL once it has cleared customs.

Once outside in my car I tore into the box and extracted the device only to find out that it was stone cold flat. Dead a doornail! With only a US charger and other commitments I was stuck with a very nice looking shiny paper weight.

Finally at home I was able to connect the charger and fire it up. One thing to note, the Surface charges MUCH faster than the ipad. After a few hours it was reporting fully charged.


Setup was fairly uneventful. Updates ran without a hitch.

First Usage

First usage was very good. I have been running windows 8 on a laptop for a month or 2 so the bipolar disjointedness between ‘modern ui’ and the desktop was no shock. In fact on the touch device it made much more sense.

The build quality is excellent and I won’t go into detail as that has been done to death. It’s a really good looking feeling device.

Touch Cover

I found the touch keyboard (probably the part I was most worried about) to be a dream. I am a proficient touch typist and it took me only a few mins to realize that MS have got the touch cover oh so right. I am typing this review on the touch cover and find it great.

Sure if you are doing war and peace every single day the type cover would be better. My only problem with the touch cover is the placement of the arrow keys. It may be just me but when I right finger shift I often bump the up arrow which has the annoying effect of highlighting then erasing what I am working on. Thank goodness for CTRL-Z!  Also the touch pad mouse is perfect.

App Store

What a shock! The MS store does not have the same selection of apps as Apple or Android!!! Who didn’t see that coming?!?! The number of reviews that have made a big deal about this… There are new apps coming all the time. It’s a brand new device. Get over it!

Built in Apps

Word and Excel… it is so great to have these apps. Sure they operate in desktop land not ‘Modern’. So what? Personally I would much rather have them running like that rather than being dumbed down. The dumbed down version of Onenote in ‘Modern’ however is perfect. Great for note taking without the keyboard i.e. meetings etc.  I very much wish that stylus support was included, but you can’t win them all.

RDP. Yup RDP for me is a game changer. The surface with touch cover keyboard and mouse has just become the best portable RDP experience ever. I have tried to use RDP with I don’t know how many apps on my ipad, but the experience was always clumsy.

On the surface it’s just… perfect. For me I now have an ipad sized device that I can take everywhere, with an 8 hour battery life that lets me connect back to work and actually provide a computer like experience. This would probably be my favourite thing. So simple but soooo good!


When Apple brought out the iPad it was a device we couldn’t live without that we never knew we needed. It was not a PC it was something new and something different. The MS Surface RT is something different again. It provides the slick content consumption of an iPad but with the touch cover it becomes something else. Still not quite a PC but one hell of a lot more than just a content consumption device.

Time will tell, apps will be made for the platform or they won’t. These days the ecosystem is very important. So far I love it far more than I thought from the reviews. It has replaced my iPad for everything except flying.

It’s still new, it’s still shinny. The toy lust may wear off and I might go crawling back to the iPad… only time will tell but for now I am very happy and to anyone who is thinking about it, look at what you want to do… do you use word or excel? If so it’s a no brainer!

I will try to follow this up after a week to fill in the gaps and give a slightly less ‘oh shiny’ review. Thanks, Chris021

Other related posts:
An open letter to Samsung about my S7 Edge
Back to Black (INK) a review of the HP Elite x2 1011 and MS Surface 3
Why data caps are awsome

Comment by nate, on 7-Nov-2012 18:36

Great review, cheers Chris.

Comment by kawaii, on 8-Nov-2012 03:12

Any word on when it might be coming to NZ officially or at least some non-price-gouging parallel importers who are selling it?

Comment by trig42, on 8-Nov-2012 08:48

Thanks Chris. Surface looks like a good product.

Do you know if it will be able to connect to a VPN (I use cisco VPN client a lot on my current laptop, then connect to the work terminal server)? If it could do this, I wouldn't need a laptop on the road.

Author's note by chris021, on 8-Nov-2012 08:52

Hi Trig,

There is some buitin VPN support, but it does not yet support the Cisco AnyConnect client which I am waiting for! Last I saw Cisco was saying the MS SDK didn't quite have what they needed, but MS said it does... I expect we will see in pretty soon there is major demand for it.

Comment by fab, on 9-Nov-2012 11:55

HI Chris
Thanks for the review. I am a little confused though - according to MS only the Pro version has Remote Desktop Connection, but you are saying the RT version you have has it? Or are you talking about another RDP app altogether?

Author's note by chris021, on 9-Nov-2012 11:58

Hi Fab,

I can confirm that the Surface RT has not 1 but 2 x MS written RDP apps. One from the Store which is usable in the 'modern UI' the other is on the desktop.



Comment by nathan, on 11-Nov-2012 09:59

Windows 8 Pro has the ability to be an RDP server, so you can TS into it, Windows 8 and Windows RT just have the RDP client

Comment by Mike, on 19-Nov-2012 21:40

Nice review. Here is the burning question, ultrabook with touch or a surface . . .

chris021's profile

Chris Hoffmann
New Zealand

Areas of Interest:
Network Security
Computer Forensics


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