Posey's Tips & Tricks

Windows RT Revisited: the Bad and the Good

Brien's back with some more thoughts after spending extensive time with Microsoft's Windows 8 tablet.

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post based on my first 48 hours with a Microsoft Surface tablet. I have to say, I was really surprised by the volume of e-mail that I received in response to that blog post. My mailbox was flooded with messages from people who either agreed with something I said, completely disagreed with me or had more questions about the tablet.  Since my previous blog post proved to be so popular, and because 48 hours really isn't enough time to really get a feel for a new device, I decided to write this blog post as a follow up.

Before I get started, I have to confess that even today my tablet isn't something that I use on a daily basis. I mostly use it when I need to quickly look something up on the Internet and don't feel like going upstairs to use my desktop. However, I did recently spend a lot of time with my Surface tablet.

Normally when I travel with my wife I leave my work at home so that I can spend quality time with her. Over the holidays however, I didn't have much choice but to work while we were traveling. We were scheduled to take a three-week trip to South America and I had a couple of books due at the end of the year. Because of weight and space issues I left my big laptop that I normally travel with at home. Instead, I brought along my ultrabook and my Microsoft Surface tablet.

Throughout the trip I used the Surface tablet extensively. I found that there were some things that worked really well and other things that didn't work so well.

The Bad
So far there have only been four things that I don't like about the Surface tablet. Fortunately, most of these things are minor and easily resolvable.

The first issue was that the keyboard cover tends to leave key shaped marks on the screen. It really isn't a big deal though, because you can hardly see the marks when the screen is turned on.

The next issue that I had was that on one occasion the power switch got jammed. At the time I thought that my tablet had died because I couldn't get it to power up for anything. When I told my wife about it she asked to check it out. It took her about five seconds to fix the problem. When I asked what she did she said that the power button had been stuck and that she occasionally has the same problem on her Android tablet.

The third issue that I have with the tablet is that Wi-Fi seems to be a bit unreliable. When I use the tablet at home I find that the tablet constantly loses its Wi-Fi connectivity, or it will lose its IP address configuration. In all fairness though, this might not be the tablet's fault. The Wi-Fi signal is weak in my living room (where I usually use the tablet) and I have so many wireless devices that my access point is probably at or near the maximum number of connections that it can support. Even so, I wanted to mention the connectivity problem because I was curious as to whether anyone else has experienced this problem.

The last issue that I have had with my Surface tablet is that like Windows 8, it is missing many of the video codecs required to play video files that were natively supported by Windows 7's Media Player. Fortunately, I was able to download a free video player app that installed the codecs that I needed.

The Good
There are so many things that I like about my Surface tablet that there simply isn't enough space to discuss them all here. Even so, I wanted to tell you about a few things that really stood out.

First off, I love the tablet's mouse support. Because of the nature of the work that I was doing while in South America, I spent most of my time working in Desktop mode. Desktop mode uses the Windows 7 interface which really doesn't work all that well with a touch screen. However, I was able to plug in a mouse and use Desktop Mode as efficiently as I would have on a desktop computer. The mouse was a perfect complement to the tablet.

Another thing that I really like is that the tablet has a micro SD card slot. My tablet only has 64 GB of storage space, but by inserting a 32 GB micro SD card, I was able to increase the available storage space by 50 percent. It might even be possible to use a larger capacity micro SD card. 32 GB was simply the largest card that I could find locally before my trip.

One last thing that I really like about the Surface tablet is its display. The screen is crisp, sharp, and vibrant. Even though Surface doesn't use the retina display, I personally think that the Surface display looks better than the iPad's display. Of course this is purely a matter of personal opinion.

The Verdict
I have been extremely pleased with the Surface tablet and would feel good about recommending it to anyone. Sure, there were some things that I didn't like about Surface, but there is no such thing as a perfect tablet. My wife has an iPad and an Android tablet that she lets me use as lab machines, and I greatly prefer the Surface to either of those tablets.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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