Click here for the Microsoft Surface RT Review – Hardware part 1
Microsoft Surface RT runs Windows RT which is a customised version of the Windows 8 Operating System with AppStore, akin to what is running on a Windows Phone 8 device but on a large scale. It comes with the standard Windows 8 ‘Metro’ interface, Metro is really the replacement for the Start menu which has what Microsoft calls ‘Live Tiles’ that can update with content from the app and flick up or rotate to show additional content.
The main touch interface is scrollable from right to left, so you swipe left to move the screen left to see additional Live Tiles on the right of the screen.
Sadly Internet Explorer is still a big part of Microsoft Operating Systems and Windows RT is no different, as with all versions of Internet Explorer it feels a bit clunky. Don’t get me wrong it’s a huge improvement over previous versions of Internet Explorer but it just still doesn’t feel lightning fast like other web browsers, like it’s trying to do things in the background before it loads a page. The status bar doesn’t display until you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, then you get your other tabs appear at the top of the screen. To close an app you have to drag or swipe down from the top of the screen (slowly) and the screen reduces in size and you then have to drag it off to the bottom of the screen. This feels pretty slow and very sticky, sticky in the sense that it doesn’t do it until you drag further.
Windows RT comes with a desktop but to be honest I really haven’t found a use for this yet. Maybe you can save files to the desktop but I just don’t see the point. The real annoyance I have found so far is there are no battery meters in the Windows Store, so if you want to check the actual percentage of battery, e.g. 89% then you have to press the START button to get to the Metro UI, then tap Desktop to get to the desktop, then tap the battery icon at the bottom right of the task bar to then see what the percentage is. Really Microsoft, you can do better than this! What about a Live Tile that updates? There’s many apps in the Windows Store for Windows Phone 8 but there’s none for the Surface RT yet.
Bing or Bing Search is also a big part of Windows RT, Microsoft’s answer to Google. I still prefer Google, Google always comes back with slightly better search results than Bing I find, but it’s down to personal preference. I do wonder how many people use Bing, as everyone I know uses Google.
There’s a built-in Weather app which is pretty slick called ‘Bing Weather’. It allows you to check by location or by a preset city around the world. It’s important to note that Windows RT does not have a GPS Receiver built-in so it’s similar to that of the iPad WiFi model with no GPS, so it uses WiFi to determine your current location. So don’t get any ideas of using GPS on the Surface RT unless you are able to use a USB GPS Receiver and get the drivers to work (highly unlikely).
Microsoft have created a number of good apps, another one is ‘Bing Daily’ that gives you all the latest news based around your location/region. Apparently Microsoft have a very large news desk team creating news articles and bringing them in from other News sources, and it does show, Bing Daily is always very up to date.
As I mentioned earlier, swiping right to left allows you to scroll the Metrol UI, it doesn’t scroll up and down like the Windows Phone 8 Metro Interface does, which again seems another inconsistency on Microsoft’s part.
Every application you run whether it’s a Microsoft application or a third party, they all have a splash-screen based on the App Icon, and the Windows Store is exactly the same. I’m pretty sure this adds to load time of the application, maybe only a second or two but I’d prefer that this didn’t show if it saves launch time.
The Windows Store is pretty thorough, I’ve found a lot of the apps I have on the iPad and Android on the Windows Store, but not every one. For instance, even though Microsoft are ‘in bed’ with Facebook with Skype, there’s still no official Facebook application. The same for Twitter, it’s pretty frustrating that most of the big names are not in the Windows Store, well not yet. There are however other third party apps that help make up for the apps that are missing, but they’re still not quite the same.
There are still way fewer apps in the Windows Store than say on Apple AppStore or Google Play, but new apps are becoming widely available and developers are porting apps between the other two major platforms.
Windows RT with the AppStore is a good start by Microsoft and it’s good to see that Microsoft are finally catching up, but still there’s a long way to go…