In part one of my Microsoft Surface review I looked at the hardware, part two I looked at Windows RT and in my final part of the review I will look at some of the built-in apps on the Surface and my conclusions after using it since Monday.
The great thing about Windows RT and Windows 8 is that when you sign in with a Microsoft account it sets up your person settings like backdrop, account picture and email accounts. The mail app is a little basic but is usable, you can have multiple email accounts but there is no universal inbox whoever I never use it on any other device so it’s not something I am going to miss. One feature I do miss is that you can’t flag or star messages and I don’t really like the way it groups conversations together either. I have seen some complaints about the mail app but it works ok for me. The Calendar app brings in calendars from all your connected accounts and has day,week and month views and like the Mail app it’s a little basic but it gets the job done.
The People app is very much like the People Hub in Windows Phone, it brings all your connected accounts together so you can see Twitter and Facebook timeline as well as notification. I initially dismissed the app but is actually a great way of viewing what is going on Twitter and Facebook including your twitter mentions and Facebook Notifications.
The Messaging app is essentially a front end to Facebook messenger and Windows Live Messenger, it seems to work ok and the UI is nice but I don’t use either service that much as I would rather use Twitter but it’s well designed.
There is also Bing Maps, Bing News,Weather, Travel and Finance all of which are well designed. Plus there is a photo app which can link to SkyDrive, Facebook, Flickr and local pictures.
The music app has has split personality with access to your local stored content as well as Xbox Music. You can stream music from Xbox music, just put in an artist name and it will stream the tracks. At the moment its a free service but it will be restricted to 10 hours per month eventually and you will have to pay to get more music. It works great for playing local content and and like the other apps is well designed. Xbox Video has the same feel to it, you can access your local content as well as content from Xbox Video.
All the apps work pretty well, some like the mail app need more development and hopefully Microsoft can keep developing them and not just leave them to stagnate as they have done in the past. They need to do that to be able to compete with iOS and Android.
When it comes to apps there may not be as many apps in the store as there are on other platforms but there are some good ones. Skype, Netflix, lots of twitter apps (but I can’t find one I really like yet) , Amazon Kindle, Evernote, ebay and lots more. There are lots of apps that still need developing but the potential is there.
Also includes in the Surface is Office 2013 Home and Student Edition which includes Excel, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote but no Outlook. They work very well and it’s where the keyboard and trackpad come in useful. You can use it with touch but I have to admit the keyboard/trackpad combo work better. There is a mode to make the ribbon UI more touch friendly but when your using it with the Touch keyboard (or the Type keyboard) it really feels like a proper PC and the office apps complete that experience. I have been using it to write blog posts and while Word is not as good as Windows Live Writer its a lot better than apps on iOS and Android.
So is the Surface a replacement for an iPad? Or a laptop or an Ultrabook? Well it’s a bit of all of them and how well it would work for you depends on what your going to be doing with it.
After using it most of the week I have found it almost replaces my iPad and it almost replaces my Macbook Air. There are some apps that I use on the iPad that are not in Windows yet like Dropbox (coming soon) and Sky+ that I would miss if I stopped using the iPad. As for my replacing a your laptop it would depend on what your essential apps are. If there was a good audio and video editor I could leave my Macbook at home when I go on trips like CES but they are not here yet and I wouldn’t expect to run applications like Visual Studio on it.
Each persons essential set of apps will be different, I am sure as the ecosystem grows more apps will be developed for the Windows Store making the Surface more useful.
So I see it as a companion to my main laptop I use at the office and almost a replacement for my Macbook Air. I absolutely love the Windows UI and the Live Tiles. The Windows Store apps work great on and if you need to work on an Office document or do a blog post you can use the Touch cover and get some work done, so it’s the best of both worlds. Plus you have a great browser with IE10, I would prefer Chrome but IE is very good.
I use Remote Desktop on the iPad when I need to work on server and it works so much better on the Surface thanks to the great remote desktop client in Windows and being able to use the trackpad, its one area that makes using the Surface that bit easier than the iPad.
You just have to workout if the missing apps are a show stopper for you, if you can live without them while they are being developed then the Surface is great.
The whole package is excellent, I love the Touch Cover and the form factor. I only need a few more apps to make it a replacement for multiple devices.
It’s great to see Microsoft come out with a exciting product, yes it has its shortcomings but I love it! TDL Recommended!