IS Microsoft Surface the Zune of tablets?

Monday, November 05, 2012 by Frogboy | Discussion: Personal Computing

I'm writing this with my brand-new Microsoft Surface.  The best way to describe it is that Surface is to tablets what the Zune was to music players. It's not terrible but the $500 device has nothing to recommend for it.

As a notebook device, it's certainly better than the iPad. It supports multiple users. It supports mice (and on-screen mouse cursors). In short, you could realistically use this device as a very very light work machine.  In theory. It comes with a Windows RT version of Office Preview which works adequately, if slowly.

Ironically, it's as a tablet where it falls down. I always assumed that the "Metro" experience would shine on a tablet. It doesn't. It's annoying and perplexing even there. Give me the option of having the charms bar up all the time and the specific app bar up all the time and it would be much more tolerable. I really don't like having to swipe at the screen in just the right way to get options to display. Getting around the Metro experience is a chore, even as a touch device.

It's very frustrating, at times, to navigate around Metro. I'm still new with I accidentally closed my editor because I was trying to switch to another tab (Which you do by swiping down from the top and selecting the tab). However, if you swipe too far down, it closes the app. Bam. Gone. 

What's worse is the app selection is pitiful. Don't even think about using Office apps as a pure tablet. It's very frustration trying to use what is clearly a Win32 port with a touch screen. It does much better once you've sat down, hooked up a mouse, and started working with a real keyboard. The situation with Modern UI apps (which I'm just going to keep calling Metro) is even worse. The included ones are slow. Very slow. I also couldn't find decent third party apps that I'd use. If there's a Pulse/Flipboard quality RSS reader for WinRT I haven't found it yet. There just isn't that much to do with it.

The form factor also makes it an awkward tablet. It's very long (or wide, depending on how you look at it). It's also quite heavy. Too heavy to want to use as a tablet for an extended period of time.

Getting more apps for it is also painful. The Windows Store is terrible. As anyone who has used Windows 8's store knows, it's an assault on the eyes. Lots of multi colored blocks that tell you nothing about the app. It's just very hard to find things.

The Unopening:

[video]http://youtu.be/JR4FP2j6rk0[/video]

Here's my friend Paul (former guest on PowerUser.tv) trying it out.

[video]http://youtu.be/MaN9ptlSAD8[/video]

Just a few points to take home from this from my notes:

The Bad:

  1. Note Facebook app
  2. No bundled Twitter app
  3. No bundled RSS app
  4. Apps load extremely slow
  5. Very hard to navigate around
  6. Too easy to unload things entirely
  7. Too heavy to use for an extended period of time as a plain tablet
  8. It's ergonomically inferior as a tablet
  9. The Office port is embarrassingly half-assed
  10. Lack of app selection makes it hard to justify using vs. an iPad or Android device.
  11. UI usability lacks a lot of polish, awkward to use at times
  12. You cannot use this as a laptop (the stand requires a desk)

The Good:

  1. The mouse and on screen cursor is a huge win.
  2. It's actually a pretty decent notebook PC if you buy the upgraded keyboard.
  3. The screen isn't bad.

Overall, for $599 it's not a bad little notebook PC. But I can't imagine why anyone would want to use this as a tablet versus its competitors unless you have some specific enterprise need for multiple users and superior security.

Grade: 
  Hardware: B
  Software: D

Update:


I am really digging the form factor. It's replaced my MacBook Air for light computing. But it's pretty mediocre as a tablet. It's a light PC.

First Previous Page 3 of 3 Next Last
LightStar
Reply #41 Sunday, November 11, 2012 1:59 PM

Microsoft should stick to software, sorry. They should leave the hardware to other companies and spend more time improving their software.

petrossa
Reply #42 Sunday, November 11, 2012 2:52 PM

Ah....so in 1992 you had to do a thesis for school....

Actually i was running a software development business, with me as systems Analyst/programmer. In 1999 i sold my business and since then live care free in the South of France from the returns.

 

And you? 

Wizard1956
Reply #43 Sunday, November 11, 2012 2:55 PM

LightStar
Microsoft should stick to software, sorry. They should leave the hardware to other companies and spend more time improving their software.

They seem to have done "ok" with the Xbox and XBox360. Just saying...

Jafo
Reply #44 Sunday, November 11, 2012 3:09 PM

petrossa
And you?

In 1992 I'd been an Architect for 20 years, S/E since '78, and ergonomics is an important factor in Archie.  First 'interfacing' with a computer was around 1968.  First messing with a GUI was around Dos 3 days...

kona0197
Reply #45 Sunday, November 11, 2012 3:46 PM

Wizard1956
They seem to have done "ok" with the Xbox and XBox360. Just saying...

Yet everyone knows PlayStation is so much better.

So if the Surface is the Zune of tablets and everyone knows iPods are better than Zunes does that mean iPads are better then the Surface?

Kamamura_CZ
Reply #46 Sunday, November 11, 2012 3:57 PM

The tablets are great! Just pop a few and your cold is gone in no time... oh, wait...

petrossa
Reply #47 Sunday, November 11, 2012 4:04 PM
Guess that makes me the real expert then Jafo, since it was my field from day one, 1976 CPM.
waxplayer
Reply #48 Sunday, November 11, 2012 4:13 PM

petrossa
live care free in the South of France

 

That explains a LOT!!!

Island Dog
Reply #49 Monday, November 12, 2012 8:25 AM

kona0197
Yet everyone knows PlayStation is so much better.

Not sure who everyone is....

NetNomad
Reply #50 Monday, November 12, 2012 8:43 AM

I'm what to see the HP Envy x2 in action.  I think that covers everything I want except the price.

Here is a brief Preview:

http://www.cnet.com/laptops/hp-envy-x2/4505-3121_7-35426662.html

In reflated news: When will FE get touch support?

kona0197
Reply #51 Monday, November 12, 2012 2:59 PM

Island Dog
Not sure who everyone is....

Look it up. The numbers speak for themselves.

DrJBHL
Reply #52 Monday, November 12, 2012 3:15 PM

kona0197
The numbers speak for themselves.

As in 1492, and the number of people believing the Earth was flat? Not quite fair since the former is subjective and the latter factual... but the metaphor still has some validity.

starkers
Reply #53 Monday, November 12, 2012 8:43 PM

I don't think that will be a concern for me... splitting keyboard covers, that is.  I already have a leather case with a built-in keyboard and stand that's quite functional, so I'll not be spending the extra when I get around to purchasing a Surface with Win 8 Pro sometime further down the track.

benmanns
Reply #54 Tuesday, November 13, 2012 2:08 PM

tested the surface yesterday and i must say it works pretty well it is fast checking emails and so on is almost instantly loaded explorer is also fast the desktop is useless i agree but that is only because its windows RT .

The strap on keyboard is working also nicely but takes some time to get used to. Have not encountered the problems with swipe like in the OP video...sure if you let someone use it that has never used windows8 before it will not look good best would be to let them use a desktop pc with windows8 so they can get familiar with the OS before and then let them use the device. touch also takes time to get used to same as the keyboard if you never used a touch input before

The device looks robust and is very low in weight / ( surface pro ) will be the first alternate for me compared to some laptop´s because of its size and weight besides the VAIO mini series.

I think the surface pro will be way better, not only in hardware specs it will bring you more options due the pro OS.
Like i said if you go for the device you should wait for pro since the windows surface is limited to its OS... sadly
Its still a riddle to me why there is only one USB port - could have used at least two of those

starkers
Reply #55 Tuesday, November 13, 2012 10:20 PM

Roloccolor
Its still a riddle to me why there is only one USB port - could have used at least two of those

Yeah, that seems to be the standard with most tablets... just the one USB port.  I have an Android tablet for which I use a 4 port hub to connect additional devices such as a keyboard, external speakers, card reader and a portable drive, etc.  However, this is for at home use rather than out and about, where greater portability is required.

Savyg
Reply #56 Wednesday, November 14, 2012 2:02 AM

You know, that's the deep dark secret...that you can use a USB hub if you need more ports

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