Windows RT

I’m not going to go into a super deep look at Windows RT here as we have a separate review for just that purpose. Instead I’m going to talk about the highlights as they apply to Surface.

There’s a definite learning curve to Windows RT/8. It doesn’t matter what OS you’re coming from, even if it’s Windows, it’s going to take some time to get used to the new Windows UI. Once you do however, you’ll see that it really was made for tablets and touch.

Switching between applications is faster on Surface/Windows RT than any competing mobile platform. There’s no double tapping of anything, no pressing and holding, just an edge gesture swipe like you’re flipping through pages of a virtual book. Apple's four finger swipe to move between apps on the iPad is the closest competitor here, but the edge swipe in RT is a bit more natural.

Activating the task switcher takes some getting used to, but once you do it’s much better than the alternatives.

The other big advantage that Windows RT brings to the table is the ability to display two applications on the screen at the same time. The options are fairly limited. You can have one app take up the majority of the display, with a second application limited to a narrow strip of real estate on either the left or right of the screen, but it’s better than only being able to show one thing at a time. Not all applications work well in this screen sharing setup, but it’s great for things like keeping an eye on email while browsing the web, or watching Twitter while playing a movie. Microsoft is definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to bringing true multitasking to tablets.

The charms bar (edge swipe from the right side of the screen) also gives Windows RT/8 the perfect mechanism for getting access to settings. The settings screen always gives you access to basic things like connecting to WiFi, adjusting screen brightness, turning rotation lock on/off, powering down the tablet, etc... But activate it while you’re in an app and you’ll get access to that application’s individual settings. It sounds simple but it’s consistent and easy to get to.

The other big benefit of Windows RT is you still get a desktop mode. If you want to tinker with things like scrolling speed or if you want direct access to the underlying file system, you still get those things. Windows Explorer exists and RT is installed in the same C:\Windows directory that we’ve been looking at for years. Want to dump photos from a USB stick into your photo library? You can just copy them as you always would using Explorer. You get a command prompt, you can write and run batch files, you get access to diskpart and can even manually TRIM the integrated NAND storage. Did I mention you can even tinker around in the registry? Not everyone will care about these things, but I get a kick out of them. Windows RT/8 is an almost perfect marriage of new mobile world simplicity with the flexibility that we’ve enjoyed from Windows for ages.

Using the desktop mode with touch isn't ideal, but it ends up being more usable than I expected going into the review. I was able to do things like activate buttons, resize and move windows around using touch alone without much struggling. 

Although we've seen issues with new tablet platforms and an absence of apps, I don't believe this will apply to Windows RT/8. The Windows Store will be available on all Windows RT and Windows 8 devices, giving developers a nice and hefty install base over the coming year. While the state of 3rd party apps on the Windows Store today is pretty dire, I do believe this will change in short order.

The only things missing are backwards compatibility with older x86 apps/drivers and the ability to install apps for desktop mode (only Metro, err new Windows UI apps are supported by Windows RT). The lack of backwards compatibility is a bit of a concern, but if you’re cross shopping between Surface and an iOS/Android tablet you’re not going to get backwards compatibility anyway making it a non-issue.

Performance Pricing and Final Words
POST A COMMENT

235 Comments

View All Comments

  • Mumrik - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Anand - you often keep an eye on the comments section for your reviews. Please get rid of this nonsense. Reply
  • scorpian007 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Um, I'm an indian and I am not a fan of Apple products at all. I've owned 2 iPhones, an iPod, and a Macbook Air and the only product I was wowed by was the original iPhone. So don't go around generalizing and being a racist idiot. Reply
  • krutou - Saturday, October 27, 2012 - link

    So you've owned a total of 4 Apple products and you're not a fan. Its not like there aren't any viable alternatives out there. Reply
  • PrajithNair - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Yourfather239,

    This is yourmother230 (yes, I had 8 before pushing you out)

    Not sure if you think these comments help you feel better cos your Indian father walked out on you cos you were an albino. You need to vent elsewhere son. This is a tech site - not KKK central.
    Reply
  • Sam_d - Saturday, October 27, 2012 - link

    No possible sentence could be constructed that could possibly express how downright stupid this comment is. your comment fails every single stage of my mental common sense process so thoroughly that I can’t even fathom the type of twisted logic it would take to come up with it. Congratulations, sir. I have never been more serious than when I say that your comment was so mindblowingly moronic that the mere act of reading it has negatively affected my intelligence as a side-effect. It’s like, in trying to comprehend the crazy thought process that would’ve been required to come up with that coment, new paths were forged through my brain in an attempt to mimic your own – horrible paths that lead to logical fallacies and intellectual dead-ends. My head is actually physically in pain. I’m going to go take some aspirin and try to forget I ever saw this. Reply
  • B3an - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    WTF? Anand clearly likes the Surface and theres nothing bias here or forced. Examples:

    "As a device, Surface is incredibly well executed"

    "The chassis is well built and the integrated kickstand is seriously one of the most useful features to ever meet a tablet. "

    "Surface is the most flexible tablet I've ever used"

    "The Windows RT experience, in many senses, is clearly ahead of what many competitors offer in the tablet space today. Multitasking, task switching and the ability to have multiple applications active on the screen at once are all big advantages that Microsoft enjoys. For productivity workloads, Surface is without equal in the tablet space."

    "I’d say in terms of smoothness of UI, Windows RT on Surface is much more like the iPad (or Windows Phone 7.5) than most Android tablets. Jelly Bean does complicate things as it really fixes a lot of the UI performance issues that hampered Android. Even then I’d say Surface’s UI responsiveness is among the best."
    Reply
  • Krysto - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    The difference between biased and objective, is that a biased person would try to make it sound as if Surface works basically as fast as Jelly Bean, as Anand did here, even though it's clear he thinks Jelly Bean works a lot better on Tegra 3 if you read between the lines.

    An objective person would've admitted JB works better not just with animations, but during using it and opening apps as well.
    Reply
  • This Guy - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Reading the review he noted that Surface loading times where far slower but he also noted that multitasking was far better. He backed up his analysis with data.

    How is this not objective?
    Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Yes, but read the conclusion again. Reply
  • yourfather239 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    So does any other indian pos, Indians love to kiss Apple's butt because it makes them look better than millions of others in their country who live in slums. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now