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
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  • vedye - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Wow. No idea how u got that impression. Especially after reading the opening. You must have a strong imindpower. Reply
  • anomaly597 - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Yeah, you definitely have no preconceived allegiances or anything. Reply
  • MadMan007 - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Are you aware of the name of the website you're reading? It's ANANDtech, Anand started it himself years ago and runs the show. He's not sold off control to any media conglomerate or other company. There is no way anyone can truly 'force' him to do anything on his webiste. Reply
  • krutou - Saturday, October 27, 2012 - link

    Doesn't mean he's not biased. Reply
  • tviceman - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Did you really just say "Apple" and "magic" in the same sentence without being sarcastic??? Reply
  • Gradly - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Yes this is true. It feels like this:
    The software sometimes buggy yet that's OK, the display is not perfect or retina but its OK, Its not a competitors to iPad or Androids but a completely new species and that's OK, the kickstand may break if you pressed hard on it and that's OK, the classic windows interface may be not suitable for touch but against all odds its OK, you need time to get used to the keyboard and I read some of reviewers had troubles pressing lightly or hard in order to type but however its OK, lack of applications and this is OK, etc

    Overall Its totally OK
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Lets see:

    Ipad 2012 review - ~20 pages

    iphone 5 review ~20 pages

    Ipad keyboard review - 3 pages all by it self

    Iphone 4s review ~15 pages

    Galaxy note 2 review - ~10 pages

    Brand new product, with a brand new os, from a major player in the market

    gets ~11 pages of a review.

    hmm.

    Just rename the site appletech.

    Said that it has swung so much into an i-love website.
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I meant sad, not said. Reply
  • Anonymous1a - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    @Michal1980, your comments are rather absurd! What do you mean he was forced to do it? If he didn't want to review it, he can easily return the device. Secondly, what magic is losing out of Apple devices? He me mentions potential flaws in them just like he mention them in the Surface. Haven't you even read the review? Yes, he pointed out some of the flaws in the device, but he also said that this was one of the best tablets on the market right now and a very well executed effort.

    And, for those who claim he is biased, how can you ask your views on such absurd comments, like Michal's? They have nearly no substance to them - oh, and far worse are those who are accusing him of favouring Apple because he is Indian. This is levels beyond ridiculous.
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I meant oozing out of apple devices.

    And my comment is based on reading all of the reviews. Theres a far different tone in apply articles then this one.

    Like I said before, the article reads like it was forced. Go back and read an apple review, and the tone is far different. While no one can 'force' Anand to do anything, this article IMHO reads like he only wrote it because its part of his job.
    Reply

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