UI Performance, Storage, and USB Compatibility

by Vivek Gowri and Anand Shimpi

With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft did a great job of taking generation-old hardware and delivering a great user experience in spite of any silicon-level deficiencies. So naturally, with the new Windows UI, we were expecting a very smooth UI regardless of the underlying hardware. And they’ve most certainly delivered on that.

Animation frame rates are consistently good all the way through the UI, easily delivering what appears to be 60 fps for UI transitions. When pushed, Modern UI seems more likely to completely drop animations versus dropping frames, which eliminates the choppy experience you sometimes find in Android. It isn’t a common occurrence, the experience is generally very fluid. This kind of consistently smooth UI is what Google has been striving for in every recent release of Android, dedicating the release of 4.1 to eliminate the dropping of frames in even basic interactions. Scrolling, swiping, snapping, app switching - it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing, RT is just really smooth. Combined with the fluidity of the gestures, the entire system just feels like liquid, there are just no real slowdowns even running on a no-longer impressive SoC like Tegra 3.

Application Launch Time Comparison
  Boot Web Browser Mail Maps Games Center / Xbox
Apple iPad (3rd gen) 32.0s 1.0s 2.4s 1.1s 1.9s
Microsoft Surface 27.7s 2.6s 7.1s 5.0s 5.0s

But there is one area that RT struggles in, and it’s something that was an issue in Windows Phone 7 too - application launch times. Anand included this table in his Surface review, and it shows that boot performance is decent, but the 3rd generation iPad just kills it in application loading. The new A6X-infused 4th gen iPad probably widens that gap too, so it’s a pretty stark difference. It’s something that Microsoft needs to really focus on when updating the OS, because it’s easily one of the most glaring flaws in an otherwise stellar interface.

From a storage standpoint, the OS takes up between 6.5 and 7.5GB of space (Anand measured 6.47GB on Surface, I measured 7.35GB on the VivoTab RT) and Office takes up another 750-850MB (830MB for Surface, 749MB for the ASUS), so you’re looking at 7.5-8GB of NAND dedicated to the OS. On my 32GB VivoTab RT, I had 25.3GB of storage to start with, so after Windows and Office, I was looking at 17GB left over for programs and documents. That’s....not a lot - a bit of music, a decent selection of applications, a couple of videos, and pretty soon I’m looking at less than 10GB of storage left over. Thankfully, we’re seeing microSD slots on a lot of the more prominent Windows RT slates, so if you run out of room, you could theoretically toss in a 32GB or 64GB microSDXC card. Depending on how much data you plan on storing, I think you can get away with the lesser internal NAND and some microSD cards.

It’s also pretty clear that there will not be a Windows RT slate shipped with less than 32GB of onboard NAND. If you’re holding out for a cheaper Windows RT device with less storage, like a 16GB tablet for $399, there’s almost no way that happens - it’s implausible to think that anyone would ship a tablet with less than 5GB of space left for data storage.

Another key detail in Windows RT is wide-ranging USB peripheral support. USB ports have been a common feature on 10” Android tablets, but device support was typically limited to flash drives and basic input devices. The goal with Windows RT was to bring the traditional Windows experience to tablets, so USB driver support is pretty important. It’s not as easy as on an x86 system, where most USB peripherals would just work, but even with more limited Windows-on-ARM drivers, it’s pretty decent overall.

USB drives obviously work as you’d expect them to. Even SATA to USB adapters worked fine when plugged into Surface. Other smartphones and tablets also worked, although their level of support varied. For example, you can plug in the iPhone 5 and have it come up as a supported device for moving pictures to/from. However USB tethering is not supported by the class driver included in Windows RT. You can even plug an iPad into Surface and get the same level of support. The few Android phones I tried to connect in MTP all worked as expected, though transfer rates off my Optimus 4X HD seemed on the slow side, likely a function of the phone’s internal eMMC.

Printer support is pretty decent, although the Epson Workforce 910 Anand tried didn’t actually have specific driver support under RT. Although development for the desktop side of Windows is limited, manufacturers can supply Windows RT drivers to enable support for some more obscure devices. Unfortunately when it comes to those devices you’ll have to play the waiting game as there’s simply not a lot of third party Windows RT drivers available for download today.


Windows Store and the 3rd Party App Situation Final Words


View All Comments

  • steven75 - Friday, November 2, 2012 - link

    You are either truly delusional or have no idea the limitations of RT.

    -It can't join a domain.
    -Office is the student/home edition. No Macros, no plugins, etc.
    -95% of the fortune 500 has already deployed iPads.
  • chavv - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    so, the only "real" browser will be IE10?
    And what about support for card readers/certificates?
    Can one use certificates to sign documents?
  • thesavvymage - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    Really REALLY hope the folks over at VLC or many of the android video players get an app onto windows RT for mkv playback! Almost any anime is in this format with advanced subtitles, and itd be absolutely amazing to have this tablet on my daily university bus commute if it supported those video files :) Reply
  • Pressurge - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    that the review for the yearly refresh of iOS got a much greater, in-depth review than the first-ever version of Windows running on ARM, including the fact that it's on a Microsoft-designed/spec'd tablet. "Hey, let's do three pages worth of review just on the new Maps app, but nothing in Windows RT deserves that type of in-depth analysis at all!"

    There appears to be no end in sight to the massive time investment towards all things Apple on Anandtech while everything else gets filler articles/reviews at best...
  • Che - Sunday, October 28, 2012 - link

    +1 Reply
  • hakime - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    "It’s unclear how big this convertible/hybrid market will grow, but I see real potential here."

    Keep dreaming.....

    "The iPad and iOS remain a very polished, very accessible platform that is really optimized for content consumption and light productivity. For anyone who wanted more however, there’s now an alternative: Windows RT."

    "The default inclusion of Office 2013 and the emphasis on physical keyboards makes Windows RT the first tablet platform to significantly address the question of productivity."

    Reading this review, it strikes me that people at Anandtech either are totally biased towards Windows (which wouldn't be new, see also the Surface review) or they've never used an iPad. I put my money on the first one. Because you can't possibly claim that the iPad is less productive than a tablet with Windows RT, you really can't unless your are out of your mind.

    There is nothing that makes Windows RT more productive than iOS because you seem to have missed that it's iOS which has the productive apps today. Windows RT has nothing, nothing, and it will stay like that for a long time. If you want to be productive with a tablet today, you get an iPad not a tablet with Windows RT, period. iOS has productive apps that cover everything from video, audio production to art, photo workflows and text editors, CAD, etc.. All of them are optimized for touch. With Windows RT, to be productive you just get Office that you really can't use freely because of the restricted license. Office forces you to use a keyboard attached to a tablet and because such keyboards are very limited, you can't really use it with an attached keyboard either. What a mess.....

    "Combined with the equally advanced task switching and multitasking built into the UI, and this becomes the first legitimately useful tablet operating system out there."

    Then you are really not making sense, it's amazing. The multitasking on Windows RT is nothing better than iOS, it actually works the same way. The only thing is that it allows to put a stripped down app besides another one but this feature is not very useful on tablet screens. And this feature only exists because Windows RT has a fundamental flaw that this review completely ignores. Windows RT forces you to use a tablet in landscape mode (hence more room for the Snap feature) but at the price of sacrificing tremendously the usability of the system when used as a tablet (a shame when the system is supposed to be for tablets) because it's difficult to use the tablet in this mode without any attached keyboard. And by itself, Windows RT is more designed for consumption than being useful for production because of the choice of this landscape mode as default mode and also because the "Metro" interface is designed to be eye candy and only makes sense for content consumption apps. The interface is actually rather limited and constraining when it comes to have freedom in building any type of apps. So claiming that Windows RT is the first legitimately useful tablet operating system out there is at the limit of being a total troll who is disconnected from the reality. In the real world today, Windows RT is the less useful tablet OS out there not only because it lacks apps, but also it's design does everything in order that this OS is limited to content consumption.

    "Every single Windows RT slate comes out of the box with Office and the ability to have multiple active application windows. It’s just a few steps ahead of competing tablet platforms at this point."

    Again Office is not very useful on Windows RT, its useless in touch mode, hard to use with those Type Covers or whatever else, so it's just bad... There is absolutely not advantage over competing platforms here, absolutely none...

    "From a conceptual standpoint, almost anything you can do with an iPad can be done equally well (or close) on a Windows RT tablet"

    No it can't because it lacks apps and polish. The metro interface is too confusing, too busy, actually too much eye candy in order to hide the reality of an OS which is technically behind. I am amazed to see that the authors did not really point out the incredible deficiencies of the built-in apps. Mail, Messaging, Calendar lacks basic features to the point of being useless, IE 10 is buggy like the rest of the OS which often feels sluggish and lacks stability. I mean a dude in the iPhone 5 review came up with some completely baseless, unreal theory of scuffs affecting the iPhone 5, describing in length a completely baseless theory of an iPhone 5 production that the author in fact had not idea of. Like often in Anandtech and when it's about Apple, the authors go in lengthy baseless analysis that they don't have the real competence to do, but they do it anyway just to appear smarter than they are in reality. So we've got an iPhone 5 review where we were still being told about the AntennaGate, something that never existed and now also about a new Scuffgate which also does not have any real existence besides being some minor manufacturing issues on some units. Today, we've got a flawed software from Microsoft, I mean Microsoft sells you a half featured Mail app and buggy software but no word on that from the authors, no words on whatever gate. The authors of Anandtech really lacks honesty, you've got to get your ch.. together guys, really!!

    "but the desktop-caliber office suite and versatile multitasking interface of Windows RT are impossible experiences to replicate on the iPad"

    Oh yes sure because the iPad is not trying to run a desktop app on a touch devise. Yes indeed!!! Did you really use Office on Windows RT, honestly, say the truth? Office is unusable with fingers, it requires an atached keyboard which also is crap and comes with a completely, insanely bad trackpad. Please explain how this is supposed to be an experience that the iPad should replicate? On the other hand, iWork on iPad is a desktop caliber suite which is designed to work with touch. Which one you use?

    You keep speaking about this multitasking thing like you are really trying hard to find something to like in Windows RT. The reality is that the multitasking on Windows RT works like iOS with extra poorly implemented features most of the time not very useful on a tablet screen and which forced a design decision that really messes up the ease of use of Windows RT as a tablet OS.

    "if you’re looking for a new tablet this fall, Windows RT deserves your consideration. "

    Yes sure, if you want a buggy OS, designed towards content consumption, with limited and buggy built-in apps and no apps to use besides them, sure go ahead....
  • maximumGPU - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    I always find it funny that the same person (Anand) can be accused of being both an apple fanboy and a microsoft fanboy in different articles, and sometime in the same one. This just shows you that it's only commentators like you who are one.

    You're (extremely boring) reply has nothing of substance except personnal opinions and baseless attacks.

    i have owned every ipad (and still own the 3rd one), and i agree with the article in that productivity is limited on these tablets.
  • maximumGPU - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    Oh there it is, check a few posts down and the user "milkod2001" calling Anand an apple fanboy... Reply
  • ludikraut - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    but which world are you living in? Seriously.

    "...Reading this review, it strikes me that people at Anandtech either are totally biased towards Windows (which wouldn't be new, see also the Surface review) or they've never used an iPad. I put my money on the first one. Because you can't possibly claim that the iPad is less productive than a tablet with Windows RT, you really can't unless your are out of your mind...."

    The only one out of their mind is you. Have you actually used Windows RT - or even Windows 8 - on a tablet? Didn't think so.

    "...There is nothing that makes Windows RT more productive than iOS because you seem to have missed that it's iOS which has the productive apps today..."

    I think you're confusing productivity with productive.

    "...Then you are really not making sense, it's amazing. The multitasking on Windows RT is nothing better than iOS, it actually works the same way. The only thing is that it allows to put a stripped down app besides another one but this feature is not very useful on tablet screens..."

    And here you manage to contradict yourself in the span of two sentences. I won't bother to pick apart the rest of the post, I'd be here all day. Next time ... think before posting and check your facts ... please?

  • steven75 - Friday, November 2, 2012 - link

    Have you ever used an iPad? Have you used the iWorks apps on one? Do you realize a keyboard not only works with an iPad but is not a totally necessity unlike with Office on Windows RT?

    I am in complete agreement the reviewer doesn't have any experience with iPad productivity apps or is living a life completely shacked to Microsoft Office.

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