Feedback on Surface RT Review

Feedback on Surface RT ReviewI’ve said it dozens — if not hundreds (if not thousands!) — of times: My preferences in tech may not match your preferences in tech. It should never degenerate into a matter of vitriolic contention. If you want to see someone disagree with me without resorting to name-calling and argumentum ad hominem, Rob the Elder does it right! He writes:

Good morning.

I enjoyed your YouTube videos on the Surface RT, but wanted to offer you some feedback from my perspective as a 38-year EE, aerospace software / hardware designer who has worked on just about everything that flies, crawls, digs in the dirt, or orbits in space at one time or another. I am also an early adopter. I bought the Timex black box computer when it came out and have had just about everything up to and including my current stable of 15 desktops, five Apple TVs, two Kindles, three Kindle Fires, an iPad, four laptops, and, yes, a Microsoft Surface RT. Just for perspective, I also have four paired servers running at home with my content, which are currently hosting 4 TB of music and video.

I have been around the park a couple of times.

My first impression of the Surface was that it was too wide, too heavy, and too thick. I was also very uncertain about the new Windows 8 interface. I lived through DOS, pre-Windows 95, XP, Vista, and finally came to respect and — dare I say it — like Windows 7. I currently have all three of the latest versions of Windows running at home and can make them all do what I need done.

My experience over the past 10 days has gone from “What the heck is this thing and who came up with this user interface?” to “Ohhh, that’s how it works. That is cool!”

For example, I am an avid iPad consumer. I have several forums that I inhabit hourly. I do some light .me mail on it. I play games in the odd moments of downtime. And I read the weather, World of Tanks updates, and local news in near real time pretty much continuously when I am not locked up in a room with no windows at work. I love the iPad and it’s an important part of my life. It brings me Top Gear while I take a bath. But I have never viewed the iPad or the Kindle, for that matter, as useful tools. They are, instead, basically fun and useful toys. They allow me to do the same things I used to do with a TV, a laptop, and a radio, but in a more convenient and portable package. 2001: A Space Odyssey has come to be reality.

But whenever I’ve tried to do some useful work on the existing tablets, forget it. I have a high preference for Windows boxes. I have a Lion server as my iTunes host and for doing things uniquely Apple, but I pretty much hate the user interface. I grew up on the Apple Lisa in the office and learned Office with Apple boxes. I thought Apple was a great machine and used it extensively and exclusively until DOS started showing up in the office and I got seriously into gaming. Then I was forced, kicking and screaming, into the Intel box world and Microsoft. I started building my own computers. I learned that there were significant advantages to an open architecture that MS offered vs. the “we know better than you” approach to products that the Fruit Company enforces. So I went over to the dark side and am still there. I hate the limited, constrained interface of the Lion OS, for example.

When I saw the Surface, I decided that I would get one with little expectations over needing to find out more about Windows 8 and the new user interface. I also had hopes that with native Office I could generate content in Office on one of my desktops, and easily move it to the Surface for ultimate sharing/consumption with and for others. It would be a highly portable MS Office, if you will.

I was disappointed by the lack of documentation that came with the device. I liked the quality and the functionality it provided, but I had to do a lot of reading and playing around to figure it out. Then I found the desktop. And the device manager. And the network manager. And the control panel!

I tried for years to get the iPad to print reliably and failed. I should not have to go buy three apps, read a ton of documentation, and play with parameters in order to get garbage coming out of my printers.

With the Surface, I went to the control panel and opened up the network. There were all my network printers. And my home share group. I printed a sample Word document on the first try by pushing a couple of on-screen buttons. I was playing shared music files from my Windows music server in under a minute. I have two 64 gig SD cards for fun and frivolity and data sharing. I have created content on my desktop and seamlessly moved them to my Surface for consumption and portability.

I went to IE and pulled up Pandora. It came up quickly; I entered my account info and had my favorite stations at my fingertips in under two minutes.

I went into control panel and reset the power option to stop it from going to sleep when under power and it will stream music as long as I wish.

I went to several of the sites that share content in Flash and… drum roll… consumed the content!

I mean, your complaints in your video to me look pretty trivial and overly critical. Sure, the Surface is a compromise in hardware, battery life, and functionality. But last night when I picked up my iPad, I found myself wishing I had brought my Surface instead so I could do some updates to my files while listening to Pandora.

Just saying.

Have a great day.

Keep up the… work. I guess you can’t hit a home run every time!

Article Written by

Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.

  • Germain Staquet

    Very good example on a “what does not fit for me may fit for you”, which is what Chris keep on saying during his reviews and impressions.

    • Stephen Adams

      I think Chris has a tendency to get on people’s nerves because of how he words things. Leading off your review by reading off a laundry list of negative reviews….just doesn’t smell right to me.

      • Chris Pirillo

        And, as I said before, other people had similar experiences.

        If anything, they better framed my own perspectives without influencing them.

        • Stephen Adams

          You don’t think it’s a bit disingenuous to RT people who say “Surface Sucks”? It just wreaks of poor journalism. I mean, you RT’ed a guy that not only didn’t use one, but actually posted a video reviewing a review.

          The combination of situations like that, leading off your review by reading negative reviews, not being comprehensive in a review video…is just poor, IMHO. I generally thought your review was fair, It’s just not quite objective, yet. I guess it depends on what kind of journalist you want to be. Objective? Subjective? Something in the middle? Something like a shock journalist?

          • Chris Pirillo

            Who claimed I was a journalist? Not me.

            Careful about the labels you use.

          • Stephen Adams

            Its the impression I get, unfortunately. Your T-Mobile video, how you present yourself on Twitter. I guess the better question is..what do you consider yourself? A columnist?

          • Chris Pirillo


          • Stephen Adams

            Okay, so what? I read your Wikipedia, I see you’re a columnist. I guess what I can fathom by your label comment is that you don’t want to be labeled, and that you’re just here to present your opinion on products. Like a Joshua Topolsky, but without the professional title?

          • Denny Prijadi

            Stephen Adams , you are showing your true self as a fanboi by your comments. now you are attacking chris over anything..

          • OneOfOne

            denny prijadi you are showing yourself as just being annoying. if those two have something to say to each other theres no reason for you to be the ugly poodle pissing on stephens leg

          • currychicken

            there’s no need to be insulting and adding fire to the situation.

          • VaxPrime

            lol, give up Stephen, Apple people are just Apple people, how long have you bee following Chris’ un-journalistic, non-columny IT Blog. :)

          • ronknights

            Are you a professional?! Can you show us some of your columns, or better yet, YouTube videos?!

          • currychicken

            maybe you should edit the magazine columnist portion as occupation on your wiki page.

          • ronknights

            Are you a journalist?! It sounds like you discovered a “word of the day,” and love to repeat it: “disingenuous.”

  • Lance Mayfield

    This is a good example of great feedback without the “asshole’ish” responses you usually get from morons. :)

  • Stephen Adams

    Chris, I wish I could give you a lot of credit for your initial Surface review, but I think your initial review was disingenuous and not properly researched. You bashed the device for having the desktop, whilst not showing any of the functionality aside from you smashing around like a caveman. Truth be told, if you buy the device without a Touch Cover or Type Cover, chances are you won’t be living in the desktop.

    But, if you do buy a keyboard, you might. And to completely neglect that environment aside from bashing is not only disingenuous, it puts your reputation on the line as not only a reviewer…but as a supposed journalist. Leaving such features as USB, expandable storage, full access to a file system, etc. out of your review is just…wrong.

    I’d agree with you on certain things, namely fit and polish of certain apps, but when you come out of the gates and bash something like Cut the Rope (which is a web based game, really), but then not do your proper rounds to look at such games as Armed! (which is a native written Metro app)…is disingenuous. So, on the one hand you properly evaluate apps not having the proper fit and finish (the Mail app needs a lot of work), but on others you just don’t do the necessary legwork.

    Furthermore, having Flash functionality gives the Surface (and Windows RT/8) a huge leg up on the competition, IMHO. Can’t play Words With Friends because the app isn’t out yet? Play it in IE via the Facebook App. Want to experience “the full web” (disingenuously marketed by Apple with the iPad), well…you actually can.

    These are huge selling points of the Surface. And you neglected to give them the proper limelight, instead focusing on all the negatives. Your review was fair for the most part, but is smelled of bias. Do you have such? I don’t know, but it felt like it.

    I own an iPad2, and as an experiment I’ve been using *just* my Surface in place of the iPad. Know the only thing I miss? The actual native Words With Friends app.

    Anyways, I’ll continue to follow you on Twitter and reply to you, but your Surface review is one of the few reviews where I really scratched my head and thought, ‘Man, did he just not do his homework?’

    • Chris Pirillo

      For a $500 device, it was a pile of disappointment.

      Not sure what else I can say about the Surface that I haven’t already said.

      • Stephen Adams

        The iPad 1 was a pile of disappointment when it first launched. But that’s the funny thing about V1 devices: they get better…usually in short order. MS just released 2 major updates in the last few weeks: one to change preview to full release for Office, the other to improve performance across the board for RT. And it’s noticeable, IMHO.

        Either way, I just wish your review was more comprehensive. You left out a large portion of what makes the Surface intriguing, and then you continue to harp that it’s “disappointing” and “Schizo UI”…where-as the funny thing about that UI? It’s becoming more and more present in devices like Android tablets, OS/X as a whole, and is even becoming pervasive in iOS.

        Whether you like it or not, your videos drive sales of products. And not being comprehensive as well as starting your review off by being overly negative and heralding and retweeting pathetic YouTubers (see: Ron Knights) just isn’t what I expected from the guy in the T-Mobile video.

        • Chris Pirillo

          It was a disappointment? Hmmmm… I know a few people who would vehemently disagree – myself included.

          • Stephen Adams

            And that’s the beauty of an opinion. I waited until V2 for the iPad, because the original iPad was half baked.

          • Stephen Adams

            And that’s the beauty of an opinion. I waited until V2 for the iPad, because the original iPad was half baked.

          • Denny Prijadi

            original iPad half baked ? thats your opinion ok, but its not a fact. For fact you have to check iPad 1’s sales figure and compare it to ALL tablet device sales since microsoft failed tablet PC

          • ronknights

            I bought the iPad 1, and love it. I’m still using it.

        • Denny Prijadi

          iPAD 1 a disappointment ???? for you maybe but the Sales figure of iPAD 1 shows that most people regards it as a success.. if you like all techies think of iPAD as device without USB, without keyboard , without ports , etc etc then off course you are disappointed. But it is a device marketed for general public , not techies.. and apple have the last laugh

        • currychicken

          iPad 1 was NOT A disappointment as shown by the sales. It has gotten the essentials right at that time. And it is still very much usable to majority of the people for what it’s advertised for – mail, surfing the web, games, videos.

          Of course the Surface can do both, but in a un-slick, laggy fashion. And the sales will tell it right that it will NOT be a mainstream device for consumers for entertainment. I am not sure for a mainstream device. For those who is willing to pay more for a better experience with real keyboards and faster power, an 11inch macbook air could easily replace the Surface. I am not sure what Surface could replace. It can’t replace a laptop nor a tablet totally and I don’t know what to use it for. It serves as sub-grade netbook laptop even (slow!), and a tablet that probably won’t garner much developer apps because users wont find doing these few things exceptionally well – surfing the web, email and gaming.

          The downside of an iPad 1 – no cameras that’s all. And thicker. But its not half baked.

        • ronknights

          Pathetic YouTubers?! Who are you?! Just some guy who likes to complain. Shut up.

          • Stephen Adams

            Stick to filming reviews of products you’ve never owned or will ever own. Oh wait, you didn’t even review a product, you reviewed a review….and poorly at that.

      • Adam Smith

        Thank you for your review – your opinions is highly regarded
        And thank you for calling a fail a fail, and giving a true reflection of the usability problems very obvious when you film the tablet in real use
        Thank you for your considered opinion about usability.
        I feel no device review is complete without a comment on battery life
        This includes commenting on the speakers and screen keyboard
        This was another video of yours of Surface RT where you had to push multiple times at one point for the screen to recognise your touch
        This is a recipe for RSI if it happens frequently in the course of an hour, and an instant fail
        I will not risk the health of my joints in my hands and wrists for any device
        Thank you for also stating what I have suggested for many months, the Office suite menus/ribbon are still not yet optimised for touch, and an instant fail
        I disagree about the lack of apps, and hoping/stating “they will come” – thats a fail. This is 2012, and the competition (IPad, Android) have plenty of apps
        Being 2012, lag or performance delays just arent acceptable
        As you say, Ipad and even Windows XP runs programs instantly, and multitasking has very little lag
        Im sorry, performance lag is so Windows 3.1
        Lag is so 1993. Lag should not be seen on a $500+ device in 2012
        Lets not make excuses for devices with lag in the 21st century
        Tablet devices with tablet OS are mainly tools for internet browsing/emailing, basic office document creation, document/ebook/pdf reading, media playing and games/weather apps.
        The best comment I have read so far about the tablet (ipad, android or surface RT) is that it is an extension of the television, not an alternative for the PC/laptop
        Given these considerations, for a tablet device, I am not prepared to pay more than $300 for a tablet, and have avoided the temptation to pay for these overprices media consumptions devices
        I am happy to pay more than $300 for a laptop that can run a full OS
        As far as I am concerned however, tablets are tools but do not currently supercede PCs or laptops

    • Denny Prijadi

      i watch Chris’s unboxing and review of Surface RT without pressing Fast Forward.. and i agree on the annoying things he mentions. maybe it just me but if i am the one doing the review i will compain about the 16:9 screen ratio which is annoying to use in potrait orientation for ebook reading. I hate it how these LCD makers forcing 16:9 ratio on laptops.. now this ugh…

      •!/gpowerf G.Power

        Agree 100% on the 16:9 ratio, it may be great for movies but it is awful for everything else. Kudos to Apple for sticking with 16:10.

      •!/gpowerf G.Power

        Agree 100% on the 16:9 ratio, it may be great for movies but it is awful for everything else. Kudos to Apple for sticking with 16:10.

      • Stephen Adams

        16:9 is great for: watching videos, reading anything that is horizontal (web pages, anyway?), multitasking, etc.

        16:10 is good for….reading e-books?

    • Denny Prijadi

      i agree with Chris’s comment on the keyboard. If Microsoft deemed a keyboard is essential for the whole Surface RT experience then they should bundle. If they sell a tablet only device without keyboard , then the user experience shouldn’t be diminished by lack of keyboard.. this smacks of microsoft all right, too many people influencing the final decision.. they need a visionary and techie as leader, not a sales and marketing guy on top

  •!/gpowerf G.Power

    Where I personally think you did brilliantly Chris was in backing up your original observations, for example when you commented about poor performance you later on went out and provided evidence.

    What I found disappointing about the review is that at least from my perspective it seemed like perhaps you didn’t give it enough of a chance. Specifically I don’t think the criticism of the classic UI not being very usable with the touchscreen alone was very fair.

    To my mind it seemed a bit like complaining that a videogame game was poor simply because you needed a specific controller for it. Street Fighter II might be awful if played with a keyboard, but it isn’t an awful game. (yeah, that’s how long I haven’t played games!)

    In fairness to Microsoft pretty much all press materials and adverts show the Surface with the Touch or Type Covers. And this bit is speculation of course, but I think traditional Microsoft consumers would assume that one of the Touch Covers would be a good idea.

    Lastly let me say that you didn’t deserve the trolling, overall the review was good, and struck the right balance. The only bit where I found myself thinking “Chris, COME ON!” was when I saw you frantically touching the Classic UI and saying it was frustrating. You saw XP on tablet, didn’t you? I’m sure you half knew it would be frustrating :)

    • Stephen Adams

      This is very spot on, and generally what I agree on.

      Funny thing about the desktop UI? Chris Pirillo was fumbling around in it trying to use touch as if it was alien to him…I have a Touch Cover…and even when I use touch in the desktop, it really isn’t difficult to use.

      True story: I was able to print immediately out of box with the Surface to my printer, I put in my Logitech USB fob and was using my travel mouse, I plugged in my Galaxy Nexus and pulled pictures off the USB drive, turned a “32GB” tablet into a “96GB” tablet for $50 via expandable storage, was able to use remote desktop out of box…and connect to my HomeGroup all right away.

      Were these spoken about whatsoever? Glossed over more like it.

      • Chris Pirillo

        If you live in Microsoft’s world, of course a Microsoft product is going to play better inside.
        That’s not news.

        • Stephen Adams

          What does that even mean? Every product you buy nowadays (tech related) is an ecosystem based product. Are you discounting the desktop entirely? What was the point of this reply?

          • Chris Pirillo

            I’ll let it sink in.

          • Stephen Adams

            It doesn’t have to sink in. Your point holds some water with things like HomeGroups or those Touch/Type Covers, however are you intentionally discounting the non-MS related items? Should your reviews never mention AirPlay? iTunes? Anything ecosystem related?

          • Stephen Adams

            Also, is Flash not a selling point either? At least a full OS implementation that is mature as opposed to some half baked solution that was shoehorned into Android?

          • Denny Prijadi

            whats all these ‘defensive’ attack against Chris Pirillo’s review ???? this smacks of fanboy attack that happen all the time when the fanboy’s device or brand is put in bad light.

            whats the POINT of debating chris’s surface review ? he review it from his OWN eyes , not to please anyone else.. it began to sound like a WITCH HUNT..

            gosh i hate chris pirillo just like everyone else in this planet but no matter how ugly he is , i still come and watch his video for HIS OPINION..

            btw if you are so adamant on proving Surface RT is better, you should make a review video yourself and try to show the good features of surface RT. (maybe you will get free Surface Pro from microsoft if you put in good words in your review)

          •!/gpowerf G.Power

            erm? Did you just call him ugly? Where did that come from?

          • Denny Prijadi

            well , i watch chris for his opinion not for his looks lol.. and the ugly and hate comment is just an exaggeration lol..

  • Denny Prijadi

    ” pretty trivial and overly critical” … thats Chris Pirrillo all right

  • Denny Prijadi

    for myself , all Windows RT device are disappointing because they FORCE their 16:9 ratio on you. I use tablet (iPad) in Potrait mode 90% and only use Landscape for Games and Movies (which is only 10% time)..

    i want to buy Window 8 Tablet (RT or PRO) but i will wait till some vendor release them without 16:9 ratio. i want 4:3 ratio and i believe im not the only one who prefer Potrait Orientation..

  • Joe

    If I had the chance to talk to Chris like Stephen is, I wouldn’t be insulting him over a review.

  • Joe

    If I had the chance to talk to Chris like Stephen is, I wouldn’t be insulting him over a review.

  • Nino Brunori

    I just watched the unboxing video as well as this.

    My first impression is that MS is certainly not in sync with reality in today’s competition.

    I don’t want to sound snobbish or condescending however, the price as well as having advertisements popup in the apps is just crazy.

    I believe in a free Capitalist society but Microsoft should be focusing on the look and feel and not trying to gain revenue through advertisements and locking out software that doesn’t go through them.

    This devices future is nothing but some type of root kit along with bypassing the install feature.

    I’m also reminded of how a lot of my old toys will not work on Win 7 due to the manufacture refusing to pay MS a fee to sign their drivers when they work perfectly in Win 7 test mode.

    The very reason why I use Firefox is to get rid of advertisements and I really don’t care if it lags 2 seconds behind Explorer especially when I don’t have to click on that Youtube popup that covers the video. I don’t mind an Ad on the rights side or whatever. Hey, pay the bills but when you go to CNN and the entire page shifts down while reading so I can see a Toyota ad is just plain annoying. It’s this annoyance and prohibition that creates the rooters and hackers.

    Regardless of this innovation I can’t see it selling at that price especially when for 2 of those I can get 5 Ainol Novo 10 Hero’s, fill them with emulators, apps and games then give them out as Christmas presents.

    They still can still watch video’s, Skype, browse and email through Wifi, read and write all forms of documents, play all forms of video’s and music as well as have hundreds of thousands of apps.

  • Justin Presley

    Have to agree with the review (watched the initial hour long unboxing and first impressions), and compared it to other reviewers opinions, and a lot of things match up.

    The whole having the legacy desktop thing doesnt make sense – why not just make the office apps native to the new UI? Perhaps the devs didnt have enough time to get it done (releasing an unfinished product). In any case, it doesnt make sense why it seems as though (from an end user perspective) there would be 2 different interfaces in a single device – why not just stick with the touch optimized UI?

    Also the review of the game is completely fair – it’s a top game that’s been in their market for a long time now, there’s no excuse for that subpar performance. Same thing with flash – Android tablets can handle it, why cant this? The Blackberry playbook for goodness sake had none of these performance issues (while it did have a few lesser issues of its own)

    All in all, i would be interested in this if having a keyboard / trackpad wasn’t required for overall usability. The new UI is very touch optimized for sure, but the overall design screams “keyboard required”. And for me, a tablet isnt a tablet if it needs a physical keyboard and seems to be specifically designed to spend most of its life not in your hands, but on another surface. In it’s current state, not even going to consider buying it.

  • Iain Dunn

    As Chris said it was his opinion. In the end we all make up our own mind (or should) on the value of a product based on our personal preferences and needs.

    I found his review and comments appeared to reflect the issues he identified. They may not have been a major concern for another user but for his needs and expectations the RT was found wanting.

    If you don’t like his findings ignore them or offer an alternate viewpoint, but to attack someone for their opinion or to question their integrity is immature and borders on bullying or oppression.

  • Mike Henkelman

    I actually agree with the vast majority of Chris’s comments here. And in the areas I disagree, I certainly can appreciate his opinion and position. The Surface RT really is an interesting bag. There were actually some things that Chris hasn’t gotten too yet, like how Outlook Task Syncing is completely missing. And frankly, the mail app feels like MS really phoned it in. The contrast in the app isn’t very good based on the color pallet used. And these are all things I would have expected them to really excel at developing. Even my iPad 3 has native task syncing with exchange.

    Where I think the Surface really excels is in the areas that allow the device to ride the fine line between tablet and netbook. The task switching is awesome. The ability to split the screen is also awesome. I love the metro/modern UI. I love the metro version on IE. I really like that I can get to the file system. I like that I have a USB port, and an ad card slot. And I LOVE the type cover.

    As a complete device, I really like the surface but I’m also a techie, willing to look beyond many faults. Chris is right in that many consumers will absolutely not like this device compared to an iPad. His readers, being more of the technical sort may actually really appreciate the engineering efforts that MS has put forth here.

  • Saif Al Massi

    I completely agree with Chris’s review of the surface RT. Mainly because, for a 500 dollar device, the experience is just not good enough. Sure, the physical design and the modern windows UI(or metro UI) is really cool. However, it is overshadowed by the frequent jitters during use. The inclusion of the desktop interface is more or less a tease at best; not compatible with third party software and quite annoying at performance. It’s been pretty obvious that tapping the screen on a desktop interface is not suitable for input. This was made clear when Microsoft introduced the windows xp tablet in the past. But then one may argue that that’s what the touch/type cover is for; to provide input for the desktop interface. If that’s so, then why do they sell the covers as accessories and not include it as part of the tablet package? If they included the desktop interface in windows RT so users could use office, then I believe that Microsoft didn’t think it through. They’ve created native versions of word for iOS and android. I’m sure they could’ve done the same for metro style windows 8. All in all, if microsoft wanted users to have a hybrid tablet/desktop experience, then I think they should have just gone with the surface pro instead. The whole idea behind windows 8 is kind of weird in the first place. They’ve created software in an attempt to satisfy two different platforms and named it windows 8. Desktop PCs should have desktop software and tablets should have tablet software. Like Google for example: chrome OS for chrome books and android for mobile devices. Don’t get me wrong though, I love the idea of one central OS capable of governing different hardware. Just that with Windows 8, they haven’t yet achieved it. Finally, for an iPad competitor with premium pricing, you’d at least expect cut the rope to work without dropping frames.

  • blahism

    I think its Hilarious you complain about vitriolic responses yet I see you voted up over at tech crunch all the time being embarrassingly immature and vitriolic in your own comments. Tech journalism.. bahaha

  • blahism

    I think its Hilarious you complain about vitriolic responses yet I see you voted up over at tech crunch all the time being embarrassingly immature and vitriolic in your own comments. Tech journalism.. bahaha

  • Richard Graham

    Rob the elder, Didn’t you know that you can run any any version of windows and Mac OS X on the ipad through an app called air display? Everything you said above is moot.

  • tom

    After sales service is non existent. Microsoft need to roll out something similar to the apple shops. Three months in and I can’t turn it on. I apparently have to wait three weeks for it to be fixed