Microsoft Surface: First Impressions

Well it arrived on the day it said it would, last Friday. FedEx tracking said it shipped from China and would arrive at 10:30am. Well, probably due to Hurricane Sandy of the coast, it arrived later at 4:30pm. Whew!

Microsoft put some thought into the packaging. The keyboard is optional, but still part of the packaging in such a way that it could be changed before shipment -depending on the color and keyboard of choice. It powered right up!

This Surface runs Windows 8 RT – so it’s not full-blown Windows. It won’t run Windows programs – only apps that come with it and that are available in the app store. And the Store is pretty bleak. It does have Netflix and Hulu, but a far cry from the Apple Store on the iPad. Of course, Apple has had three years to get companies to “grow” apps for their store.

I definitely recommend the keyboard. I have the soft touch version. There’s a traditional mechanical version as well. I’m typing on it now. I’ve got the Surface perched on the arm of a chair and the keyboard hangs over, so it does flex a little. But, it’s surprisingly good for a flat touch flexing keyboard. It attaches magnetically. When it’s flipped around to the back, the keys are exposed, but thankfully, disabled. When it’s covering the screen protectively, the outside is felt. Odd. Non-slip? It looks unfinished. Cheap even. But, I can live with it.

Even though RT isn’t “real” Windows, it certainly acts like it. There are windows updates. The desktop is there, but you can’t add icons to it. The keyboard even has a trackpad and turns on a mouse when used! The techniques for using the touch screen to get around take some learning, but prove to be very useful. I can launch an app and then a second app and get them to show side by side. Very nice!

Internet Explorer 10 is there. I can’t run full blown java apps. But, the thumbnails of my open web pages that appear and disappear at the top of the screen is really neat.  I can even place a shortcut to a website on my Start screen.

Multiple users can have their own profiles. That’s a nice touch. However, the screen is elongated width-wise. Like an Android tablet. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet.

There are bugs. I had one blue screen of death moment. When I sat down and turned on the Surface to type this, it didn’t see any wifi hotspots. I restarted, and they all appeared. I can’t tell when the tablet is charging – no charging light. But I like the connection -it’s magnetic like the Apple MacBooks.

I’ll keep you posted on what I find. For now, however, I’ll keep my Apple iPad handy.

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