Surface RT - initial impressions Aug. 2014

Discussion in 'Microsoft Surface RT' started by PhilBiker, Aug 29, 2014.

  1. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker New Member

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    The Surface RT is now an old piece of hardware, and I got a new one last week. Original retail on the 64GB Surface RT was $699 with touch cover. I got a brand new Surface RT for under $240 and used Type 2 cover for about $50 in August 2014. I have had an iPad2 for three years and I have liked it, but have grown out of the 32G storage and have been frustrated with the ecosystem.

    So about a week into my ownership I am completely impressed by the original Surface RT. Hardware, look and feel, is first rate of course as every review says. It is not fast but it’s fast enough for everything I need.
    The screen is not high dpi but it is very bright and very high quality.

    Widescreen movies are dramatically better on this than they were on the iPad. I knew it would be the case, but damn seeing is believing. 4x3 stuff is not quite as large or as nice as the iPad. Most of the movies I'll be watching are widescreen.

    Capability - wow. I hooked the Surface up to my HDTV through the micro HDMI and played "Asphalt 8: Airborne" (basically tablet/phone version of "Burnout" - it's awesome) using an X-Box 360 controller. It worked fabulously well. I set up remote desktop to my desktop PC and it works like a champ. USB Port seems to work great, I’ve used a mouse, the Xbox360 controller, my DSLR, a memory stick, and an old Sandisk Sansa MP3 player that I use sometimes for podcasts. I connected my PIV card reader from work and tried to open my virtual workplace. No dice yet, but there is a native Win8 Citrix client – the fact that I can’t remote in yet is a configuration issue on the server side. When it is set up I will be able to securely access my work assets. And not through the kludge that is VPN, a secure remote desktop workplace. Everything worked seamlessly, perfectly. MicroSD card works exactly as expected. I can cast video and audio to any DLNA device in the house, and it works perfectly and seamlessly. *except Netflix – they disable casting for copyright reasons. Grrr….

    The Type 2 cover is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

    File Management, as mundane as it should be, is incredibly refreshing after three years of fighting with the horrible software disaster that is iTunes.

    Apps are sufficient for my requirements. I’ve never been an app ***** on the iPad, though I’ve had a few favorites. Fun little waste of time apps like backgammon and Angry Birds are here, and though the apps from smaller and independent developers aren’t as polished as iOS smaller market games, they’re sufficient. I miss Pinochle.

    But the kicker, the absolute kicker, is the integration with the Bluetooth PageFlip Cicada pedal and chord chart display. I was hoping it would work as good as the iPad2. I was not expecting it to work orders of magnitude better. A little background before I continue: the first day I used my iPad to display music I knew I’d never use paper again. I completely rely on it for the kind of gigs I play and for practicing. Most of the musicians I know and play with are the same. In general, I create PDFs on my computer, copy them to iPad, then display them using UnrealBook.

    The PageFlip Cicada pedal is an integral piece of my kit. It allows me to page up/down-back/forth with a touch of my foot. The way it works is that it masquerades as a Bluetooth keyboard. On the iPad, for some reason, it would only work right in some apps. The main reason I’m using UnrealBook is that it works with the pedal. I don’t know why, but other readers do not work well with the PageFlip.

    The Cicada works with my iPad, but not particularly well. The pedal has to be on and recognized before I open UnrealBook; the app won’t use it if it’s turned on after the app is opened. Also, the iPad doesn’t like to show an onscreen keyboard if a Bluetooth one is attached unless the app is smart enough to know that the Bluetooth pedal is really a page turning pedal. Another reason to use UnrealBook, it allows me to do on-page notes while the pedal is there.

    At our last gig we took requests – the musicians I play with are all the kind of guys who will pick up a song they are familiar with and play it if we have the charts and words in front of us without ever having practiced or played the song. It’s awesome and it means we can take requests. So in order to take requests, I had to open a browser and reach to the floor to turn off the Bluetooth pedal in order to type into ultimate guitar’s search box. Again, the iPad doesn’t like to show the on-screen keyboard if it sees a Bluetooth keyboard attached. So I turned off the pedal, looked up the song on ultimate guitar or chordie or whatever, then when that song was complete we returned to the set.

    Since the pedal was turned off I had to actually close Unrealbook from the little vibrating icon menu, bend over and turn the pedal back on, and restart the app in order to complete the changeover from browser to UnrealBook. About three times of this happening and I was getting a little frustrated, but it was what it was.

    No More.

    Windows 8 loves to show the onscreen keyboard, even if you have two external keyboards attached. Just swipe and it’s there for you in most cases (and it’s superior to the iPad on screen keyboard, which is saying a lot because I love the iPad on-screen keyboard). So on the Surface, the PageFlip pedal works exactly the same for every app (which is how the device itself is designed to work), the app doesn’t have to be aware of it. Furthermore, if I need the keyboard (for browser, requests, etc.) it’s right there at my fingertips, and the scrolling from the pedal will work in the browser at the same time!

    Now, I don’t have an app like UnrealBook that does notation (scribbling stuff like “Come in here” and “No bass this verse” or something on my charts), and the notation in the PDF reader apps that I’ve tried so far is limited. However, the continuous scrolling is going to be MUCH better than the page turning that I was using before on the iPad2. I’m just completely blown away. Here I was hoping it would work as good as the kludge that I had been tolerating for years, and it ends up being smooth and perfect like it always should have been!!!

    Plus I can edit, create, and update my charts on the fly since I have Word.

    There is an app that I’ve downloaded but called GuitarTapp that is a front end for chord charts. You type in a song/artist and it goes out to web sites like ultimate guitar and pulls up charts. And it can import charts. I haven’t dug into it yet but early investigation is promising.

    The whole feel of this device is like attacking the idea of a tablet with a completely different philosophy than Apple and Google have done. Everyone remembers the old Windows XP tablets that nobody bought. The fruits of that development are here in my hands.

    The difference is this: Apple and Google have created their tablet OS by upsizing phone/MP3 player OSes. Microsoft has come from the exact opposite direction, downsizing their desktop OS for tablets.

    I want my tablet to be my only computer. I think this will be the case universally. People (except developers and “power users”) won’t even have laptops in 5 years or 10 years. The market will disappear, and I would not be surprised if it was a very dramatic, very quick disappearance akin to the decline of Blackberry. There’s no reason to have a laptop or a desktop PC when a tablet can do everything that people need. Microsoft has been anticipating this paradigm change for 15 years. Windows 8 is completely touch enabled. Android is as well, and since it’s built on Linux it should be able to scale up well.

    Where is Apple? Do Macbooks even have touch screens yet? It was funny, recently I was doing some travel planning using a laptop - at one point I put my finger on the screen to do something, scroll or open a link or something – it was just a natural thing to do – and of course nothing happened and I went to the track pad. People who use tablets and smartphones are used to touching, scrolling, selecting right on the screen.

    Honestly I don’t think I’ll need the iPad or the 3 year old hand-me-down VAIO laptop that I just got any more. This little device that I got for under $250 does everything I need. Does it do everything? No. I will still need my PC if only for the two large screens attached to it and the sound card that’s in the PCI slot. But man, I did a LOT of research before I got this thing. My expectations were fairly middling – I knew I would love the SD card slot and more memory, and would not like the dearth of apps. Man oh man are my expectations exceeded. I did not expect this to be such a serious capable computer.

    A couple more minor complaints:
    * The Surface doesn't see my NAS as a network computer. It only sees the DLNA server that the NAS is presenting.
    * The Surface doesn't work with my printer whether I use USB or network access. It sees the printer on the network, but there are no drivers.

    At this point I would say that my next computer is going to be a (loaded) Surface Pro with a docking station. That could replace both my desktop and my tablet. I wonder how much a Surface Pro 3 will go for in a year or so when they are older. I would need some kind of USB Audio device to make it work for me for digitizing vinyl which is what I use my sound card for.
     
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  2. malberttoo

    malberttoo Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Phil, thanks for the great write-up, it's awesome when you find a device that perfectly meets your needs!
     
  3. kundas1

    kundas1 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Wow great write up... btw for your printer problem, what you need to do is add your printer to the homegroup, then once its on there, connect your printer directly to the Surface and it should install automatically and then when your ready to print something it should be there... that's what I had to do with my RT...
     
  4. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker New Member

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    The Surface can see the printer through both the network and locally when connected by USB. It even identifies it and shows the printer's home page. The problem is there are no drivers for Windows RT for this printer (Lexmark S301).

    I am upgrading the fiurmware on my NAS device so hopefully that will help and I'll be able to access the NAS.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2014
  5. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker New Member

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    Firmware update on the NAS fixed the access. I can now access it seamlessly from my Surface RT.
     

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