Microsoft really needed to hit a home run with its first ever internally developed tablet computer, the Surface RT, to make a dent in the Apple-dominated marketplace. But the first crop of Surface reviews are out today, and the findings are decidedly mixed.
Seasoned tech watcher Wilson Rothman, now writing for nbcnews.com, calls the Microsoft tab “a hardware success, and the company should be proud.” Then in the next breath, he chastises the new Windows RT operating system as a raggedy work in progress, “ less of a reason for self back-patting. While it doesn’t completely tarnish the Surface experience, it often comes darn near.”
Surface jumps out of the tablet pack by offering Office Suite. Yet Microsoft isn’t offering a way for users to access and manipulate these productivity programs without switching from the tablet’s “modern” mosaic tiled design control screen and finger touch manipulation to a classic Windows 8 style display that demands a keyboard and trackpad to maneuver.
As the Surface’s point of Office access, Rothman found the $119 Touch Cover “ultra suave.” (Another option is a more conventional chicklet-key endowed sibling, the $129 Type Cover). The Touch Cover deploys a smart, pressure-sensitive pad that emits popping sounds when you type on it. “While seeming corny at first, it actually gives you the feedback you need to touch type without looking.” Rothman enthused. Other reviewers have not been so kindly disposed.
Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg likes the build quality of the Surface Tablet “made of a type of magnesium with a feeling of quality and care.” He’s sore disappointed by the lower quality (than iPad) screen, underperforming one megapixel camera , “mediocre” battery life (7 hours) and “paucity” of apps – 5,000 at launch.
Ars Technica’s Peter Bright - considered one of the most knowledgeable of Windows watchers - has delivered one of the more positive of reviews for the Microsoft tablet. Yet even he finds faults. In the “plus” column, Bright likes the clarity, brightness and wide viewing angles of the tablet screen, the overall build quality, both Touch and Type covers and the tablet’s strong Wi-Fi. In the negative column, he grouses about the lower resolution of the 1366x768 screen, the poor touch pads with both covers, and the absence of GPS, NFC or a 3G/ 4G connectivity option.
Bright concludes that the $499 entry level Surface ought to include (but doesn’t) one of those necessary covers and argues that for $599, the better featured Asus VivoTab RT represents a more positive point of entry to the new Windows RT world.
Can they build one for you?