Microsoft Surface PC

Anybody have one of these? Just wondering if their keyboard is anygood. It looks like it would have a really bad touch response.

I have one, but again, I work for Microsoft so it was an easy choice. It’s a good device and the keyboard is what makes it a lot better than the other tablets that I had owned (previous iPad, HP Touchpad and Android tablet owner).

The touch cover keyboard has a slight learning curve but once you get comfortable it works great. They also have an alternate option, it’s the type cover, looks and feels like a conventional keyboard, but you sacrifice a little on the thickness and weight.

I noticed that your location listed you as located in St Louis, MO. There is a Microsoft store opening shortly there but you could go to the temporary store at the Galleria and play with the device and get a feel. More details can be found here.

The surface can only run software that gets downloaded from the windows store, right? There’s no sideloading software like on android, is that correct?

I’m not sure if I’m reading your post right but when you say the keyboard makes the surface much better than an iPad, it seems like you may not be aware of 2 things:
1 - Both the Surface and the iPad have external keyboards as options
2 - Both of them are purchased separately

How can the same thing be “much better”?

Sorry, should have been clearer. My experience with a keyboard with the iPad was less than optimal. I had a Logitech one that connected via Bluetooth and doubled as a case. The keyboard would sometimes have a lag and the keys didn’t register ever so often. I finally stopped using it when the case started scuffing the device (after some foam came off). The Surface one (I have the Touch cover) hasn’t had any of those problems yet, I have been using it for only 4 weeks though.

The Surface comes in two versions:

  1. Surface with Windows RT - this is the cheaper version. It functions like a tablet, with only apps type software. I have no idea about sideloading on it, but presumably someone will figure it out. MS has a version of Office that will work on it, so it can sort of double as a laptop replacement out of the box. It only functions in the Metro app style.

  2. Surface for Windows 8 Pro - this is the more expensive version. It’s the laptop-in-a-tablet version. You can use the app store stuff or load regular Windows software that you have lying around. Like desktop Win8 machines, it has the typical Desktop environment as well as the Metro environment.

They’re both pretty slick. I’d like to have an RT version, personally. I prefer to my heavy-duty computing on my desktop but would like to have an MS tablet integrated with the xbox and for writing when the mood strikes me.

At a recent business meeting our Operations guy brought several Surface tablets to show. When he snapped the keyboards in, he had trouble getting the device to recognize it, and needed to resnap or reboot or something and he said that this was a common problem.

So… Microsoft introduces a device where a very big selling point is the snap in keyboard, ads feature dancing and snapping, but in real life, that core function often fails.

I saw some students recently who had the Surface and they agreed that it frequently does not recognized its own keyboard on the first try and you have to fiddle/re-snap.

I’d be interested in a comment from maleinblack. What is your company thinking?

I’ve seen various third party beta solutions that purportedly allow users to run conventional x86 applications on RT, but these all appear to involve some level of jailbreaking, which probably incurs support or continuity of upgrade issues.

RT does have a desktop environment - so there’s probably nothing to stop software vendors from porting their desktop apps to the appropriate form and putting them through some kind of MS certification to run on RT.

I do wonder how much of a future RT really has, as full-blown PC tablets running Win8 are getting small, slim, cheap and power-efficient enough to make the RT surface devices irrelevant.

Strange, like Madeinblack I too have had one since early in the release cycle (probably the same batch, howdy fellow worker) and never had I had a problem with mine snapping in and being recognized.

I have found mine nice and responsive. I think I actually hit the keys harder than I have to because I am not used to the “touch” style. You can also buy a more standard type keyboard for it that is a little larger than the touch surface but has a more standard keyboard feel. I think that comes standard on the Pro and a few coworkers who have that like it a lot.

I have the Surface Pro with type cover and I love it. I don’t have any problem with tactile response from the keyboard. I have a few minor complaints about it; I had to do something like 500 point touch calibration before I could really write comfortably with it (but now it’s great) and every once in a while the keyboard stops responding, but a quick unsnap-snap never fails to fix it within a second. Annoying, but totally having a full powered PC in a tablet form factor is totally work it. It runs all of the software I need for lab, and then I can take it into bed with me and read on the kindle app when I come home. No worries about having two devices, so no hassle with keeping things in sync or losing them. Perfect.

I’ve got one of each (hello, coworkers!), but the Surface RT pretty much just gathers dust. The Surface Pro gets more use as a graphics device because of the digitizer and pen – it’s great for notes or drawing.

I have the type cover with the “real” keys (the touch cover kept missing or doubling keystokes, so I gave it up) – and yes, the snap-in function is fairly unreliable for me, you always have to give it an extra wiggle. The magnetic connector is also really bad, it feels like it’s in when it isn’t, and you have to look for a tiny light to be sure. Runtime is maybe a third of an iPad, and standby time is maybe a thirtieth of an iPad (hours to a day or so rather than a month or more). Resolution (1920x1080 on a 10" diagonal screen) is way to small for my eyes on “desktop” apps, even with magnification (which many important apps don’t honor, anyway). It’s unusable on a plane, because the kickstand - to - keyboard front distance is too great. It’s unsteady and awkward on a lap. They still haven’t fixed pressure sensitivity in Adobe apps for the digitizer.

The digitizer is great (aside from not supporting the standard pressure sensitivity APIs – it works fine on Microsoft’s own apps), it can run all my existing Windows software, and it’s very light – about the same as a MacBook Air, heavier and thicker than an iPad, though. Modern UI apps don’t have the scaling issue, so as a tablet it’s a very nice screen (although the software selection is still improving). The Surface Pro is a stunningly good presentation device: it’s a real PC, so it runs real PowerPoint (or whatever), and is much lighter than most business laptops for carrying around.

If you’re an artist, student, or “early adopter” type, and you’re going to use it in places where you always have a table available, I give it a big thumbs up. If you’re expecting something that’s both a laptop and a tablet, this is it, but realize that it make significant compromises to both experiences to achieve it. I suspect that this line will produce some fantastic devices in future iterations.

It has promise, but I predict it is the next Zune.

I looked at both the RT and Pro versions at a store and my initial thought was that they were pretty cool. So I looked into them a bit more a neat as they are, I think I would pass on one right now. One thing I noticed in the store was that they had Word and Excel on them. well, the RT does. If you pay more for the Pro, you don’t get those. Think about that - pay more, get less. Sure the Pro has full Windows 8, so you can install the full Office suite, but again - pay more, so you can pay even more for the software. Now, I get that you would have to do the same on any laptop you bought, but geeze MS, can’t you at least put Word and Excel on both? Those two programs are all I really need. I don’t expect a Dell or Toshiba laptop to come with full Office, but MS could really pack some added value into the Pro by making Office part of the package. As it is, I can get the crippled RT OS and Word and Excel, or pay more for the full Windows 8 with no software. Other than that tablet features, MS offers no advantage over a laptop and they could easily do so.

Second, the storage leaves the 32 GB Surface RT dead in the water. Sure the OS is going to take some room, but who is going to want to buy a “32 GB” device that has only 15 GB storage available? Market it as a 16 GB device and it’s not a problem, but to call it 32 GB is a bit shady. The 64 GB Surface Pro with 28 GB storage available is similarly crappy. Call it a 32 GB machine. I see there is a microSD card slot at least, so maybe actual storage capacities could be expanded to something decent, but don’t call a device with 15 GB available out of the box a 32 GB device.

I didn’t know that the keyboards had problematic connection issues. I’d guess that will only get worse with wear.

When I first saw these, I though they were attractive. Looking into them a bit more, and it seems that either a cheaper tablet or a modern laptop would be devices that can eat away at the Surface market, for different and valid reasons. I’ll wait around for the second generation devices before I seriously consider them, but I suspect these will just be another Zune and abandoned by MS.

There’s no way you’re running x86 apps on a Surface RT, which has an ARM in it, with anything reasonably approaching usefulness. Even with jailbreaking, it’s the wrong instruction set. Sure, you could add some emulation layer, but it’s going to suck. A lot. If Microsoft could have made it work, they would have.

As I understand it, the utility that allows you to do this is an abstraction/emulation layer, not a full-blown emulator or VM, so it might not suck too badly for utility-type applications.
Not likely to work well for anything where performance is a factor, if for no other reason than that the target CPU isn’t especially grunty anyway.

I shlepped an iPad (4th gen) around Israel for a couple of weeks with an Apple bluetooth keyboard (full size, but no number pad; very thin) in an Origami case. It behaved flawlessly for blogging, photo processing, email, FaceTime convos with my family back home, etc. No lags or missed keystrokes at all. The case folds back into a stand for the iPad that was quite comfortable on a table in front of me or on my lap. The only disadvantage was that it’s a two-piece affair. The case doesn’t hold both the keyboard and tablet. But the two pieces are light and compact to begin with, so it wasn’t a big issue.


Microsoft’s management culture has some very serious issues.

These devices are expensive “me too” tech that answers questions few people are asking. (Word and Excel on a tablet? Just what I needed!) MS might have the money to eventually get it right, but they do not have the time. I am a windows PC user, but Steve Jobs was right when he said Microsoft has no taste commenting on their Windows UI many years ago. These Microsoft tablets are headed for the same tarpit as the Windows phones.

I guess they’re targeting students - the TV ads seem to confirm this, featuring a bunch of hip teens and twenty-somethings snapping keyboards on and off (whilst not actually achieving anything productive).

I’m no marketing genius, but IMO, this is a mistake - Microsoft is launching a new product into a market sector already occupied with strong dominance by others - they might have made better inroads if they pitched RT to business ‘road warriors’ as a highly-portable, highly-compatible mobile working tool and let sales expand/spill over into other markets - but RT devices can’t join a domain, don’t have Outlook or commercial licensing for the Word/Excel, so they’re useless for business.

So they’re not available to the people that might want them, and to the people they are available, not desirable.

If I had a car and every once in a while the gas pedal quit working but a quick unsnap-snap never failed to fix it within a second, I’d buy a new car.