IS Microsoft Surface the Zune of tablets?

By on November 5, 2012 4:07:26 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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I'm writing this with my brand-new Microsoft Surface.  The best way to describe it is that Surface is to tablets what the Zune was to music players. It's not terrible but the $500 device has nothing to recommend for it.

As a notebook device, it's certainly better than the iPad. It supports multiple users. It supports mice (and on-screen mouse cursors). In short, you could realistically use this device as a very very light work machine.  In theory. It comes with a Windows RT version of Office Preview which works adequately, if slowly.

Ironically, it's as a tablet where it falls down. I always assumed that the "Metro" experience would shine on a tablet. It doesn't. It's annoying and perplexing even there. Give me the option of having the charms bar up all the time and the specific app bar up all the time and it would be much more tolerable. I really don't like having to swipe at the screen in just the right way to get options to display. Getting around the Metro experience is a chore, even as a touch device.

It's very frustrating, at times, to navigate around Metro. I'm still new with I accidentally closed my editor because I was trying to switch to another tab (Which you do by swiping down from the top and selecting the tab). However, if you swipe too far down, it closes the app. Bam. Gone. 

What's worse is the app selection is pitiful. Don't even think about using Office apps as a pure tablet. It's very frustration trying to use what is clearly a Win32 port with a touch screen. It does much better once you've sat down, hooked up a mouse, and started working with a real keyboard. The situation with Modern UI apps (which I'm just going to keep calling Metro) is even worse. The included ones are slow. Very slow. I also couldn't find decent third party apps that I'd use. If there's a Pulse/Flipboard quality RSS reader for WinRT I haven't found it yet. There just isn't that much to do with it.

The form factor also makes it an awkward tablet. It's very long (or wide, depending on how you look at it). It's also quite heavy. Too heavy to want to use as a tablet for an extended period of time.

Getting more apps for it is also painful. The Windows Store is terrible. As anyone who has used Windows 8's store knows, it's an assault on the eyes. Lots of multi colored blocks that tell you nothing about the app. It's just very hard to find things.

The Unopening:

Here's my friend Paul (former guest on PowerUser.tv) trying it out.

Just a few points to take home from this from my notes:

The Bad:

  1. Note Facebook app
  2. No bundled Twitter app
  3. No bundled RSS app
  4. Apps load extremely slow
  5. Very hard to navigate around
  6. Too easy to unload things entirely
  7. Too heavy to use for an extended period of time as a plain tablet
  8. It's ergonomically inferior as a tablet
  9. The Office port is embarrassingly half-assed
  10. Lack of app selection makes it hard to justify using vs. an iPad or Android device.
  11. UI usability lacks a lot of polish, awkward to use at times
  12. You cannot use this as a laptop (the stand requires a desk)

The Good:

  1. The mouse and on screen cursor is a huge win.
  2. It's actually a pretty decent notebook PC if you buy the upgraded keyboard.
  3. The screen isn't bad.

Overall, for $599 it's not a bad little notebook PC. But I can't imagine why anyone would want to use this as a tablet versus its competitors unless you have some specific enterprise need for multiple users and superior security.

Grade: 
  Hardware: B
  Software: D

Update:


I am really digging the form factor. It's replaced my MacBook Air for light computing. But it's pretty mediocre as a tablet. It's a light PC.

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November 5, 2012 4:12:59 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

I'll wait for a sale.

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November 5, 2012 4:19:24 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

How much active time with the device is your review here based on?  What's your typical use case on a tablet?  What is your tablet of choice?

Not trying to discredit anything you said.  I'm just curious about the above questions as a matter of perspective on your thoughts on the device.

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November 5, 2012 4:28:40 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

So lemme get this straight:  Win8 is supposedly so fast on a desktop, for which its UI is poorly designed, and slow as molasses on a tablet, for which its UI was specifically designed.  Go figure.

But should we really be surprised?  It's MS, after all.

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November 5, 2012 4:45:20 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Quoting Kantok,
How much active time with the device is your review here based on?  What's your typical use case on a tablet?  What is your tablet of choice?

Not trying to discredit anything you said.  I'm just curious about the above questions as a matter of perspective on your thoughts on the device.

My main laptop is a ThinkPad X1-Carbon (the brand new one)

I have an Amazon Kindle Fire and an iPad 3.

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November 5, 2012 5:07:41 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

The Surface is no bargain... An iPad 4 apparently is quite a bit better, according to Chris Pirillo.

 

 

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November 5, 2012 5:48:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for the review, i've been curious. Am looking at a notebook as main computer for living off-grid. Do as much as i can on the lo-power machine. i've a Biolite cook stove which harnesses heat to power usb charged devices. And a 10 watt backpackers solar panel from Goal-Zero. With just these two i can already power the lights and have a work days worth of tablet use (or a few days with a few hours use each day). Use the tablet for most things (social, movies music games, reading writing, modding). Fire up the PC for just the heavy lifting. Less power usage means less work gathering it. i intend to increase watts harvested per hour. And gather energy in supplemental ways such as from the waste heat of making charcoal. But from what i have now, only a tablet PC is needed to be in hobo heaven

Using mouse on the tablet was of big interest to me. i've two input devices which could be real helpful in a metro environment.  Would be nice to use them. They are like magic ...tools flying to hand, programs executed and aborted with a single key tap. Eyes stay on screen. Contortionist macros are reduced to single key tap. Loads of hotkeys. i favor input devices sized and purposed like a ten-key adding machine. Rapid fire input. Eyes stay on project. But as big a deal as that would be to have at least the Cyborg MMO7 mouse; i'm still not feeling the MS Surface. i'll wait and see the full holiday roundup. See what might come. Hoping for a 4G device which fits the bill. 

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November 5, 2012 6:08:05 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

All the hype about the Surface and it does not much. WTG Microstuff! One of these days they might get it right but somehow I doubt it.

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November 5, 2012 6:10:40 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Quoting DrJBHL,
The Surface is no bargain... An iPad 4 apparently is quite a bit better, according to Chris Pirillo.

 



 

 

The iPad 4 doesn't come with Office, can't be hooked up to a mouse and used as a regular notebook PC.

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November 5, 2012 6:30:20 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Has anyone tried the Google Nexus?  I have my pc, which is still xp.  Just thinking of something to take along to check emails, sites, etc. when I go to my daughters, brothers, sisters, etc.  I don't think it is something that can be used for drawing/creating images, but I don't know.  

 

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November 5, 2012 6:37:22 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
The iPad 4 doesn't come with Office, can't be hooked up to a mouse and used as a regular notebook PC.

But it does have Keynote, Pages and Numbers... and a mouse isn't really needed... a wireless keyboard case can be added to protect and setup like a laptop. More than a replacement for Office.

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November 5, 2012 7:03:10 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Way too expensive. Android devices offer more options.

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November 5, 2012 7:16:47 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

If you want a good notebook PC, there's AMD A6 things out there for just over $300 that are probably much faster and more capable.

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November 5, 2012 7:17:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting DrJBHL,

Quoting Frogboy, reply 8The iPad 4 doesn't come with Office, can't be hooked up to a mouse and used as a regular notebook PC.

But it does have Keynote, Pages and Numbers... and a mouse isn't really needed... a wireless keyboard case can be added to protect and setup like a laptop. More than a replacement for Office.

I bought the whole stand for my iPad plus a bluetooth keyboard. You can't use it as a production machine. No mouse cursor, no mouse equivalent. The Surface supports external input pointing devices.

There are many tasks that a big finger on a screen just isn't precise enough.

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November 5, 2012 8:27:56 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

why didnt you wait for surface pro?

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November 5, 2012 8:32:55 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
No mouse cursor, no mouse equivalent. The Surface supports external input pointing devices.

There are many tasks that a big finger on a screen just isn't precise enough.

I use a stylus... works fine.

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November 5, 2012 10:57:42 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

The iPad 4 doesn't come with Office, can't be hooked up to a mouse and used as a regular notebook PC.

My Toshiba Thrive with Android can be used with a mouse and keyboard. On screen cursor too.

 

I'll hang with it, for now.

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November 5, 2012 11:09:02 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting DrJBHL,

Quoting Frogboy, reply 13No mouse cursor, no mouse equivalent. The Surface supports external input pointing devices.

There are many tasks that a big finger on a screen just isn't precise enough.

I use a stylus... works fine.
hmm this got me thinkin down a broader tangent.. i wonder about the effects of Metro on the evolution of external pointing devices. PCs merge towards ever smaller form. Legacy pointing schemes are not well suited for the apparent future of Mobile and Disconnected computing. But touchscreen computing dont cut it either. Has big and wide use, but far short of universal. [i'd love a big screen attached to a multi-position drafting table. Before which i would stand and have full range of motion and gesture. For me it would be art with a little design, and some amateur engineering and architecture, and brainstorming sessions and educational safaris and more. oh man the magic and speed/performance of that level of interface put to inspired and motivated use, makes me hard thinking of it]


For top productivity of a desktop situated machine, i'd think the hands would never leave the keyboard. With eyes always on screen. Brain more fully engaged with minimal input distraction. The sleeker yet more fully functioned the inputs, the more the machine becomes extension of man. A Brain/PC merge like the merge when operating heavy equipment such as front-end loader or backhoe. Many inputs. Simultaneous inputs where input error often often has fatal and other destructive consequence. Eyes remain on business end of machine while inputing a variety of precise simultaneous commands. i see the paradigm for heavy equipment input-schemes as being near the same as with computing. i want the same kinda sleek yet full function control at my fingertips. Eyes need rarely leave the excavation/screen cuz the fingers are always at their posts. 


To that end of more fully merging man with computing device...

i believe there exists the hardware and the software, as well now a 'Metro motivation' required to make use of the space above the keyboard (as well any space which the fingers happen to reside - keyboard not required). All that space directly above our fingers on keyboard can be put to use. Why have hand leave keyboard to make gesture on distant screen (with much of upper body including neck/head becoming engaged) when all that is needed is a single, unique - user defined, low-impact finger gesture. As i type here now my fingers remain at their accustomed place centered upon the keyboard, while still being able to perform a large variety of unique finger gestures. User makes a unique gesture > software tags it to a user defined command. User need just repeat the appropriate gesture to call the desired function.. like magic. The thumbs and fore-finger being particularly dexterous and input powerful. Lots of options between just those four fingers. Each user makes their own "Short-Cut Gesture"s as best suits their own physiology, need, whims, whatnot. 

i'd redesign a keyboard to make better use of thumb gestures which are supported by a surface.. like i can quickly draw out simple characters with either thumb. And scroll would rock using thumb along smooth surface of keyboard edge under space bar. i'd cut the space bar to a left button, same position. With enter key at right. With a clear space between those two keys.  With a bulbous extension to cover the range of booth thumbs.. for 'thumb writing'. +more keyboard tweaks to foster a set hand placement and minimize full body impact.

It ought be just about the fingers. Not the back neck shoulders et all. And commands ought be inputed as near the speed of thought as we can make it. Time gets saved - productivity gets increased, if the hands aren't constantly traveling to and fro. Even a mouse becomes slow dinosaur compared to finger gestures from set hand position. And body receives less incidental impact. Ergonomic computing positions more easily maintained. 

There are a variety of technologies to allow this to be. As well a variety of applications. This has synergy with Metro desktops, as well as navigating phone feature while walking down the street communicating with a hands free device. Hands at natural position for walking. Able to execute commands. Taken further.. there is heads-up eye-glass display which would work well for finger computing on the move. And much much more. Perhaps Metro is the ice-breaker towards an evolution in pointing devices, as well the first tangible transition to 'disconnected computing' ?

Seems like could be ..with some capital and talent making it so. 
 

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November 5, 2012 11:24:32 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Quoting Roloccolor,
why didnt you wait for surface pro?

I'll get that too.

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November 5, 2012 11:25:06 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Quoting DrJBHL,

Quoting Frogboy, reply 13No mouse cursor, no mouse equivalent. The Surface supports external input pointing devices.

There are many tasks that a big finger on a screen just isn't precise enough.

I use a stylus... works fine.

Not quite the same. You can't use an iPad as a work horse like you can a notebook/laptop.

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November 6, 2012 1:45:44 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

So the bottom line: If for some strange reason you still have stock in Microsoft, sell. It's not going back up any time in the foreseeable future.

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November 6, 2012 4:06:59 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Depends on one's line of work. In medicine, the iPad is used extensively. No one I know with one would change it for a Surface.

Also, I don't see any business going in the direction of Windows 8 and Surfaces.

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November 6, 2012 6:08:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Pauls run with Surface makes clear that this tablet, and tablet OS is not for me. Thanks for sharing. i've watched a variety of user vids. This last one caps off a final decision to avoid this tablet. As well the cons list against win8 grows. i seek increased efficiency and productivity. This set-up is not for me.. despite a powerful motivation for the external pointer input. 

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November 7, 2012 3:22:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
I'll get that too.

I had a brief look at the RT a little bit ago, and kind of shrugged it off.  Too big for a tablet, too slow for a Notebook, too expensive for a gimmick. 

The Pro model, however, is something special.  It's powerful enough to be used as a work horse.  It won't out-do your Desktop in terms of performance, but you could do some light coding on it.  It's what I'm waiting for - it's basically what Windows 8 was designed for.

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November 7, 2012 12:12:24 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Quoting DrJBHL,
In medicine, the iPad is used extensively.

The only knocks on it are Apple's failure to enable general printing from the device and the lack of a Dragon-like voice transcription function.  It is otherwise a perfect device for the exam room.  A desktop or notebook remains necessary, but the iPad at least works as a highly useful complementary device on which many routine exam room tasks can be accomplished.

The ability to print is the only, repeat only, feature of the Surface that will result in any medical eyebrows being lifted in its direction.

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November 7, 2012 8:40:48 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


Using my surface to write this. In refinement, its an iPad 1. But its a pretty decent notebook.

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