Microsoft Surface RT review

Updated: A piece of engineering brilliance, but can the Surface with Windows RT satisfy the needs of a business user?

Price
£332

Speed and battery life

One problem that won't be solved is that the Surface with Windows RT can feel sluggish on occasion despite it running on a quad-core 1.3GHz chip. For example, we're typing this review in Word, and on one of the (exceptionally rare) times when we make a mistake and need to use Backspace to delete a few words, the cursor can't keep up so we have to wait for it, by which time it's erased two words too many.

But speed is one of the prices you have to pay if you're using an ARM-based processor, and the Tegra 3 chip inside the Surface does at least mean no fan noise and longer battery life. When our sister title PC Pro put the Surface through its video-looping test simulating watching a film it lasted for just a shade over nine hours.

That's by no means poor (by comparison, the iPad 3 lasted for 12hrs 32mins and the Asus Transformer Prime kept going for 10hrs 8mins), but there's currently no way to extend this: Microsoft hasn't fitted a second battery into the keyboard, for instance, or offered a supplementary pack. Nor can you replace the battery itself.

Microsoft Surface RT - Back

Much like all other mainstream tablets on the market upgradeability is poor - the battery is sealed in, for example

Worth buying?

Make no mistake: this isn't a full laptop replacement and it does have its obvious frustrations if you're trying to use it in a business environment. For now, it's also held back by a lack of high-quality apps.

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But, and it's a big but, the Surface is a great piece of design, looks great and is well built. While some have baulked at the price of 332 ex VAT for the 32GB version, there's an microSDXC card slot so you can bolster the storage cheaply. Our eyebrows were only raised at the additional cost for the Type Cover: 92 ex VAT is steep.

Even when you factor this in, though, it's a low-cost way to dabble with Windows 8 in your business. So, if you can, try it. Buy one for a member of your staff who'd benefit from a cheap mobile device on which to do some serious work, and give it to them for a trial period. They probably won't want to give it back.

Update:

Software giant Microsoft is offering would-be Surface RT buyers a free Touch or Type Cover for their devices, if they purchase it between now and 30 June 2013.

Details about the deal are available to view here, with Microsoft cautioning that it is only being offered by selected retailers and is limited to one free cover per transaction.

Review updated on 15 May 2013 to reflect change in Touch Cover price.

Verdict

The Surface with Windows RT has undoubted limitation for a business – it won’t be replacing your laptop fleet just yet as there are niggles when it comes to using it on the move – but it’s well worth investing in one or two even now so you can see the potential for the version running Windows 8 Professional.

OS: Windows RT

PROCESSOR: 1.3GHz Nvidia Tegra 3

RAM: 2GB

STORAGE: 32GB or 64GB SSD

SCREEN: 10.6in touchscreen 1,366 x 768 TFT

CONNECTIVITY: 802.11abgn WiFi, Bluetooth 4

PORTS: 1 x USB 2, 1 x micro-HDMI, 1 x microSDXC card slot

DIMENSIONS: 275 x 172 x 9.5mm (WxDxH)

WEIGHT: 682g (882g with Touch Cover, 896g with Type Cover)

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