A story of my journey with the Surface RT and its newfound purpose (editorial)Written by Fahad Al-Riyami on July 09, 2014 - 11:03AM @fahdriyami
I will always remember the day Microsoft announced that they were going to start making their own tablets, their very first PC. And when they unveiled it, I remember being blown away by the device; the dark, articulately crafted magnesium unibody construction; the sturdy kickstand that hid in plain sight and even sounded great; the extremely thin, pressure sensitive keyboard that simply clicked on and doubled as a cover; and of course Windows 8 (RT) paired with a full-sized USB port that made touch-friendliness and productivity on a single device a reality. It was without a doubt what you would call a “designer” tablet, a title that until then, was reserved only for electronics that came out of a certain fruity company.
I swore I would get one. In late 2012, I did, and I absolutely loved it. No longer did I have to hog the massive tank of a laptop that is my Alienware M14x everywhere I went. From then on, that beast stayed caged to the confines of my home office where it serves as a desktop replacement till this very day.
As the year progressed, I started my Master’s degree, and it was there that the daunting truth of Windows RT’s limitations reared its ugly head. I utilized the Surface RT best I could every day, mainly to prove to my naive self that it could indeed serve as a laptop replacement. Although its failures in the field only made me grow frustrated with the device. OneNote and the other suite of Office apps served their purposes without a hiccup. But I needed other apps; I needed IBM’s SPSS analytics tool, I needed Photoshop, I needed the desktop version of Adobe Reader, and at times, I needed Google Chrome, but unfortunately, I couldn’t have them. So once again, I had to unleash the beast.
I wasn’t ready to give up on Surface though. So come Novermber 2013, I had saved enough to purchase a Surface Pro 2, and it changed almost everything for the better.
As for the Surface RT, I couldn’t bring myself to sell it like I did the iPad before it. So I did a full reset, cleaned it, packaged it into the Surface Pro 2 box, and stored it away. About a month later, I unboxed it. Not that there was anything wrong with the Surface Pro 2, but its bulkiness started to get to me. Wasn’t that exactly what I was trying to avoid with the beast?
Using the Pro 2 as a productivity tool continued to impress me; its capabilities in the field and excellent battery life outweighed any of its disadvantages. However, using it as media-centric device for watching movies or reading books was far from effortless. Unlike with the Surface RT, the technology didn’t fade to the back to let the content shine, and the fatigue it cause whenever it was in-hand was a constant reminder of that.
Today, I use all three of the devices mentioned, each with their own purpose. The Alienware remains the desktop replacement and gaming machine that it was designed to be. The Pro 2 as its ambassador whenever I leave the house for university related work. And the Surface RT, that now sits on the bedside table.
Admittedly, the thought of the RT being a glorified alarm clock has popped into my head, but the truth is, it’s a very capable media consumption device. With a 128GB microSD card in, it’s packed to the gills with my entire collection of movies, ebooks, and music. The aspect ratio is perfect for movies, and I happen to like the added length in portrait mode; makes for less scrolling and page flipping when reading books or browsing the web. I’ve got the Start Screen set up to show me everything I need to be updated on first thing in the morning, and the Live Tiles make that possible at a glance. Perfection.
It's because of this experience that I still believe in Windows RT as a media consumption operating system. The productivity aspect of it comes as bonus, but its not the focus. Microsoft should make that very clear when marketing the OS and the devices that run it. Having read the rumors that the company has canceled the launch of the Surface Mini due to the lack of a Modern UI version of Office worries me, especially if the device ends up running Windows RT.
Were you an early adopter of the original Surface RT? I’d love to hear what has become of the device today. Have you kept it, gotten rid of it, or replaced it with something else? Let me know in the comments below.