reviews,  techno-babble

Windows #Surface – A Review

First things first – you should know that I’m not a programmer or an IT person.  I’m just a regular girl who isn’t into fashion tech. Either tech is useful or it isn’t. Either it boosts my productivity or it doesn’t.

I wouldn’t have gotten a tablet at all if it weren’t for several incidents where my phone was too small, my laptop was too big (and not with me), and I was left with an editor on the phone, no computer and my ass hanging on the line.

So in my attempt to make myself extra mobile, I broke down and bought a tablet.  Honestly – the reason I bought the Surface is because I wanted something that would sync seamlessly with everything in my life including my Windows Phone (which I LOVE) and my Windows laptop. [See my review of Windows Phone here.]

The first thing I noticed right after I turned it on and logged into my Windows Live Account, is it synced up with my phone and SkyDrive. This means I immediately had all my appointments loaded on my calendar, all my contacts handy, and my SkyDrive was also live and accessible in minutes. Setup was simple and only took a few minutes. I think what took the longest was the Office update.

I did get the 64 GB with Windows RT, which also comes with Office Home/Student Edition 2013.  This was extra sweet because one of the reasons I stayed away from iPad is because a writer friend of mine bought one thinking she could edit her manuscripts on it and realized it wasn’t feasible. She ended up giving the expensive iPad to her kids to play with because  it was absolutely useless to her.  So I was thrilled to get a tablet I can use to edit files on the go (in the file format I use). As a busy writer – this was a must. It also comes standard with a pdf reader (I use PDF’s for proofing all the time) and Xcel spreadsheets, which is great because I’m always looking at sales reports on the go and they all download to Xcel. Sure, I can use Open Office through Google, but having the real thing is nice because you don’t get wonky formats or things that don’t translate perfectly. When it comes to my sales reports, perfect translation of the data is a must. I can read Xcel reports on my phone, too, but my eyes are getting old.

On top of this, I can now do some really great things with the Surface that have saved me tons of time. For example, I can now do sigil drawings with the free Skitch app, save them to jpg, and immediately upload them to my SkyDrive, download to my computer, and insert these drawings directly into manuscripts. For those of you not in the know – I do my own sigil artwork in my books. Long gone are the days where I have to draw them out on paper, scan them at work or at my husband’s computer, email it to myself or save it to a thumb drive, clean it up, then insert it into my manuscripts. This alone literally saves me hours of time in that I don’t have to inconvenience my husband or wait until he has time, or wait until a work day to get my sigils done.  I’m in heaven.

There is a front and back camera so I can do everything from video conferencing on the go to taking pics and video. I like this feature. I teach online classes, run video-chat study groups, and I do a lot of video-conferencing in general. You can never have too many backup devices and it will be great to be able to video conference on the go if necessary.

The handy fold out stand feels pretty sturdy. The keyboard is really nice, too. Didn’t think I’d like it, but I do. We’ll see how both the stand and keyboard hold to the test of time.  I can be pretty rough on things. I’ve been known to destroy keyboards. Thank goodness these are replaceable. And it’s true, the keyboards really do “click” in quite easily.

For some people it may take a little getting used to when it comes to navigation, but if you’re familiar with Windows 7 and Windows Phone, the Windows RT  operating system is like a combination of both. You can choose to work in Desktop mode or Tile mode and switching between the two is very simple. You can also search files like you do on your Windows 7 machine, which is also a plus. Once you learn how to swipe down from the top to close and swipe from the left to switch between applications, really simple. You can also run two apps side by side, something I’m notorious for doing.

If you’re completely tech-tarded, it might take a little more work to understand how to work it (all that swiping, flicking and holding), personalize your tiles, adjust everything how you like it, etc… If you’re not tech-tarded, it’s a breeze. I’m relatively tech-savvy for a non-tech girl (and I’m married to a high-tech guy), so it was easy for me. Plus, I took time to read the instructions on the Microsoft website when I got stuck.

Now the downside – While there are adequate existing apps to do just about everything you need to do, you may have to wait a few months to get official Apps for things like Facebook, Twitter, PayPal etc…  But don’t worry, you can still access all of these sites via the web. If it’s anything like when Windows Phone first came out – there were hardly any apps in the beginning and that quickly changed. Now there are thousands upon thousands of them (including the most popular). Of course remember it’s not the quantity of apps that makes a device useful. It’s the quality of the apps available.  I mean, seriously, how many apps do you have on your phone that you really USE on a regular basis? I have about five.

Surprisingly I did have to install a different calculator. Windows is always really good about making good apps standard (including turn by turn GPS — FREE and awesome, we used it on our Windows Phones during our trip across the US last month and it was spot on accurate) – and obviously there is a calculator app included, but I don’t care for it. It’s too small. I need a calculator on the go. I’ll probably keep using my phone calculator, but there were enough calculator apps that I was able to find one I liked. Seriously – if this is the worst problem the Surface has, then it’s doing pretty good.

Oh, and the Surface syncs with XBox Live. Get this, I can be watching a movie on my tablet and transfer what I’m watching to my TV via the tablet with a swipe via XBox Smart Glass. Evidently it works with music, too. How awesome is that? I still have to play with that feature. I’m loving this thing so far. (Yes, I play games on it, too. I’m a Doodle God junkie and Wordament is fun, too! I also like Adera.)

I have a feeling this is going to get a lot of use. I’ve only had it since the 26th and already it’s become one of the most useful pieces of tech I own (next to my phone and laptop, of course).

UPDATE: I keep noticing people slamming the Surface for some really bizarre reasons. I just want to point out that if you think a Surface w/Windows RT is going to replace your laptop, then you’re not buying it for the right reason. (The Surface Pro might be more feasible for laptop replacement.) I view my Surface as a supplementary device that fits somewhere in between my laptop and phone. It may also not be worth the price if your usage amounts to surfing the web or checking your email, or you might want to get the 32MB version if that’s all you do. The Surface, like any other piece of tech, is a tool. It’s going to be most useful to people who need what it offers and who want seamless integration to their existing tech. I have actually had a few iPad fans contact me and tell me the Surface isn’t as good as an iPad. My response — depends what you’re using it for. For productivity and work – the iPad would have been useless to me. For play and screwing around, then yeah – any tablet would have worked.

Speaking of use, I found an additional use for my MacBook Pro this past weekend and no – not as a paperweight! [Read why I hate my Mac HERE, and check out ten reasons I would never buy an iPad.] So instead of just using it to upload books to iTunes, I have decided it’s my backup video feed for live events.  Cool, eh?  Though we’re pretty sure it was the source of the feedback we were getting.  🙂

Steph is an award winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at

One Comment

  • Steph

    There were three comments to this particular post that were lost during the site migration. However – I did have them saved to email! Here they are:

    From Nico: Nice review ++
    And indeed the applefans, androidfans, Microsoftfans

    I love everything that gives me what i need i am a gamer, so i build my pc and make pc’s that kick most of brandnamed pc’s out of the league and ofcourse i use windows.
    Some people say things like buy a mac .. with their ignorance.. they don’t really get the point that some people actually do stuff other than play some small games and surf on the web ..

    when the days comes i prefer productivity don’t ever game high end games .. a mac would be a viable option .. but that day will never come. Once a gamer always a gamer

    I meant they can be pretty crazy 😉 and hate each other really bad i use google and windows mostly .. and android is from google so i like them both and i love how apple revolutionized how we used the tablet and smartphones. too bad for the specs and the non gaming options. But they put simple in computer ;p

    And another…

    From Randy:

    Enjoyed the review! Thanks. I love my MS Surface RT, which I preordered. 🙂

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