Before You Consider That $350 Microsoft Tablet…

Is the Surface RT a good deal now that it's $150 cheaper?

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Microsoft

After nearly nine months of selling the Surface RT for $500, Microsoft is knocking the price down by $150.

Today, $350 will get you a 32 GB Surface RT tablet at any of the retailers who offer it, including Best Buy, Staples and the Microsoft Store. The 64 GB model, previously $600, is getting a similar price drop to $450.

Is the Surface RT a good deal now that it’s $150 cheaper? Probably not. Though it’s possible to be happy with a Surface RT, especially at the lower price, there are a few big reasons to stay away:

The Keyboard Case Will Still Cost You

If Microsoft’s own ads and slogan (“Click in and do more”) are any indication, Surface is incomplete without either a Touch Cover or Type Cover, which snap into the tablet and double as screen protectors. Neither are included with the $350 Surface, nor are they any cheaper now than they were before. You’ll still have to fork over another $100 for a black Touch Cover or $120 for a different color. If you prefer the Type Cover’s mechanical keys over the pressure-sensitive flat panel on the Touch Cover, you’ll have to pay an extra $130. In other words, you’ll still pay close to $500 for the whole package–not a great deal considering Microsoft was giving those covers away a month ago.

The App Situation Is Still So-So

Like all Windows RT tablets, the Surface RT cannot install any desktop software. That means no iTunes, no Photoshop, no Dreamweaver, no Chrome. Surface RT does include a free version of Microsoft Office 2013, as well as some other basic desktop apps like Calculator, Paint and Explorer, but for everything else, you must go through the Windows Store.

Microsoft has done an admirable job building the Windows Store from scratch, with about 100,000 apps available so far. But compared to Apple’s iPad, there are lots of gaps in the catalog, and some apps just aren’t as full-featured as they are on other platforms. Unless you’ve decided that you don’t need apps, you will run into frustrations.

Performance Needs to Be Better

The Surface RT runs on an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, which is more than a year old, and the tablet’s performance has been routinely criticized as sluggish. Windows expert Paul Thurrott, who has far more experience using Windows RT and Surface RT than I do, sums it up in a recent blog post: “Windows RT does everything slowly. Everything. The day-to-day experience is terrible.”

This is one of those cases where waiting for future hardware outweighs the cost savings of buying today. Chances are we’ll be seeing new Surface tablets soon, along with a slew of low-cost Windows 8 tablets later this year.

So Who’s It For?

There are always a few commenters in stories like this who insist that the Surface RT is a great product at any price. I’ll take the charitable view that these folks aren’t crazy, and I’ll allow that Surface RT makes sense in a handful of specific circumstances. Namely, if all you need in a tablet is a web browser and maybe a handful of basic apps like Netflix, and if full Office compatibility is essential for getting work done, then maybe the Surface RT handles all your needs for under $500.

Otherwise, richer 10-inch tablet experiences await in both Apple’s iPad 2 and Google’s Nexus 10, which both cost $400 and offer a better, more vibrant selection of apps. You can even tack on a Bluetooth keyboard case and use an Office alternative on these devices (I’m partial to OfficeSuite on Android and QuickOffice Pro on iPad) for some light work. Although the Surface RT’s price is lower now, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do more with it.

16 comments
steves9404
steves9404

One of the things I really dislike about my Surface RT is the proprietary external power connection, which you can only use with an AC wall outlet. You can't charge the tablet on the go with an external battery without buying a third party adaptor cable. Most tablets use micro USB for external power, and even Apple's own connector originates in a standard USB plug that can be plugged into an external battery pack that has a USB port. Some tablets even use a standard mini-plug tip. The fact that MS went with such an odd connector seems reflective of a device that was rushed to market without some sort of adequately supported ecosystem of accessories to support it. 

The other thing I find odd about the Surface RT is the angle of the built-in kickstand when it's fully extended is great for watching movies, but not optimal for typing  What is even weirder still is that when the kickstand is extended and the tablet is sitting on a table, it reminds me of a standard picture frame. I suppose this would be useful if you planned to use the tablet as a digital picture frame, and maybe this is why MS chose the angle that they did for the kickstand. If nothing else, it gives the tablet really solid footing, and makes it stand out as the only tablet that even offers a built-in kickstand. 

Two other niggles I have with the Surface RT are that its wifi performance is sometimes mediocre, and it's not very responsive to touch input a fair bit of the time.


WackoTurds
WackoTurds

No Chrome? Are you kidding? Geez, except for Google Talk and Google Voice, just what does the Google App not do that is different than all of Chrome ?

Not a word about being able to charge my phone via USB, or the ability to use thumb drives. I can use Skype from across the room as well. Sorry, the RT has been an incredible back-up to have on business trips when my laptop has crapped out, saving at least one $75K sale.

TechGeek_443
TechGeek_443

Have you actually used it?  It is a beautifully responsive device.  Why would you list not being able to install applications such as Itunes, etc.. those are desktop apps and the RT is compared to an IPAD and Android.. neither of which can install desktop apps either.  Why point this out as a "flaw" when this is completely by design in a consumer based tablet.  It is misleading.  In fact, by including versions of word, excel and powerpoint.. out of the box it allows a user to do productivity type work that you cannot do on the IPAD or Android.

With that said, it can use more apps, however for what most users use tablets for, which is browse the web, watch movies, read emails, listen to music. You will find it is not missing anything that the majority of users utilize on a day to day basis.

Finally Microsoft also dropped the cost of the keyboard to bundles with it as low as $50 I've seen.  Again.. do research before publishing an article to mislead people

My Job has given it's workforce the surface when we used to get IPADs simply because you can be a lot more productive and get a lot more productivity features from it.  It is far from perfect, it does have some times that there is laggy performance, and there are application hangs.  But again this is no different to what I got on my Ipad.. and far less than I used to get on the samsung tablet.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

It's essentially a handicapped laptop.  Sort of the short bus of mobile computing devices.  For $500.00, you can buy a laptop that is better, faster, stronger than ANY tablet on the market.

People sitting here dissing one tablet in favor of another is like arguing about which rider on the short bus is the smartest.  No matter who you pick, they're still stuck in special ed.

irenitemi81
irenitemi81

To be honest I never put any apps on my windows vista laptop (since I have a android tablet) I only used my web browser so I don't care whether or not it has apps or not as long as it looks pretty and does not cost the earth like some ultrabooks on the market.

izan
izan

Just got my Surface RT recently. Got rid of my Nexus 10 within a few days of owning the Surface RT. The only thing that I missed about the Nexus 10 is it's gorgeous dispaly which is pack to the brim with pixels. That and the unending customization of it's UI. Pas that, it's a bore. It still lags once in a while. Unlocking the bootloader and rooting don't help diminished those lags or sluggishness of the Nexus 10. I too have the Nexus 7 and Nexus 4. Sold off the Nexus 7 after about less than 6 months of owning it. Why?. same old, same old...lag.

As for the Surface RT, it's not perfect, but it gets the work done. I really like the productivity and multi tasking. I don't need one billion apps in their app store since I don't download thousand of apps on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The apps that's available in the Windows Store is just about do it. Though a few more popular apps, like Chrome won't hurt either.

The one thing I hated about owning the Nexus 10 is the lack of dedicated apps for it. The incredible screen is let to waste with apps that's mainly meant for Android mobile phone screens. As a matter of fact, 99% of Android apps are not made for it's tablets in mind. Blame who then?. Google or the devs?.

Lemons
Lemons

I don't think it's at a price where I would pull the trigger on it, maybe if this price included the type cover. I'm waiting for the next generation ones though, the new processors should really help with performance, battery life, etc. I actually just wrote a piece on what I think of Windows RT with some surface references in it. Please do check it out, I'd like to hear your opinions on my perspective on the OS: http://thetechstylemuseum.wordpress.com/

yad_EL
yad_EL

you are a trool !!!

windows apps > osx apps > chrome OS Apps is not an argument

But  IOS apps > Android Appps > windows metro apps is a big argument. WHY

the surface is a beautiful hardware windows 8 is a beautiful OS 350$ is a good price.

 a many people buy a ipad more a keyboard and a smart cover why people may not buy more a touch cover.

IntangibleGuy
IntangibleGuy

This article describes best the dreary situation of Windows RT and Surface RT. I have a hunch that MS will dismiss Windows RT withing two years due to disappointing sales figures and the fact that the next Intel chip generation is extremely power efficient. As latest Apple Air book has already proven : 12h battery lifetime is possible on a fully fledged notebook obviating any quirky breed of would-be ultrabook.

btw : $100 for a keyboard that is worth $20 at best. Shameful !! $100 gets me a PC keyboard with all the bells and whistles I can dream of.




BlankAsAir
BlankAsAir

mm. Another article that mentions that there are not many apps in windows store. I am just wondering out loud how many apps Apple had for the iPhone when the launched and how many android app store had when they launched. Oh wait!! not many. This article could have been better. For example, I would point out the fact, that this is a RT version of Windows 8 which is not a full version and this is potentially a move that precedes the announcement of the next gen tablets. But that's just me. I ain't a tech journalist. so maybe I don't "think" the way you guys do like pointing to the fact that the processor is a year old, conveniently forgetting the tablet launched last october and is 9 months old. But, I ain't a tech journalist. so....

rm5432
rm5432

"...Apple’s iPad 2 and Google’s Nexus 10, which both cost $400..."

But you have to add the cost of the cover, the keyboard and the alternative office suite, don't you? With all that added you go well over $500.

You can buy the Surface RT with touch cover for $450.

It would be nice to mention that Windows 8 is a real operating system, not a toy operating system. So you can connect USB devices to the Surface, including a keyboard and mouse, a printer. It allows you real multitasking, you can open two apps at the same time, you have live tiles vs a grid of icons.

The performance of the Surface is in par with the iPad or any Android tablet, but you can't compare it with the Surface Pro or a notebook, Paul Thurrott is wrong with that comparison.

newmanjb
newmanjb moderator

@BlankAsAir From the article: "This is one of those cases where waiting for future hardware outweighs the cost savings of buying today. Chances are we’ll be seeing new Surface tablets soon, along with a slew of low-cost Windows 8 tablets later this year."

newmanjb
newmanjb moderator

@rm5432 1. Surface RT does not run Windows 8.

2. For what it's worth, you can connect USB devices to an Android tablet as well. Printing can be done wirelessly.

3. You can get a keyboard for Android/iOS for cheaper than $100 if you want. But if you want a Type Cover--actual mechanical keys--for the Surface, it's an extra $130. So you're looking at fairly comparable prices.

4. Totally agree that multitasking is one of Windows 8's best features. As for whether that alone outweighs the disadvantages of Surface RT, we'll have to agree to disagree.

IntangibleGuy
IntangibleGuy

@rm5432 

The iPad doesn't pretend to be an ultrabook or whatever like SurfaceRT does. Windows is unbearable to operate with touch only. MS Office inflicts excruciating (mental and physical) pain without keyboard and mouse.

If you resort to "Metro" apps only, it's in no way Windows anymore. Why then did MS call it Windows ? I call that deceptive.