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Microsoft Surface Review, Part 2: Battery Life, Multi-Monitor, And More

It's all well and good to convey our impressions of the Surface's responsiveness (very good, in case you're wondering). But we also recorded video from a high-speed camera demonstrating how quickly the Surface responds to touch input compared to Apple's third-gen iPad. The typing is a little tough to make out, but you should see Microsoft's tablet reacting faster.

Windows RT is a bonus for anyone already making the move to Windows 8. By enabling a mobile operating system that nearly clones the desktop version, switching between a Surface and your desktop should be more natural than learning the ins and outs of Mac OS and Android, or Windows 7 and iOS. 

Microsoft seems to have learned a lot from its competition in terms of usability. We don't need a separate file browser for Windows RT like we do under Android. On the Surface, you simply open My Computer. It's a much more Windows-like experience and you aren't constantly reminded that, oh yeah, I'm using a pared-down mobile device.

Of course, you can't escape the fact that you are, in fact, still using a pared-down mobile device. If you try to tab around in IE10 like you would on the desktop, you're going to find yourself frustrated. Just try opening three tabs, one of them a Flash- or JavaScript-heavy site. Switching between them is going to be downright sluggish, and it's common to see windows that don't respond. Your only solution is to wait for the tablet to catch up or close IE10 altogether and start over.

On the bright side, you can watch streaming YouTube videos at 1080p, either giving you higher-bitrate video on the Surface's display or higher resolution on an external display. Compare that to the 720p cap imposed on Android and iOS. The only limitation we ran across is an inability to play back 4K video, rare though they may be.

We're really like to see Microsoft open up the Windows RT ecosystem to competing Web browsers, though. Although IE10 is an impressive step forward from IE9 (just wait for our upcoming Web Browser Grand Prix comparing Windows 7 and 8), we like the utility offered by some of the other options out there. For instance, Chrome and Firefox benefit from AdBlock. IE10 lacks an extension as robust, which sucks because blocking Flash-based advertisements would go a long way to improving performance on popular websites.

Just as we're able to bog the Surface down with aggressive Web browsing, so too can we slow the system down with Office Home & Student RT Preview. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are very potent tools, and they run similarly on Microsoft's tablet as they do on the desktop. Surely an enthusiast is going to find the threshold where even a complex Word document or Excel spreadsheet overwhelms the Surface's hardware. But we got to that point extra fast in OneNote.

The software is intended to be used like a virtual notebook for organizing ideas, thoughts, and agendas. If you're a student, we can see how the Surface and OneNote would be a great combination. Indeed, the software lends itself to multiple sections for each class, with a page dedicated to every lecture. Unfortunately, once you have two or three sections, OneNote slows down substantially (especially if you drop in images and diagrams). In a classroom, where you're typing like mad to keep up with the professor, a Tegra 3-powered Surface simply can't keep up the way we're hoping the Surface Pro will.