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

Windows RT And Office: Fully-Featured, To A Fault?

Touch Input Response: Windows Surface vs iPad 3

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.

Microsoft Surface: IE10 Multitabbing Experience

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.

Mircrosoft Surface: Scrolling in IE10 & Office 2013 RT

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  • tedx
    "Windows Internet Explorer (Not Responding)"

    Its comforting to see that not everything has changed with Windows RT.
  • apache_lives
    Already have an ASUS Windows 8 RT tablet for the mrs -- she loves this thing, and from the lounge if my media center decides to play up i can use the tablet to remote desktop in

    The ASUS also claims up to 16 hours battery life for theirs (im thinking less but still amazing if its 12+).

    These things simply WORK
  • besterino
    (Even though) being an hardware (PC) enthusiast I have bought the Surface (64GB, touch and type cover) for my wife and both she and I are seriously impressed.

    For her it is simply perfect: she can do with it all she would do with an ipad (she's not much of a gamer though) AND it actually replaces her desktop-PC... she's using office without macros and addins so the RT-Office is "good enough". She just plugs in an extra monitor and USB hub (for full-size keyboard and mouse), and she is all set for productivity. We did not experience any hardware limitation related issues (obviously office doesn't start as fast as it does on a x86 PC with SSD).

    Based on our experience with the Surface RT I will definitely buy a Surface Pro for myself (I need Office with macros and addins for work) and hopefully finally have a PC that works both as a productivity tool as well as entertainment gadget. Yay! And *poof*, there goes the business notebook...

    Too bad I will still need my desktop gaming rig (HD 4000 still not powerful "enough")...
  • Other Comments
  • mayankleoboy1
    Tegra3 is the biggest weakness in Surface. This SoC is already outdated.
    I wouldnt buy a device today which i know is going to be upgraded in a few months with atleast a better SoC, and probably a better display.
  • mayankleoboy1
    Y U NO include the iPad4 in the benchmarks ?
  • acku
    mayankleoboy1Y U NO include the iPad4 in the benchmarks ?

    It's on our to do list :)
  • tedx
    "Windows Internet Explorer (Not Responding)"

    Its comforting to see that not everything has changed with Windows RT.
  • apache_lives
    Already have an ASUS Windows 8 RT tablet for the mrs -- she loves this thing, and from the lounge if my media center decides to play up i can use the tablet to remote desktop in

    The ASUS also claims up to 16 hours battery life for theirs (im thinking less but still amazing if its 12+).

    These things simply WORK
  • kyuuketsuki
    apache_livesThe ASUS also claims up to 16 hours battery life for theirs (im thinking less but still amazing if its 12+).
    I'm assuming that's with the keyboard dock.
  • apache_lives
    KyuuketsukiI'm assuming that's with the keyboard dock.


    That is correct, but for documents and on the run its not a bad thing at all.
  • besterino
    (Even though) being an hardware (PC) enthusiast I have bought the Surface (64GB, touch and type cover) for my wife and both she and I are seriously impressed.

    For her it is simply perfect: she can do with it all she would do with an ipad (she's not much of a gamer though) AND it actually replaces her desktop-PC... she's using office without macros and addins so the RT-Office is "good enough". She just plugs in an extra monitor and USB hub (for full-size keyboard and mouse), and she is all set for productivity. We did not experience any hardware limitation related issues (obviously office doesn't start as fast as it does on a x86 PC with SSD).

    Based on our experience with the Surface RT I will definitely buy a Surface Pro for myself (I need Office with macros and addins for work) and hopefully finally have a PC that works both as a productivity tool as well as entertainment gadget. Yay! And *poof*, there goes the business notebook...

    Too bad I will still need my desktop gaming rig (HD 4000 still not powerful "enough")...
  • monsta
    The Asus Vivo Tab is much better than Microsoft's own version of surface, the display is much brighter, the keyboard dock has a battery, usb and SD card inputs. The battery life is amazing.
  • andrewcarr
    I hate when I'm looking at a computer screen and from that trying to see which picture is better of another computer screen. There seems a flaw in this logic.
  • tipoo
    Is the "Apple iPad" with no number in the charts the iPad 1 or the iPad 4? Can we just snub Apple to make our lives easier and keep using the numbers? :)
  • killerclick
    Keeping in mind that most of Tom's Hardware writers use Macbooks, iPhones and iPads, so they're immediately in love with any kind of walled garden.
  • darkchazz
    mayankleoboy1Tegra3 is the biggest weakness in Surface. This SoC is already outdated.I wouldnt buy a device today which i know is going to be upgraded in a few months with atleast a better SoC, and probably a better display.

    I completely agree. Tegra3 is a complete joke of a chip, but nvidia has managed to fool a LOT of people with marketing (QUAD COAR CPU!!! 12 COAR GPU ZOMG SUPER FASTTT BEAST).

    I'd understand if tegra3 was included in a cheap $200 tablet(e.g. Nexus 7) to cut down the costs, but for a $500+ tablet?! that just sucks
    Ofcourse, UI may be optimized and runs great, but gaming though will suffer from low frame rates. mark my words
  • lradunovic77
    What a boring device, now that S. S. got fired from Microsoft I hope they kill Windows 8 all together.
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer
    My job has a Surface that we're testing, and I'm struck most by the size of the thing. I like devices that are on the small side...so, 768p at 11.6" and 900p at 14.0" are my preferred screen size/resolution tradeoffs for laptops...but frankly, I feel like the thing is just too small.

    I'm probably in the minority here (and that's fine), but (setting aside my dislike of Windows 8) I think I'd rather have a device in the 13.3"-14.0" range, especially given that 16:9 devices are smaller overall than 16:10 and 4:3 devices at the same diagonal measurement.
  • cknobman
    We have a few Windows RT tablets floating around the office and I have to say they are very impressive.

    The only thing holding me back from a purchase right now is Tegra 3. As soon as they upgrade the SOC to something more powerful (or if Surface Pro comes in something less than equal to $800) I will be getting one. I currently have a Asus Transformer android tablet and that thing does not hold a candle to Windows RT.
  • tomfreak
    darkchazzI completely agree. Tegra3 is a complete joke of a chip, but nvidia has managed to fool a LOT of people with marketing (QUAD COAR CPU!!! 12 COAR GPU ZOMG SUPER FASTTT BEAST).I'd understand if tegra3 was included in a cheap $200 tablet(e.g. Nexus 7) to cut down the costs, but for a $500+ tablet?! that just sucksOfcourse, UI may be optimized and runs great, but gaming though will suffer from low frame rates. mark my words
    Agree, even tho I dont like Apple, but their approach of sticking on using 2 high performance cores in A6 CPU is simply a better choice than Nvidia crappy quad core CPU. Software are slow on taking on multi-threading, fewer high performance core provide more reliable user experience.
  • bllue
    This kinda gives me hope for the Surface Pro and the other manufacturer W8 tablets. For the most part, the most complained about things are performance and hardware - which can be fixed by having better specs (like from OEM tablets), and future patches. There will also be more apps being released. I don't know but I think the next version of the Surface (if there is one) will be highly improved in every way and be able to do everything everyone wants. I'd keep an eye on what's to come from OEMs, Surface Pro and Surface 2.
  • jabliese
    Anybody able to get to the battery life analysis? Links seem broken.
  • TeraMedia
    if MSFT were really on the ball, they would have done an Android end-run with Windows RT.

    When Windows 7 came out, there was an "XP Mode" feature that allowed you to install Windows XP (and other O/Ses, for that matter) as a VM, with some odd limitations but also some unusual advantages compared to the typical VMware / Virtual Box implementations. Applications installed on the guest O/S could be launched and run just as if they were installed on the host O/S. User files on the host were shared seamlessly with the guest, so that double-clicking e.g. an Excel document could launch an instance of Excel in the guest, and load the file, and the window would look like it was running in the host.

    Apply this to Android running as a guest O/S under Windows RT, and what do you get? All of a sudden, Google Play, Google Apps, etc. become accessible. If the host/guest integration is done in such a way that the GPU is accessible to the guest, then you even get full gaming of all Android games. On your Surface. Seamlessly. MSFT could even go so far as to declare Apple's refusal to license iOS as a separate product to be anti-competitive, and push for the DoJ to force Apple to allow the installation of iOS as a guest OS on Windows RT.

    I mean, why not? Yes, the HW and in particular the CPU and GPU architectures probably need to be modified to support this, but the concepts for how to do that have already been figured out. If MSFT wants to truly own the tablet space, this would seem to be the most profound way to get there.