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Alan Wallace: Microsoft Surface with Windows RT Review, Biggest Pros, Cons

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

Microsoft’s Surface with RT Review: Great performance and screen resolution, amazing battery life. But it’s too much like Hotel California. You can check in, but you can never leave. Here’s why … also inside, details on how to replace the Start menu and an update on a Windows RT hack. — In my Microsoft Surface with Windows RT review, I find this tablet has all the makings of a great device: It’s a well-made, secure Windows 8 tablet with a keyboard and terrific battery life. But the biggest pro with this tablet is also its biggest con. It’s at once ultra secure and ultra frustrating — because it limits you to software and apps you get from the Microsoft Store.

Security is key, no question. So staying within the store has its upside. But there are lots of apps that I would like to run that I can’t install — like Apple iTunes and Music on Google Play, just for starters. And, while the Office 2013 offering is pretty substantial, Outlook Light is not Outlook. After putting down $499 for this gadget, I would really like to have the full version of the program. It’s true that the upcoming Windows Surface Pro from Microsoft will support the full version of Outlook — and it will let you install any compatible software, Microsoft says  -  but that tablet won’t sport the same superb battery life of the Microsoft Surface Windows RT tablet I review here.

Image credit: Alan Wallace

In an even comparison, I would describe Windows RT as a kind of Microsoft rendering of an Apple iPad. This is not to confuse it with an Apple iPod, Microsoft-style — this is no Microsoft Zune. Not at all. It’s just to say that Windows RT units, like Apple iOS devices, limit you to the proprietary company store. That makes them more secure. At a price.

Devices with Google Android on board are like this, too. But the Windows Surface with Windows RT tablet — and Apple iOS devices, too, for that matter — offer no way out. Android lets you open devices up to non-proprietary stores — stores outside Google Play. But like the Apple iPad, the Windows Surface RT tablet is the equivalent of Hotel California. You can check-in, as the lyrics to that old Eagles song say, but you can never, ever leave.

In order to help improve Windows 8, I would predict the return of the Windows Start Menu. In the meantime, I recommend the use of Third Party Tools like the Stardock replacement.

In order to help improve Windows 8, I would predict the return of the Windows Start Menu but in the meanwhile recommend the use of Third Party Tools like the Stardock replacement.

And overall, my Windows 8 testing shows this is a more secure operating system. Microsoft’s implementation of syncing with other Windows devices and the Microsoft Skydrive cloud to be a far better experience than what Apple or Google provides with Apple iCloud or Google Drive, respectively.

For a first time out — this is a first tablet entry for Microsoft, after all — the Windows Surface with RT is noteworthy in many ways. Its performance and widescreen HD 1366 x768 resolution are excellent. And its battery capabilities — that’s eight hours in mixed-use — are stellar. Considering just these factors, this device could conceivably replace my Android tablet. But the lack of a full Outlook experience and its limitation to the Microsoft store hold it back. Consider your need for Outlook and need for non-Microsoft Store apps before buying.


Originally published at on January 7, 2013.

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