I wrote a post in November on my Microsoft Surface RT experiences and how I like the device because it is NOT my main work PC, but a fantastic companion. I can get things done on the Surface without frustration that I just cannot do on my iPad. Today, you will find my Surface RT, with new blue Touch Cover keyboard I bought, in my daily commuter bag while my iPad sits at home on the shelf. My teenage daughter has also come to appreciate the Surface and I honestly think it is a device to consider this holiday season for your high school or college student.
The Surface gained widespread praise for the hardware design and implementation, but many confuse the issue by saying it is not a real good tablet or real good laptop so it is a failure. When the iPad was released, it was also stated that there is no need for such a device and it would likely not sell very well. The iPad sells very well today and while there is still no absolute need for it, people like the idea of a touchable large screen mobile device. I agree that the Surface is not just a true tablet or a true full laptop, but I do think there is a place for such a device that offers an optimized landscape tablet experience. As I previously wrote, I don't want the Surface RT to run all my Windows apps and there are groups of people out there that have no need to run a plethora of Windows apps. I don't believe people buy iPads primarily for work and that is not why I bought my Surface either.
I am a fan of the kickstand on the Surface because I like to watch video content via Netflix, Hulu, and Xbox Video. Actually, I use a Logitech keyboard case with my iPad primarily to prop up my iPad to watch video content so it is fantastic to see Microsoft provides such a solid design element by default. Propping up a device like this for video is great for long commutes and traveling by airplane. The Surface kickstand is made even better when paired with the Touch Cover since I can now also enter text and control my Surface, check out my gesture and shortcut guide, without consuming any of the viewable display.
A couple of weeks ago, my 16-year old daughter asked to borrow my MacBook Pro for homework. I was working on some ZDNet articles and image galleries and couldn't lend her the laptop so I asked if she wanted to try out my Microsoft Surface. The ONLY instructions I gave her were how to unlock the Surface with my slick visual password. I went and checked on her about 15 minutes later and she was working in a new Word document, jumping around in Internet Explorer conducting research, and streaming music via Xbox Music. Granted, my daughters are a bit more tech savvy than their grandma, but she picked it up right away and figured out how to use several functions with no help from me. I asked how the writing was going and she said everything was just fine and that she loved the keyboard and how well it worked. The version of Office on the Surface RT is perfect for most people who NEVER use the advanced features of Office and for the majority of people there are no limitations in Office on the Surface RT devices.
My daughter ended up "stealing" my Surface for the next several days and never once asked about charging it up. She used it for a couple of hours each night and was very impressed by the long battery life. I next need to have my daughter in college try the Surface since she lugs around her MacBook Pro to class to take notes during lectures. The Surface RT is less than half the weight and has longer battery life so she too may find real value in such a mobile device. A reader alerted me to a post that listed some of the specific uses for students that I recommend you check out as well.
It will be interesting to see how Microsoft's Surface RT does when it hits other brick-and-mortar stores because the current availability just in Microsoft Stores and online seems to limit the buyer to the more tech savvy crowd. I think high school and college students will love the Surface with full Office functionality, cool user interface, colorful keyboard options, weight that doesn't break their backs, long battery life to keep them going, and a price competitive to other large screen tablets. Don't write off the Microsoft Surface as a great holiday gift just yet, give it a try yourself to see if you enjoy the experience.
Related ZDNet coverage
- Microsoft Surface RT: Desirable because it's not my work PC, but better than a tablet
- Hands on with Microsoft's Surface RT: Can it hit the sweet spot?
- Microsoft Surface review by Charles McLellan
- My love of Windows Phone drove me to order a 64GB Microsoft Surface
- Microsoft Surface RT gesture and keyboard shortcut guide
- More apps are available at launch for Microsoft Surface than seen for iOS and Android
- Surface: Is it 'Microsoft's iPad', or something else?