Why I'm not trading my Surface RT for a Surface Pro

Why I'm not trading my Surface RT for a Surface Pro

Summary: Microsoft's Surface Pro, to me, seems like a PC in tablet's clothing. I'm not missing Win32 apps on my Surface RT. So it's no Pro for me.


As we know as of today, Microsoft's Surface Pro will go on sale starting on February 9.


Even before the promised Surface Pro January delivery date slipped into February, I have had a number of readers ask me whether I plan to "upgrade" and trade in my Surface RT for the Pro model. The answer: No.

I bought a Surface RT on October 26, the first day it was available. I had an opportunity to play with one briefly in the hours before it launched (thanks to Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott) and decided it was worth taking the plunge. I did this in spite of many colleagues warning me it would be nothing more than an underpowered and expensive toy.

I started out trying to use the Surface RT with a red Touch Cover. Right before Christmas, I gave up repeated attempts to actually make the Touch Cover (the colorful ones with flat, nontactile keys) work for me. I bought a Type Cover and my relationship with my Surface changed instantly. It became much more of my go-to device because the combined keyboard/cover actually worked as a keyboard.

Like those who've reviewed the Surface RT, I've had my frustrations with it. The screen sometimes doesn't register my touches. I'm not overly keen that IE10 is my only Metro-style browser choice. It's hard to get the power cord to connect correctly to the device. The magnets that keep the screen closed could be stronger. My battery life is good (eight hours on average; far less when I use Xbox Music), but not in iPad territory. And speaking of Xbox Music and the built-in Mail app... both are of alpha quality, at best.

Vote Now: The Great Debate: Windows RT: Worthless or the Future of Windows?

On the plus side, the Surface RT is light, portable and, for me, durable. I don't need to carry the power cord when I take it with me in my purse for the day. It fits in well my personal Windows-centric ecosystem. I've used it to write blog posts on planes, trains and subway cars.

The Surface Pro -- from reports from those who were granted limited hands-on time with the device at the Consumer Electronics Show -- has a higher-resolution display, better magnetic connector for powering up, and, of course, the ability to run existing Win32 apps. It also only has half the battery life of a Surface RT, so in the five-hour or so range. (From all accounts, it is not going to include the lower-power but higher-battery-life-enabling version of Intel's core i5 processor, contrary to some reports.)

It's not the price difference that's going to keep me away from the $$899/$999 Surface Pro. It's the fact that it is really a PC in tablet's clothing. I am interested in buying a new Windows PC this year. But I want one with excellent battery life. (I am totally indifferent if my next PC has a touch screen. I don't need one, as long as I have a touch-enabled mouse, like the Logitech one I've been testing out lately.)

Again, for me -- and your mileage likely will vary -- use of the Surface RT has shown me that the lack of Win32 (and even Metro-style) apps is not a big deal. I am spending about 99 percent of my time on the Surface RT in the Metro environment. I have found very few Metro-style apps I consider worth downloading. Instead, many of the things pinned to my Start Screen are web sites. I've found the Web versions of many sites (example: the New York Times) much better than the companion apps. The ability to store photos and documents in my SkyDrive cloud mean even the 32 GB model I bought has plenty of storage for me.

This, by the way, is a big problem for Microsoft. For years, one of the big reasons Windows has thrived is because users bought machines that could run make-or-break apps that were only available on Windows. If there aren't any "killer apps" for Windows 8/Windows RT, is there really much of an argument for choosing any Windows 8 or Windows RT device over a substantially cheaper ChromeBook?

My tablet is a consumption device first and foremost, with the ability to create (blog posts, in my case) a nice bonus. I do not consider the Surface RT a replacement for my PC, even though I originally thought/hoped it might be able to act in that capacity. I consider it a companion device, just like my iPad was before I donated it late last year. The Surface RT is a version 1.0 product, but it's helped me get used to Windows 8/Windows RT because it is hardware that makes the software palatable.

Topics: Microsoft Surface, Tablets, PCs


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • 2 Killer Apps on RT

    1. IE : who needs apps when you have a decent browser that can access all the web apps out there
    2. RDP: with 2 desktops at home and work with Windows8, Surface with RT has become the most powerful computer I have ever had

    The only compelling reason for me to get Surface Pro is the active digitizer,

    • I could agree more..

      I do not think I will be trading my rt for pro. It meets my current demand.
    • IE on RT is bad

      Very slow and laggy.
      • disagree

        IE10 on RT is smooth. I expect it to run faster on the Pro with Intel, but it's a tradeoff for battery life, heat, and thin-ness..
        • Slow IE

          IE was unbearably slow for me for about a month - sometimes it would take 30 sec to 1 min to load a page over high-speed bb. I then did a factory reset and it's much faster now.

          If your machine is running slow, open Task Manager and watch the Disk. If it frequently is maxed, I recommend a factory reset. Set aside about an hour for your Surface RT to be updated.
          • The best part is that the Surfact RT code will get better with every update

            Unlike Windows (7/8/9), Windows RT is not saddled with version numbers so the OS will be updated indefinitely into the future without having to buy licenses - Just like iOS.
            M Wagner
      • slow IE

        I disagree with you. I use IE on RT regularly and don't have any speed issues whatsoever.
        • Same here

          My experience with IE10 has been great. No complaints here....
      • Re: IE on RT is bad

        Have you tried the usual Dimdows fiddles? Run a Registry cleaner, a malware scan, or failing that, just reinstall the OS.
        • ...

          You dint need to (and can't run) registry cleaners. Most Metro apps barely touch the registry anyhow.

          I think the OP was trolling. I use my SurfaceRT for several hours every day. The only sites I ser performing badly tend to be really badly developed sites that also crawl on my phone and iPad
        • Guess you don't have a Surface RT...

          People do talk bollocks, don't they...especially about devices they clearly don't use.
          Son of Belushi
    • Who needs apps? Then who needs RT?

      "1. IE : who needs apps when you have a decent browser that can access all the web apps out there"

      Then who needs RT when a decent browser on any device can access all the web apps out there.?
      Darrah Ford
      • Most small tablets are limited by their low resolution screens ...

        ... and my fat fingers. The Surface doesn't have those problems.
        M Wagner
    • Have you compared

      ... using a browser and using a specific app for maps, facebook, calendar, ...?
      I know HTML 5 it's all over us, but IMHO there is no reasonable comparison, most of the times specific apps are like 100 times better.
      There must be a reason for many being talking about the move from a web centric world to an app centric.
    • Get a Chromebook

      @Selboury13 : "IE : who needs apps when you have a decent browser that can access all the web apps out there."

      By that logic, get a Chromebook, at less than half the price of the Surface. Plus, you get a better browser and better security.
      • It's silly and a waste of money to pay $250 for a browser, which is what

        one gets with the Chromebook.

        Browsers have been free for the last 15 years or so, but, by packaging their browser in a shiny case, Google has been able to dupe people into paying for browsers again.
        • I guess software just runs on thin air, no hardware required

          What in the heck are you trying to say? Of course browsers are free, but if all you need is a browser (Chrome books are more than that BTW) then would you rather spend $250 FOR SOMETHING TO RUN IT ON or twice that much and up for anything else.
      • Er...

        No way Chrome is better than IE10. And a Chromebook? Really? Given the problems doing anything on it when it's offline? No thank you, Google. I know the Surface RT hasn't proved popular, but that doesn't mean it's not good. 5% of the world uses OSX but does that mean it's no good? I was sceptical and thought I may well upgrade to a Surface Pro when they came out but honestly, I'm really happy with it and other than a completely pants XBox Music app, it works really well.
        Son of Belushi
  • My RT

    I was going to trade up too but after using the Surface RT for several months I never go to the desktop. IE10 and Words by Post are my new killer apps~

    Paul's site appears to be down btw
    • word games

      check out wordament