(Disclaimer: I've been using Apple hardware for almost 30 years and have covered the company, including here at The Apple Core, for 17 years, so I have a definite inclination for its products. This blog post is written from the perspective of an Apple user and is one man's opinion.)
Over the weekend I was at an impasse: the 30-day return window on my Microsoft Surface was closing and a I had to make a decision -- and I decided to to return it.
I pre-ordered a Surface with Windows RT at launch because I was super-excited to use Microsoft's answer to the iPad. The hype on Surface was incredible and I had every intention of keeping it. For me it looked like an ideal second machine to my MacBook Pro and a way to get some exposure to Windows and Windows apps.
While it's a credible device with a lot of potential, it felt a little premature and not ready for the big leagues. Here are some of the reasons why I returned my Surface instead of toughing it out and waiting for things to get better.
1. It's slow. The best example of the Surface's slowness is when switching from portrait to landscape mode. It's painfully slow, sometimes taking a couple of seconds. Orientation switching on the iPad is instantaneous and smooth, rotate the device and the screen follows. That's the benchmark that Microsoft has to meet. (Some users have complained about keyboard latency in Word [video], but I didn't notice it and my colleague Ed Bott notes that it was addressed in a software update.)
2. Lack of apps. One of the first apps that I installed on the Surface was Tweetro, the Twitter client for Windows 8. The problem is that two days later, Tweetro got shut down after it hit Twitter's 100,000 token limit. Sure, that was a Twitter issue, but the bigger problem is the limited pool of apps for Windows 8 right now.
3. Wi-Fi only. The Surface lacks mobile broadband, so there's no 3G or 4G. This limits Internet access to Wi-Fi hotspots, which can be difficult for anyone planning to travel with Surface as a primary/only computer.
4. It's rough around the edges. Literally. Microsoft built a kickstand into the Surface that works remarkably well, but the compromise comes in the form of its hard edges. While the iPad's curves make it easy to hold, the Surface industrial design is more like the iPhone with sharp, square edges. As a result it's uncomfortable to hold in your hands and it feels unnecessarily boxy while reading on the couch or in bed.
All's not lost, however.
Windows 8 stands out the most to me, it very customizable and user-friendly. While die-hard Windows users may not like the Metro UI, it's simple, clean and a total departure from everything before it. It's also the first mainstream mobile OS that's not a complete ripoff of iOS, which is a nice change of pace. Maybe Apple will finally learn that there are benefits to having live, interactive widgets on the homescreen.
The Type Cover was a surprise for me and worked better than expected. It was easy to adapt to coming from the flat, thin-profile keyboard on my MacBook Pro and Apple wireless keyboards, and the trackpad worked well too. It's not easy to type on while on your lap, but that not what it's designed for, either.
The Surface is a strong first effort at stealing marketshare from the three "A's" (Apple, Android and Amazon) and with a little time, apps and polish it could pose a formidable threat. But until a few of the intial issues are addressed, mine's going back.