Microsoft Surface and Windows 8

Posted 19 February 2013, 16:58 | by | | Perma-link

I pre-ordered the Windows Surface back in October and have been running it fairly happily ever since, but thought I ought to write up what I've found to be good and bad with it, especially in comparison to other tablets, notably the Nexus 7.

Accounts

This is the key win for me, Windows 8 comes with Family Safety built in, which means I can set up separate accounts for each of my kids, enable curfews and time limits that just work. On top of that, I can restrict their web access appropriately along with the game ratings from the store. They then get prompted that something's been blocked and can request permission. This is something that I've not seen on the Apple devices at all, and while the Nexus supports multiple accounts there's no restrictions or sharing. Which leads me to:

App Sharing

Once you have account, the issue of purchasing apps comes up, and Microsoft's answer is that apps you've purchased can be downloaded onto up to 5 machines and downloaded to other's accounts. So I purchase the app on my account, my son logs in, I go to his Store app, go into the settings and switch to my account. I can then see all the apps I've purchased but not installed on here and install it for him, after re-entering my password (I'm not that foolish). In general this works fairly well, and a lot better than it does on Android, where I have to link my account completely with his, including mail, etc.

Content Consumption

There's good and bad elements to the Surface form factor - clearly being a 10" widescreen device, watching HD content on the iPlayer or similar works really well - especially with the HDMI output. Couple that with a USB input and we can easily pull the latest round of pictures off the camera, sort through them and share a few out there (just about - see App ecosystem below). For reading it can depend on the app: in portrait mode pages in Kindle Reader are a little too long, and it's a little top heavy that way, but I've got a nice RSS reader that has a great three column layout with feed categories, feeds and then the actual posts spreading across the landscape device.

Content Creation

Well, words at any rate - the touch screen finger painting style creation works well across all platforms - for long form note taking, the Type cover owns this space, there is no competition from on screen options here. The Touch cover is good for incidental notes, but as others have noticed, it is a bit picky about the angle it works at, which is a shame. The on screen keyboard is however very adaptive, allowing you to choose between a full keyboard for when the Surface is flat on a table or lap, and the split thumb keyboard, which is good for when you're carrying it - the keyboard is split in two allowing your thumbs to reach all the keys even with the 10" screen. On top of that, the on screen keyboard also has the left and right arrows for easy navigation and corrections.

App ecosystem

This is the biggest issue really: My wife was hoping to use the tablet occasionally for her work in Speech and Language Therapy, however all the apps out there are obviously for the iPad (even the Play Store seems a bit light in that respect, although there are some).

Filed under: Tablets, Windows 8