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Real-world confessions from Surface RT owners: Who loves it and why

Mark Hachman | Aug. 5, 2013
The much-maligned slate actually has its fanboys. We talk to living, breathing people who use Microsoft's low-end tablet PC.

Surface RT with Andy Rathbone
ANDY RATHBONE. Andy Rathbone with his Surface RT.

The Surface RT uses a quad-core, 1.3GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor, and provides an estimated eight to nine hours of battery life--about double that of the Surface Pro, which uses a more powerful, power-hungry Intel Core i5 processor. Some users said that the loss of horsepower was more than compensated for by the extended battery life.

Rathbone said that he actually uses the Surface RT as a second screen—for example, loading an Excel spreadsheet via SkyDrive—while he works on a separate, traditional PC. Banks, the programmer, often explores a similar use case for his Surface RT.

"What benefits does the RT have over the Surface Pro?  Longer battery, no fan or mechanical parts, does not overheat as easily," Banks said. "I did not need raw power home or away in my tablet. In those cases, I would use one of my many laptops or desktops that have all the power I need for development. What I needed was a device that was like the iPad, but that could be a PC."

Finally, there's the preview of Windows 8.1, which several users have already loaded onto their tablets. (Microsoft has said it will ship the RTM version of Windows 8.1 to OEMs by late August, meaning that general availability will be sometime after that, possibly October.) User Rob Clive said that the Windows 8.1 update really improved the Surface RT experience, and the way the soon-to-be-renamed SkyDrive cloud storage service is integrated is "fantastic."

A user named "Cole" posted his own impressions of the Surface RT on YouTube two days before PCWorld began soliciting customer opinions. In an email, he declined to give his name because of the company he worked for, presumably a competitor.

"I don't understand why everyone's calling this thing a flop," Cole said. "Yeah, I get that if you compare it to your iPad or your Android tab, fair enough, you get more apps. But with this thing it's more useful than all those tablets put together. I actually bought it because of the price drop, but I'm actually pleasantly surprised with it, and I just love using it every day."

Weaknesses: We could sure use some more apps

Unsurprisingly, the lack of apps topped the diverse list of complaints. While the addition of Windows 8.1 seemingly lit a fire under developers, a PCWorldanalysis shows that one current Windows Store strength is games, a category that's not important to the customers we interviewed. Meanwhile, the Windows Store still lacks several top-tier apps that are available for other platforms.


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