Microsoft Surface: Early Impressions
Microsoft's new tablet is joining a market that's heavily populated by several Android models and the iPad, but does it have enough to offer that sets it part from the competition?
Judging by our first couple of days with the Microsoft Surface, the answer is a certifiable "yes"—not only does Microsoft Surface look and feel like a considerable high-tech piece of machinery, but using it in everyday settings shows that Microsoft is taking a critical step in bridging the gap between tablets and notebooks.
Powered by NVIDIA Tegra 3 technology and some innovating design choices, the staff at NVision has been pleasantly impressed with the Surface in quite a few areas.
Right out of the box, the Surface's solid build quality is apparent at first touch.
Manufactured with solid a magnesium casing, the tablet is surprisingly firm, yet seems like it should be much, much heavier than its 1.5 pound weight. Although the finish is extremely prone to picking up finger-prints (especially the rear panel), there plenty of fine touches that really come in handy, like the built-in kickstand and side vents that keep the gadget cool to the touch.
Even with occasional glare, working on projects is great with the crisp 1366 x 768 ClearHD display. It's especially useful when watching videos, as the colors and blacks are noticeable vibrant, and the Surface has the added benefit of leaving behind a split-second digitized shadow after you touch the screen.
Touch Cover & Type Cover
As good as the tablet looks, it's fair to say that the Surface's most iconic feature is the Touch Cover & Type Cover, which functions as a shield for the display and a keyboard.
At the start, the keyboard takes some getting used to, especially if you type with pronounced, heavy strokes. Surprisingly, the TC&TC functions like a touchscreen, requiring only light taps. To boot, it also seems to be water-resistant to some degree, as we've accidentally spilled a small amount of water on the keyboard while in the office.
Using the TC&TC requires a bit of a learning curve, and you'll make some typos—but after a couple of days, you'll be using it just as easily as just about any notebook keyboard.
Working on the Surface with Windows RT can be equally as convenient as using an actual computer, as the tablet comes preloaded with several apps and Microsoft Office applications.
But a bigger benefit that you might initially miss is the device's ability to go into PC Mode, which turns the dashboard-themed interface into a standard desktop view. From there, all the typical trimmings of the Windows OS are present, including sortable folders and files. With access to SkyDrive, you can also send, receive, and transfers files via cloud storage, which works very efficiently.
One thing you'll want to keep in mind is that you only have one admin account, but you can create multiple accounts for the Surface by going into PC Mode and creating extra profiles in the Control Panel. It's not readily apparent, but PC users won't likely be at a loss.
Alternating Between Keyboard and Touchscreen
By far, the most innovative thing about the device is that you can operate the table entirely by touch with the added benefit of the keyboard.
As you become more and more proficient with the Touch Cover & Type Cover, you'll actually be speeding through apps, windows, and file trees by simultaneously using both the keyboard and touch screen. Once you're a pro at it, you'll be watching videos, downloading apps, and browsing the Surface's content at an extremely fast pace.
In the end, that's been the most attractive thing about the Surface—using it at its full potential requires skill, and after learning its ins and outs, it feels like a futuristic device that's a step above almost everything else out there.