When the first Surface was announced, I thought it looked pretty darn cool. Until I found out about Windows RT. While the Surface Pro would have the full version of the Windows operating system, the regular version of Surface would have a stripped down version of Windows. This version would not allow for the installation of any programs other than the apps provided in the Windows Marketplace. While Windows Marketplace is still getting its feet wet with apps (meaning there aren’t a ton to choose from just yet), I often found myself saying… who in the world would purchase a regular Surface tablet. For me it was Surface Pro or nothing. At CES I met up with someone from Microsoft who took me up on the challenge and handed over a regular old Surface for me to try out.
I thought for sure that the Surface 2 with Windows RT (as in not full Windows), was not going to be enough for my needs. While I am missing a few features (like the ability to install Chrome), there’s nothing that makes this tablet unusable for me, and there is actually a whole lot that makes it my favorite device right now.
Office – The fact that they included Office is a huge bonus for the Windows RT platform. I love my Outlook, Word, Excel, etc etc. That would have been a deal breaker for me to not have this software. One of the main things I wanted a small tablet like the surface was so I can write blog posts “after hours” while hanging out watching a TV show, or watching my kids play a video game. It was always such a pain to go back up to my office to write a post, and it rarely happened. This way I still get to hang out with the family, and I’m not tucked away in my office for more hours than I need to be. With Microsoft Word I can write my post offline (like while watching my daughter at swim team practice) and then upload the post to my blog right from within Word. It’s a little known feature that I absolutely LOVE about Word.
Keyboard When I Want – I can use the Surface tablet as a regular tablet, and then when I have an email to write or a blog post to write, I can grab my keyboard and snap it in. The keyboard I have is the backlit keyboard with plastic keys, called the type cover. It feels just like typing on a regular laptop, which I love, since I’m a fast typer, but not so fast on an “on screen” keyboard. It’s why I liked my Palm Pre and HTC EVO Shift so much. I just love the tactile feel of an actual keyboard.
Apps – While I said initially that there is no way Windows RT could have all that I need to use, I really haven’t found that to be the case much. Sure I would like to be able to install my Adobe Subscription on here, but the truth is, if I need to do some major Photoshop work or some coding in Dreamweaver… likely I’ll just go upstairs to my office computer, with its large screen and mouse. This machine isn’t supposed to replace my laptop, it’s supposed to give me access to only the things I need to do on the go. So, what are the apps that I LOVE on my Surface?
- Bing Food and Drink – I’m not a foodie. I can barely boil water. Yet, I’m a Mom, and I typically am the one to make dinner most nights. I love this app not only because I’m able to plan my meals for the week with it, but it has a ton of videos to help me learn new things about cooking food (which I’m in desperate need of). My only complaint is that I can’t plan more than one week at a time. I’d love to be able to set the whole month in one sitting. My other complaint is that while you can add the ingredients of the recipes to your shopping list, there isn’t a button to add ALL the recipes from your meal plan to the shopping list.
- Bing Health & Fitness – Here is another baked in goody from Microsoft. It’s got trackers that will allow you to track your calories and fitness. On top of the trackers it has a symptom checker to help you figure out what might be wrong with you, and a ton of videos that will show you everything from exercises you can do to a walkthrough of the human body.
- Evernote – I’m in love with Evernote anyway, so no surprise there.
- Flixster – This is another favorite, because as my Ultraviolet movie collection grows (over 300 titles in my account now!) I love to be able to access them from the Surface so I can watch my movies any time.
- Pouch – I use this app in conjunction with my Pocket account. I love to add things to Pocket, and then access them later when I have some time to read. This app integrates with Pocket perfectly, like it was built by Pocket themselves. I’m super happy with it.
Pinning Websites – If there isn’t a specific app for Windows, but there is a website I can go to, I’ve been pinning the shortcut to the website directly to my start screen. I almost can’t even tell the difference that it’s just a website and not an actual app. I have done this with Duolingo.com, imdb.com, toodledo.com and feedly.com
So, as much as it pains me to be wrong about something. I admit it. I was wrong about Windows RT. Don’t let my husband know that I’m sometimes wrong though… our little secret?
Disclosure: I was given the Surface 2 to facilitate this review, but was not compensated in any other way to talk about it.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase using the links.
Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com