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The Life and Tiles of a Windows 8 Convert: So, I bought a Surface tablet

I’m either the world’s biggest hypocrite, a sucker for punishment, or a blind believer because I have actually sunk more money into Microsoft’s not-quite-ready-for-primetime ecosystem. Instead of clicking my heels and wishing for home, I’ve walked right back in to the witch’s castle.

I bought a Surface RT tablet.

Surely from your perspective I look erratic. Buying into Microsoft’s divisive tablet after being ruthlessly burned by Windows 8 and its accompanying hardware doesn’t ooze logic. I even ponied up another hundred bucks for a red Touch Cover, which absolutely should have been included in the box at $500. The Surface RT just doesn’t make sense without one.

The simple answer for why I purchased a Surface RT tablet is that I needed something light with a keyboard  that could last all day without juicing up at an outlet. The four hour (max) I was squeezing out of my Lenovo Yoga just wasn’t cutting it, not when I wanted to work on projects while riding Toronto’s streetcars, take notes during class, and work at cafes on break. For those purposes, the Surface RT is perfect. It is zippy, fun, well-built, and bags me quite a few compliments. Most importantly, the Touch Cover offers a fantastic typing experience. Yes, it takes time to adjust to but I’m almost up to my normal type speed.

Though all of the Surface RT’s features make it a laptop replacement in theory, it doesn’t quite measure up. The more I use my Surface RT, the more I see it as a secondary device. If you don’t use a computer for anything but the odd word doc, web browsing, and other typical tablet stuff, then the Surface RT could take the place of your primary device. I say this because of its removable storage, USB plug-in, and micro-HMDI port that puts it in a different league than the iPad. Of course, a Touch or Type Cover would have to be purchased to make the transition work.

In a typical phone, tablet, laptop relationship, all three devices are separate from one another and don’t overlap in function. For the Surface RT, there is a definite overlap between tablet and laptop, where you can get work done on it but it’s also a great couch companion. If the apps come then it will be an almost-perfect hybrid device. But for more hardcore users, Surface RT cannot replace the screen real estate and physical keyboard of an actual laptop or desktop computer, which makes me very thankful to still have the Yoga for real work.

Microsoft is embracing change and had the guts to launch an experimental device into shark-infested waters. I haven’t been this excited by an operating system since the first iPhone. I saw the appeal of Android, but performance issues made me queasy. There are problems with Windows RT, but nothing so gigantic that it can’t be fixed by some fine tuning. The third-party apps are lacking, both in function and variety, and the bundled apps (Mail, People, Music, etc.) can be impossible at times, like solving a Rubik’s cube that’s had all the stickers torn off. But still, there’s something charming about the it, the way it responds to touch, the beauty within its all-digital aesthetic, and the bold way in which it attempts to reinvent personal computing.

I already have the laptop and the smartphone, so my experience felt incomplete without a tablet to round it out. I missed having a device for casual web browsing and couch cuddling. To my pleasure, I have found the Surface RT is a great vessel for Windows 8, its experimental design complementing the braveness of Microsoft’s new user interface. For me, the Surface RT fills in the missing link between my laptop and smartphone, a void once filled by my iPad. Due to its longer battery life and lighter weight, it also makes the perfect companion for students or freelancers who prefer a café over their home office. It may not be the game changer Microsoft was hoping for, but it is still an admirable competitor to the iPad. And once the apps role in, it just might stand a chance at winning.

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