Oh Yeah, That Tablet Thing

Just like regular folks, I’ve had a lot going on the past week. Work, life, healthcare issues, etc. I’d forgotten that I was going to reveal (not that it’s really that important) my tablet choice. After yapping about it for months on end, on and off, I figured I at least owed those nice enough to come around and occasionally read my rabble, the results of all that moaning and groaning. So, the three finalist I’d narrowed it down to were

  • 1) The Apple iPad (the last generation, which was right before the Air and leading up to its release)
  • 2) Samsung Note 10.1 2014 edition
  • 3) Microsoft Surface 2

If you read my Twitter wall or follow me there, you already know which one I picked. But, it was a close tie between the Surface 2 and the Samsung Note because I really liked the Note’s included pen. In the end, though, I ultimately decided to go with the Microsoft Surface 2.

I’ve had the tablet for a week, and I have to say it’s pretty nice. If you want an entertainment tablet – watching movies, listening to podcasts, playing games, and downloading tons of apps – the Surface 2 isn’t really for you. Not right now, at least. The Microsoft App Store is pretty weak, as everyone is quick to point out in reviews. That’s not to say it doesn’t have what you need to be productive. There are many apps I’ve downloaded and found very useful. There’s also the entertainment apps like Netflix, Crackle, Kindle, Nook. There are some nice fitness apps, several Microsoft/Xbox integrated games that will help you boost your Gamerscore, an Amazon App and many more.

What I’m trying to say is, while the App Store is lacking, it isn’t bare. There’s plenty to chose from for the average user. That’s not to say the tablet is average. It’s extremely fast, responds to the slightest touch and sounds amazing. The first night I had it I watched The Avenger’s while I worked on my laptop. It sounded better than our main television in the living room. The built in audio player, which connects to Xbox Music, isn’t that hot for some reason, though. I downloaded a couple of podcasts I normally listen to and the audio quality on the Surface 2 was pretty bad.

The screen is a nice, large 10.6″ widescreen displaying at 1920 x 1080, and I’m comfortable using it in that position. It does look strange to hold it up longways because of the length of the device. My only complaint with the preferred orientation of the device is with the weight. While it only ways a little over a pound, when you’re holding it by one corner for more than a few minutes, that one pound becomes very noticeable because of the length of the device and the balance of the weight. I’m not saying I have muscles of jelly, but when you’re use to lighter devices, this one makes its self noticed if you don’t have a good position grip on it. That’s where the next point comes in. I don’t believe you’re expected to hold the device. That’s why it has the built in kickstand on the lower back. This genius design allows you to prop it back in two different positions depending on how you are viewing the screen. It’s actually pretty sweet.

Out of the box, the Surface 2 comes with an RT version of Microsoft Office. Outlook, Excel, Powerpoint and Word are all included but are only usable in Desktop mode. This is the virtual desktop interface that we’re used to on our larger computers. In this mode, you are going to want/need a keyboard attachment (sold separately) and a product known as the wedge mouse would come in handy, too. The Office tools do not recognize your feeble on screen keyboard or strokes, though you can touch and scroll the screens.

Along with the tablet, of which I purchased the 32GB version, with a MicroSD expansion port for an additional 64GB of storage (it “comes” with 32GB, but Windows is a bit of a hog, you only actually get about 17-18GB of that out of the box), you get a 1-year subscription to unlimited Skype Wifi. This lets you call all across the world for free. Hence, “unlimited.” This is a $167.88 regular subscription if you check out the Unlimited World calling plan. On top of that great deal,

Microsoft throws in an addition 200GB of cloud storage via SkyDrive. 200GB a year runs $100, so x2, that’s a $200 bonus deal. And SkyDrive works flawlessly with the Surface 2. Microsoft isn’t all selfish on this tablet. My calendar syncs with my Google profile, my Live account is linked to my Google Account and I can receive my mail here with no hassle of setup. My contacts are linked through my Google account. It’s almost like having an Android device! Plus, with The Google integration and SkyDrive, I have access to everything I need via my Mac and Android Galaxy S3 as well. Three completely different platforms, integrated just enough for a common guy like myself.

surface2-preview-heroThe other large issue that I do not miss, is the ability to load what is called Legacy software onto the tablet. That means download and run a program that I could do the same with on a PC. Say, for example, if you use MS Money on the PC, you couldn’t install that on the Surface 2 RT because, while it is Windows 8.1, it’s a modified version of it. If you want that kind of integration, you’ll have to pay out a cool $1000 for the Surface 2 Pro, which IS a tablet PC in every sense of the word. It runs programs, apps, etc – but doesn’t come with Office RT.

The only programs you can load on the Surface 2 are those from the Microsoft App Store. Nothing more, nothing less. Another draw back, but still, one connected to the App Store. Other than that, I have encountered no other issues. Aside from the old buyers remorse, that is. But that’ll go away with time, as it always does.

So, yeah. I finally bought a new tablet and it’s the Microsoft Surface 2. It’s getting rave reviews, just beware of the lacking of App Store selection. It’s a beautiful device, is smooth and fast and handles combining professional business style with kicked-back home life nicely.

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