A Microsoft Surface user review
I’ve never owned a tablet device. No, really. I’m serious. Twenty-two percent of adults across the U.S. (and counting) own tablets, but I was not one of them.
Until recently, that is. Two weeks ago Pat Hart, SHI’s Director of Software Licensing, determined to bring me out of the dark ages, handed me a newly released Microsoft Surface. His instructions to me: “Try not to break this thing on the first day.”
It was good advice and, for a moment, seemed likely that I would fail this task. Getting the device out of the box was a challenge. It was like the Surface was packed inside a giant Chinese finger trap: The harder I pulled on the black and white interlocked cardboard box, the more the device refused to budge. I dropped the package on my kitchen counter five to six times before my wife finally came to see what was making all that noise. She took the box, flipped it over, and the Surface slid gently out onto the counter.
Surface (and spouse): 1. Ed: 0.
But finally, there it was: the Surface, the keyboard, and a book I will never open. (I don’t read directions when I operate a chainsaw, so it’s certainly not going to happen in order to use an electronic device that probably won’t sever a limb.)
Turns out, I didn’t need the book anyway (at least, so far). After plugging in and powering up the device, a very helpful tutorial automatically started, giving me a rundown of the operation basics. Swiping your hand across the screen from the right brings you to the classic Microsoft “Start” menu. Swiping from the top brings you to a set of controls unique to whatever page you are on.
I can handle that. The playing field was once again even.
I continued testing the Surface’s functionality and was quickly and pleasantly surprised at how easily the tablet recognized the available wireless network in my house. Flawless. Previously, every time I added a device to this network, modems were reset, batteries were removed, and tears of frustration were shed. But I had to do none of that. In actuality, the hardest part of authenticating the Surface to my home network was finding the Post-it note containing the current password.
Unpackaged, powered up, and connected, I was left to figure out where, exactly, the Surface fits into my home’s overall IT environment. That environment includes the following devices:
- HP EliteBook 8440p laptop (mine)
- Lenovo ThinkPad T420s (my wife’s)
- BlackBerry Torch (mine)
- Windows Phone (my wife’s)
What we’ve personally purchased and still use:
- iPod Nano containing 2,000 songs, used on planes and at the gym
- iPad 2 used by my wife for Facebook and Twitter
- Microsoft Zune
- First generation Amazon Kindle (which now seems ancient in comparison)
Within minutes, I had the Surface on the network and was downloading movies and TV shows from Xbox Video in preparation for an upcoming flight from Newark to Hawaii for vacation. That flight has since landed, and I can confidently say that, so far, breaking the Surface free from its protective packaging has been my biggest challenge. I’ll update you in a week or so, once I’ve had a chance to use it more extensively.