A great post from Alfie Carlisle from Devonport High School for Boys in Plymouth …….
This week, I got the opportunity to test a Microsoft Surface RT, the Surface is part of Microsoft new line of Surface tablets and comes in other variations including the Pro and Pro 2.
When starting the Surface from scratch, the boot time was 21 secs. My Mac Mini takes 1 minute, so I was really impressed to be able to login and start working in as short time as the Surface offers. However, I rarely found myself shutting down, I simply closed the keyboard case over the screen which put the device into standby; it was then ready to be quickly opened again whenever I needed it,
I received the Surface and immediately began to set it up. Windows 8 offers the ability to login with a ‘Microsoft Account,’ I already have one, so I simply logged in with my email and password. For new users, there was also an option to sign up for a Microsoft Account, or, alternatively, set up the account locally on the device.
A Microsoft Account allows a coherent feel across all of a users Windows 8 devices. For example, I could install an app on my Windows 8 PC, and it would automatically be on my Surface tablet; similar to Apple ‘iCloud’. This gives an impression of using the ‘same device’ wherever you are. I really liked this feature because, once logged in, I was instantly presented with my files, apps and settings I had previously set up on another Windows 8 device. I was extremely impressed, I could start working at once in my familiar environment… adjusted just to my liking.
I also took the opportunity to take a look at the Microsoft App store. It was well populated, with apps for Gmail, Dropbox and Google Drive, as well as few apps I enjoy on my iPad including Adobe Photoshop Express and Bamboo Paper and, my favourite, a Spotify App. I started my playlist on the Surface and enjoyed the sound coming from its built in speakers. I think the speakers could be improved, as sometimes the sound seemed quite congested; with the headphone jack, though, this wasn’t a problem. I also found a mobile HTML editor, which let me work on some of my website projects. I was particularly impressed with this, as a preview of the side was on the left of the screen and the code on the right. The surface made great use of the large display.
I particularly like the USB port which the Surface boasts. It was great to be able to add things like a mouse, Portable Hard Drives and even Printers to the Surface, which gave it increased functions of a fully-fledged laptop!
A Microsoft Account is also heavily integrated with SkyDrive, Microsoft’s Cloud Storage platform, similar to Dropbox or Sugar Sync. It allows files created in Word, Powerpoint and Excel to be shared to other devices, but also edited online in a web browser. So even if your at a computer without Microsoft Office, you can still work on your files!
Cloud Storage is the process of storing files on the internet as apposed to locally, on the device. One of the many benefits is that files can then be accessed from anywhere.
I didn’t like the touch keyboard though. It rarely picks up my fingers, and is only good for typing a few words, maybe a very short email. I attempted to type the previous sentence using it, and made several errors. I think the problem is that it isn’t tactile so I don’t get the reassurance that my key press has been registered. As a result, I would carry on typing, and only realise at the end that the device hadn’t picked up my typing. I thoroughly enjoyed using the on screen keyboard; the wide angle screen of the Surface allowed a superb keyboard, which is perfect, even for big fingers!
In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed my week with the Surface RT, and would really love to use it again, especially in the a school environment. I think this device has excellent potential for use in the education sector, by Students and Teachers alike. Students are already familiar with Microsoft Office and other windows applications and enjoy using it. I think they would really enjoy being able to take office out of the computer room and be able to take their creativity wherever they go. Furthermore, with the addition of Microsoft Accounts (one could be setup for each student), they could start a piece of work on a Surface, continue it on another and then continue it at home!