December 05, 2012

Microsoft Surface: Living test with Windows RT

Concurrent with the launch of Windows 8, the software giant has unveiled Surface, its new and first tablet equipped with Windows RT. If the editor was a pioneer in the field of tabletsDell Studio 1555with the Tablet PC Edition of Windows XP, it should be recognized that the concept of tablet has really taken off with the advent of the Apple iPad ... 2010. And while the early 2000s Microsoft laid the foundations of a touch interface, the company had accumulated a delay in the matter whatsoever with Windows Vista or Windows 7. A delay that has at least presided over the design of the latest version of Windows and more specifically its multi-touch interfaceModern UI(formerly called Metro).

With Surface, Microsoft embarked on the battle of what Steve Jobs described the Post PC era. Usually if Microsoft simply provide the software, leaving it to its partners to develop hardware solutions operator, brand Steve Ballmer takes a turn with significant size. For the first time in its history Microsoft actually sells a computer, specifically a tablet equipped with Windows and under its own brand. In the history of the company is not trivial. There are certainly precedents with the Xbox, but also very bad memories with Zune and Kin to name a few.

In his presentation to the press last summer, Surface was impressed. Beyond the shift driven by Steve Ballmer, now Microsoft speaks as a company "Devices + Services" area brings the world of tablet some new concepts to the less interesting. One thinks of course or integrated support for ingenious keyboard that we longed to try. Place therefore testing with Windows Surface RT!

Two versions of Surface

Before we look at the design of this area, we must clarify that Microsoft will be releasing two different versions of the tablet. The first, which we are discussing today, is named Windows Surface RT. It is a tablet with ARM processor Windows embarking RT. And who says Windows RT, says no compatibility with all Windows x86 applications developed to date.

By the end of the year, Microsoft will offer a variant of Intel's tablet surface. This latest version will be equipped with a x86 processor and will run Windows 8 on this area it will be possible to run Photoshop and play the Sims 3, for example.

Why two different size? Hard to say, Microsoft clearly needed a tablet ARM to provide a device light, compact, fanless and with autonomy capable of running Windows RT, the first ARM version of Windows. The question remains, whether the concessions made by Microsoft to achieve this will be accepted.

Surface design

Comes in a neat and minimalist packaging that evokes necessarily the best packaging of the Apple brand, the tablet space with Windows RT innovates not necessarily the attributes of design. Outwardly it resembles many other tablets we've seen so far. Provided do not think it is yet another tablet ... with the big area of ​​innovation focuses on some details, it is true feel good.

Externally, theDell Vostro 1710uses a frame in dark tones made of a magnesium alloy, that called VaporMG Microsoft, one of which properties would be three lighter than aluminum. Found on the left side a + / - buttons for volume, a mini-jack, while the right side houses a USB 2.0 port, micro-HDMI connector and plug. The latter is magnetized as Macbook MagSafe connector (we will pay attention to its implementation because the slope with the edge of the shell surface can believe that the adapter is connected when it is not Fortunately, one white LED turns on when charging connector). The start button is located on top of the camera while the Windows button below the screen is touch sensitive, a very good choice which avoids pressure sometimes risky as the Samsung Slate example.

Front, Surface has a 720p HD camera, like the back of the unit where a second camera HD 720p is present. Here we regret the lack of real quality digital camera ... When competing tablets offer the 5 megapixel, megapixel size seems feeble. In terms of audio, the tablet has two microphones and speakers.

Is that all? Not quite! The lower part of the back of the unit unfolds to become a kind of foot is what Microsoft calls the "kickstand". In this way, and without any other accessory, the tablet can stand upright, always in landscape mode, as a single non-adjustable angle. The mechanism of this integrated foot appears relatively robust.

Once opened, the "kickstand" reveals the very well hidden SDXC memory card reader. Finally at the bottom of the screen there are a proprietary connector that will be used for keyboard surface.

On balance, size, excluding accessories, claims a weight of 680 grams: it is a few ounces more than aniPad mini.

Living in the heart of Windows with RT

Technical side, this area is driven by a quad-core processor NVIDIA Tegra 3 32 bits that we know pretty well now. The latter is clocked at 1.3 GHz and is seen with 2 GB of RAM.

Regarding storage, Microsoft Surface declines in two versions: 32 or 64 GB And much talk now that angry. Our tablet 32GB, only 14 GB are free on a total of 24.9 GB as seen by the operating system. Here we can only regret the lack of transparency Microsoft: the system and its apps occupy the place is one thing, but the advertised 32GB is not usable, far from it, is not acceptable.

There are of course the support of Wi-Fi i802.11 a / b / g / n and Bluetooth version 4.0 here with support for Bluetooth profiles including A2DP stereo audio. Surface and has various sensors with an accelerometer and a gyroscope and an ambient light sensor.

The thorny case of photo sensors

In terms of photo, benefits are average size, including a positioning problem which requires the sensor to tilt back a little shelf on one side for a photo that is level.

Surface sensors but also suffer quite dramatically and the phenomenon of "hot pixels" in dark environments. It manifests itself in the presence of pixel color (white, red, green, etc), in the case of the surface, which appear fixed location on the screen but on the final picture. How do you explain that? The photo sensors are composed of pixels that occur for each photon received a corresponding electrical charge. These charges are then sampled and quantized to be converted into a digital signal. TheDell Vostro 1720 Batteryproblem is that the leakage current in the boost sensor are sometimes some pixels, which will then appear brighter than in reality or completely white (or red, green or blue depending on the location of the pixel under Bayer matrix). This problem is accentuated when the sensor heats up, since leakage currents are sensitive to temperature. And the sensor is hot when mounted in ISO (or a longer exposure is carried out), with which amplifies the electric current. Conversely, it disappears when you take a picture in a bright environment, since the ISO and the sensor cools down. This problem is long hot pixels, but manufacturers usually know their map sensors to correct the problem ...

The audio is an earful!

By plugging a headset on the surface, volume set unintentionally thoroughly, we literally jumped! Audio output does not seem the same rules clamping power than other mobile devices that are passed to the drafting date. We decided to apply the same test protocol as for portable audio. Surface then reaches an impressive 104.7 dB 99.3 dB against the iPad 3. For the record, the player with the highest score in this test is the Cowon i10 with 101.5 dB. 3.2 dB more for the area facing the Cowon, so dubbed sound power in logarithmic scale!

Keyboards Surface: Touch and Type Cover Cover

To differentiate its tablet from the plethora of other already available on the market, but also anchor it in a way of creating content, Microsoft has developed a system keyboard "dockable" to surface. Sold separately, these keyboards are available in various colors and offer two completely different sensations.

Thus Touch Cover, also available as a bundle with space, proposes a membrane keypad. Simply touch the various buttons (78 at last count) for your entry appears on the screen. Since no mechanical feedback lets you feel not so striking has been taken into account with this keyboard, Microsoft accompanies each keystroke with a slight sound from the tablet, like the keyboard touch. Please note a series of dedicated keys to RT with Windows volume control, direct access to Windows icons (search, share, set, etc) ... The keyboard is completed with a touchpad to move the mouse pointer on the desktop. Here the click buttons are located on the edge of the keyboard and it is not very practical.

The other sensation offered by Microsoft is more traditional. Type the Cover offers indeed a mechanical keypad. There are still 78 keys here and those dedicated to Windows RT benefit marking function keys (F1, F2, etc.). As he enjoys the touchpad two buttons and clickable truly is quite significant. Disadvantage: this keyboard is thicker.

In both cases,Dell Studio 1536keyboards Surface weigh around 200 grams, require no battery or specific pairing and connect easily to the tablet via their magnetic connector. The action of docking emits a characteristic sound which was highlighted by the first ads for Surface. Since the keyboard is set to be closed on the tablet screen (and yes it turns the screen size), it has serious reservations Type Cover for mechanical keys which are in direct contact with the screen with the risk of scratching. No worries on the side of Touch Cover and its soft keys. Remains closed once on the screen, the back of the keyboard has a particular look, a kind of felt that qualify any carpet or upholstery of car interior. This is ... strange.

A word about the use of these keyboards. One that intrigued us the most is obviously the Touch Cover. The lack of typing feel it provides is a curiosity that leads to instinctively rely heavily on the keys. Or do not. The touch is enough and gives much better results. It takes time to adapt to begin to take advantage of Touch Cover, and ensure that all entered letters actually appear on the screen. The touch area for the mouse, however, is more difficult to handle especially because of the sensitive buttons located on the edge of the keyboard. And we note that the use of the black keys Touch Cover, including the area of ​​the mice tend to whiten.

Cover Type the keyboard is certainly the most compelling even though we would have preferred a wider Touchpad for the mouse.

RT Windows: a closed environment

Alongside the development of Windows 8, Microsoft has developed Windows RT. It is neither more nor less than a port for the ARM architecture of Windows 8. We find the same functionality as a result, at least in outline, as well as Windows 8 Modern UI touch interface, the screen welcomes us start with the first start of the tablet.

Who says ARM version of Windows, we mean a compromise. The first and not the least is the total incompatibility of all your software with Windows RT. Useless to try to run your software on x86 Windows Surface RT: they will not work.

The only way to get Windows software with RT is through the Windows Store. Indeed, although the classic desktop is still present in this version of Windows, the only channel supported for installing applications is the Microsoft Marketplace. A Windows Store, the content remains as we speak rather meager. Worse, Microsoft itself does not play the game totally since many of its titles developed specifically for Windows 8 as packs or Microsoft Games Mahjong Solitaire Collection are not available for Windows RT at the time we publish these lines. And besides, do not try to play a DVD with Windows RT: software likeVostro 1088 BatteryPowerDVD Mobile yet available on Windows Store is not compatible with Windows RT.

But back to the desktop. We told you, the Windows desktop is now at the heart of Windows RT, and is accessible from the tile on the start screen like Windows 8. Yes but now, here's office is useless ... or almost: there are only the standard Windows application (Paint, Notepad, etc.)., The classic version of Internet Explorer as well as management tools and Windows file management that we know well. Applications Office Home and Student 2013 RT delivered with the OS also run on the desktop. But that's all. Indeed, third-party developers will not have the opportunity to develop software for the Windows desktop RT.

An ecosystem with little apps

Take a stupid case: connecting the camera area and pass on the desktopStudio 1440to recover photos via copy / paste. We want the view: photos open one after the other in the Modern UI environment that only allows the display (the rest crispantes with delays). To edit them, we say we're going to install Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro or Lightroom or even a basic Xnview ... Before reconsider all these apps are conspicuously absent on Windows RT.

We repeated the same observation with IM conversations. RT Windows, like Windows 8, which offers the Messages application automatically connects you to your networks. Conversations take place between your contacts so but in full screen mode and without the ability to send or receive files. We said we will have to install Windows Live Essentials 2012 to receive a Messenger with file exchanges and conversations tab ... before there yet disillusioned.

If by chance you want to use the tablet for watching movies and any random MKV, no luck! RT Windows does not support this file format, and there is currently no solution except to third-party application or convert video files. MOV and MP4 formats, however, are natively supported. Remains to be seen what conditions since according to their format videos and we could see stuttering or slowness in some readings, including 1080p.

Also mention the lack of built-in firewall, although Windows Defender is part of, or the inability to take control of space through a standard remote desktop. Note however that the area offers good Remote Desktop app for control from your tablet PC on your network. Good point, the "history file" inherited from Windows 8 can be used with a memory card into the SD-XC.

For applications offered by the WinRT Windows Store is not glorious. If Skype is available for Windows RT, some games available in Microsoft Windows 8 is here simply absent then an application like Shazam who just see the Update for Windows 8 is not available in ARM ...

Sure, Windows RT comes with the Office suite. At least Home and Student version, ie without Outlook or Publisher. We therefore just full versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Onenote running for office. It is true that here Microsoft scores one point, no competitor environment whether iOS or Android do not offer desktop applications that can even compete with that Word or Excel. Note that the first copies of Windows for Surface RT come with a version of "Preview" of Office 2013 that is automatically updated to the final version from Windows Update.

Ultimately, if using Windows Surface RT is definitely an experience, the familiarity of the Windows environment on a touch pad with something reassuring, this familiarity is ultimately an illusion: RT Windows does that very limited compatibility with traditional Windows ecosystem.

RT Windows: Devices

The other concession that Windows is at RT devices: if Microsoft has developed a set of drivers ARM, do not expect to be able to use your device the most "exotic" with your area. And sometimes exotic is not necessarily where you think.

Small inventory: naturally the most obviousInspiron 1750devices such as keyboard / mouse USB key / USB drives are supported. The rest on this, RT Windows can read and write to NTFS without media attention. USB audio devices as our standard USB Headset Logitech Clearchat are also supported. However our Lumia 800, it is well known, is unusable due to lack of application (application synchronization of Windows Phone Windows Store seems reserved for Windows Phone . IPod Touch is well known for its party access to storage and therefore the photos but iTunes music you can do anything with it. Our TV tuner Pinnacle is unsurprisingly unusable fault driver. The Microsoft Zune Flash is not longer recognized by Surface, as our Microsoft Lifecam Studio webcam or Logitech G920 ... Our Epson is well recognized but the driver is not found rendering it unusable and so on.

However, we appreciate the good support USB hubs or the cameras: photos of our D300 and HX9V are accessible without worry. A final word on printers: Photosmart C310 our HP was recognized by Windows RT and we were able to print without any problem.

Surface: Some software benefits

In addition to the Office suite, we can mention another advantage for Microsoft: managing user accounts. This feature is absent from iOS and Android (except third-party application) and actually present in the heart of Windows RT. This allows the tablet to pass quietly spouse or children by ensuring they have their apps and settings without interfering with yours.

This is not the only positive for Microsoft, anyway. RT Windows Internet Explorer loads in two versions: Classic and Modern UI on the desktop. We thus find the browser capabilities but also led support Flash technology. Microsoft has effectively integrated Flash engine at the heart of Internet Explorer even in Windows RT this version, at least on the version of Metro / Modern UI. Remains only the sites that have been whitelistés Microsoft can view Flash content: they are now few.

Living with Windows RT: hardware

Regarding the tabletdell xps m1710, it is frankly good quality, despite finishing a little rough in places. On our test there are days between the frame and the upper part of the screen while the button start seems a bit feeble and we do not always know if the contact is effective. We regret too geometric design that makes its grip sometimes uncomfortable, just as with the first iPad. And while the landscape orientation is perfect for the Modern UI environment, we discover serious limitations when switching to portrait mode. The office already frankly very usable in touch here becomes the object of ridicule and the start screen if it operates a rearrangement of its tiles shows that it was primarily designed for landscape mode (blank screen under certain tiles, themes to customize the Start screen garbled, etc). In addition, the Windows touch button can be found under your left hand and can then be activated inadvertently.

And how once again overlook incompatibilities with certain applications? Software design proposed Fresh Paint on the Windows Store is not compatible with portrait mode, just as Skype, developed two applications - remember the - Microsoft! And these are not isolated cases unfortunately. Example with Larousse dictionary which also runs only in landscape mode ...

Living with Windows RT: its slowness, its bugs

Unfortunately, Surface surprises do not stop there. Thus we see after a few uses the fluidity and speed observed on Windows 8 tablets are not appropriate here. There noticeable delays when certain actions if one of the first update size is back on this, especially to offer a Modern UI screen actually fluid, is annoyed by the slow shift when we tilt the tablet. Startup complete it can sometimes be quite long but fortunately, in normal use, surface is mostly idle except for ... crash. The start of Metro apps is not the most swift and certain apps skate skate ... again ... and always skate to start while the appearance of certain interface elements on the screen is the opportunity to see beautiful saccades . And side games is not necessarily longer pink. Pinball FX train just sometimes viciously at the ball animations to render the game easily exploitable.

Delays beyond this are the many bugs that irritate random surface use. Thus this case where we tried several times to launch Internet Explorer on the desktop without success despite several clicks with the mouse on the screen or tapotis the browser does not just launched. This without displaying any error message or another. The same goes for the pause button on theDell Studio 1735keyboard Type Cover we pressed during playback of music and who has not had the desired effect despite several attempts. Another interesting bug: on our shelf and while we configured as French during installation, our country was set to UK in the Windows options. In fact the Windows Store posted prices in pound sterling. Everything is back to normal by selecting France as in the regional settings of Windows. Well, not really ... since the lock screen Modern UI continues to display the date in English "Friday 2 November" while writing this.

And what about an issue obviously ignored by Microsoft, that the timing of his pictures and his music? Surface is indeed delivered naked, without any cables or synchronization software. To you copy music, video, and more pictures via external storage media or a network drive on the shelf. Let us, however Microsoft the opportunity to broadcast their content through streaming or even from the Cloud for music. For some have a PCDell Latitude E4300on Windows 7 or Windows 8 and application Skydrive installed, you can view pictures and music to the distance from the tablet. The whole problem is of course that your PC must be on the road with a working Internet connection. For the Music app can increasingly enable synchronization with the cloud Xbox Music from the Settings icon and this time it is your list of music that is synchronized to the cloud with the legal provision proposed by Microsoft As part of its Xbox Music: here we find a kind of iTunes Match. Your music list has been synchronized with Microsoft servers and they allow you to listen to streaming wherever you are. Naturally, it will have the appropriate subscriptions, otherwise you will receive advertising.

We tested the HDMI output. It operates seamlessly except that it operates as a normal Windows PC. So in clone mode is the resolution of the tablet that is replicated with upscaling on the TV screen and it is frankly not nice to see ... Must switch the mode "second screen only" but in this case you lose the touch controls of the tablet which then manipulates the blind ...

Test start time gives an indication of the velocity of our shelves to be operational during a cold start. The results are expressed in seconds, the shorter bar represents the starting time of the fastest. Here, it takes 27 seconds to Surface RT to start with Windows while the iPad Mini is operational in 19 seconds as the third generation iPad (both iOS 6.01). However, it is better than 40 seconds of the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 Samsung.

Surprise, the SunSpider test gives good performance for Internet Explorer (both desktop environment that Metro). Surface and Windows RT climbed into second place behind the iPhone 5, which is the fastest. This is definitely a step ahead of the iPad here are a little behind.

It should be noted that SunSpider is dependent on the browser and it is the only test reproducible performance that we can drive on surface, the usual tools like GeekBench or Linpack is not available on the Windows Store.

It ends with autonomy, with playing a video loop,inspiron e1505screen brightness set to 50%, as the volume, keeping Wi-Fi active. Living here is doing very well with a range from 11 ... provided that the iPhone 5 and therefore better than that observed with the 3rd generation iPad.


For a first tablet, Microsoft shows that the expertise of its hardware division in charge of the design of keyboards, mice and webcams for years is actually real. With his finish, the tablet has certainly not ashamed to face competition. The equipmentDELL Latitude E5410is at such a product and if we can regret the lack of HD screen, we retain the use of a quad-core processor Tegra 3 or the presence of two cameras without HD 720p forget the USB port and HDMI output (the latter requires optional cable). Better, Microsoft really innovates on the material system with integrated stand that allows worry-free and without lugging accessory put the tablet on his desk to the vertical at an angle it is true fixed. The unit is robust and inspires confidence. Microsoft has also a very good idea to propose a system keyboard surface. Two models, one touch, the other mechanical keys with two very different sensations and sometimes acclimation time as we have seen.

But behind these really good ideas hiding serious deficiencies. And finally the problem is not so much space hardware and software ...! RT Windows is very similar in status to an operating system in beta so bugs are numerous and glaring. And, after a few minutes of use. Not content to be buggy, slow Windows RT displays flagrant moment. Difficult here to say whether this is partly due todell xps m1210Chick 2GB of RAM tablet. Of course over time Microsoft will successfully return a set of problems. However, the manufacturer will not return to the storage capacity and the fact that our model 32GB, only 14 GB are actually available to the user (!).

To all this we must add a size issue: the software environment. RT while Windows is not compatible with Windows applications that have existed for decades, the only way to get apps is the Windows Store. A store today and provided little less since all RT for Windows applications developed for Modern UI and Windows 8 are not always compatible with Windows RT. So yes of course, Living with Windows RT unbeatable argument: Office Suite 2013 is supplied as standard (what does the European Commission and the DOJ?) And offers the same experience as on a PC and the same level of functionality and compatibility . Rest Outlook and Publisher are lost during porting. And if we may venture to comment controversy: whether to use RT Office must go through the office and have a keyboard or Touch Cover Type ... use as a traditional laptop, right?

Ultimately, despite a practically flawless execution on the material plane, and real innovations, RT Surface with Windows now seems not ready for the general public. The problems listed are too numerous and disadvantageous to Surface a tablet that can be highly recommended, not to mention the problem of complex software environment. In addition, thedell xps m1710 batteryprice seems a bit high, 489 euros the 32GB model without a keyboard, keyboard with 589 euros, it is certainly comparable to the price of a Pad Transformer Infinity ... But with only 14 GB usable in the end. Of course it will be interesting to see how Windows operates and RT if applications are emerging ... And if the system does not seem viable today, hopefully Surface opens the way to Windows tablets RT more convincing. Of course, we expect firm footing Intel variant surface to see how it is positioned.

Related news:

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