I have enjoyed my first generation iPad for several years now, but it's getting a bit long in the tooth and Apple no longer supports it. Aside from its good points, my iPad also has some "features" that annoy me, so I thought I would invest in a Microsoft Surface (first generation) so that I could report back to you, dear reader, as to how it rated against No. 1 in the tablet market.
I will be the first to admit that this is not a fair comparison -- if life were fair I would be comparing the iPad Air against the Surface 2, or even the Surface Pro, but I am afraid my pockets are not sufficiently deep! I took the Surface with me to the EELive! Conference and Exhibition to see how it performed on the road.
I am not a heavy tablet user. I use my tablet to access my email, play a few games, make some notes, and read books -- mostly when I am travelling. Some of my habits are conditioned by the features of the hardware and so may dynamically change.
The Surface runs Windows 8 RT -- a version of Windows that runs on an ARM processor. Notwithstanding my strong reservations of Windows 8 on a laptop/desktop (see Whither Electronic Development With Windows 8?), Windows 8 on the Surface is pretty good. It is almost indistinguishable from Windows 8 running on a desktop except, of course, there is the touch screen. Perhaps the biggest benefit that Windows 8 RT has over any other tablet (including the Surface Pro) is that includes Office 2013 for free. I actually wrote this blog on Word running on my Surface (more about the keyboard in a bit), and although you cannot appreciate this since it will have been post-processed by Max, he will not be able to tell that it was written on a tablet. Contrast this with any other word processing capability on the iPad (like Penultimate); and, not only is Word the industry standard, remember it came for free.
There is also absolutely no comparison between Numbers on the iPad and Excel on the Surface. I have written quite a few blogs on the use of Excel in electronics on the Planet Analog forum (worth a read, if I say so myself) where I used some fairly advanced capabilities of the spreadsheet program. With the exception of the Solver add-in, everything will run on the Surface. Excel under Windows RT will not run macros either, but still it is a real spreadsheet. By the way, watch for the giveaway spreadsheet that I have developed that will find the best resistor pair to optimise a formula. My blog about thsi should be published in May or June.
If you are into apps and games, even if they are on the PC, then stop reading now. There are far fewer for the Surface. Aside from FreeCell and Solitaire, the only game I play now is called Kakuro, a cross between Sudoku and a crossword puzzle. There are a several offerings in the Microsoft store, but none come close to the one I have on the iPad. I have read that the same is true for other games.
This is not to say to that the Surface is entirely devoid of games and apps. In addition to the typical screen snapshot capability, for example, there is also the Windows snip tool that allows you to capture portions of a screen (although only in the Desktop interface) and a calculator which is different when invoked from the desktop to when it is invoked from the "Modern" (previously known as the "Metro") interface. And of course there are many others.
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