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Microsoft Surface RT vs the mighty iPad, Malaysian Review

So Microsoft Surface RT has finally arrived on Malaysian shores after it’s debut in the US earlier this year. The good news, I’ve finally gotten my hands on one! Woohoo!


Priced at RM 1,549 and RM 1,849 for 32 GB and 64 GB respectively, it’s priced competitively against it’s BIGGEST competitor – the iPad which goes for RM 1,799 (32GB WiFi) & RM 2,099 (64GB WiFi).

Some comparison specs against the 4th gen iPad

  • 10.6 inch ClearType HD Display vs iPad’s 9.6 inch Retina Display
  • 1.3 Ghz Quad Core Tegra 3 Processor vs iPad’s 1.4 Ghz Dual Core
  • 2GB RAM vs iPad’s 1GB RAM
  • Front & rear 720p camera vs iPad’s 720p front & 5 megapixel rear
  • Comes with an expandable memory card slot vs iPad’s fixed memory
  • Has a built-in kick stand vs no stand
  • Full magnesium casing vs iPad’s aluminium casing
  • Magnetic charging point (like Macbooks) vs iPad’s lightning connector

First the unboxing…
I must say, the unboxing experience felt exactly like unboxing an Apple product. Microsoft has certainly learned from the best. The little flaps, the little detail in wrapping the device, the placement of accessories etc. it’s simply an ‘Apple Experience’. Heck, even the box felt solid!

An ‘Apple’ like unboxing experience…


The optional type keyboard – love the tactile feel!


The ports… USB, HD video out port


The MicroSD expansion slot + magnetic charging point


About the same thickness as the iPad mini??? Or are my eyes playing with me?


All ready to go!


Setting up…
Setting up the Surface RT was fairly simple. Power up, it greets you with a nice startup screen and after that you’re asked if you have a Microsoft account. If not you’re asked to create one. I’ve got one on my Windows 8 desktop so the moment I keyed in my username and password – the rest was literally MAGIC.


Within minutes, EVERYTHING from my WiFi settings to my preconfigured e-mail accounts on my desktop, twitter, facebook, my wallpaper, my beautiful picture for my account, calendar settings were immediately synced! I’ve never set-up a computer this quickly in my life…


One important thing to keep in mind…
It’s easy to forget the Surface RT is not a full-blown computer because it looks SO much like Windows 8. It has that familiar windows desktop, there’s even a mouse if you really hate touching the screen. Thing is, Surface RT is like an iPad that does some of what a full-fledged computer would do.

What you CAN or CAN’T DO

  • You CAN plug-in a USB thumb drive
  • You CAN plug-in an external hard disk
  • You CAN plug-in an external mouse or keyboard via USB
  • Like the iPad that cannot install regular desktop software – you CAN’T install apps that are NOT from the Windows Store (which has about 60,000+ & growing apps) – so things like Photoshop CS won’t work

What’s cool?

Full suite of Microsoft Office
First, it comes with the full suite of Office for Surface RT – Word, Excel, Powerpoint – it’s all there and fully connected to Microsoft’s version of iCloud or DropBox – it’s called SkyDrive (7GB of storage) which comes FREE with your Microsoft Account so you can choose to store your files in the cloud / Surface / external drive

Rear camera that’s angled differently
With the kickstand on, the device is slanted forward. In traditional tablets, the rear camera will be facing downwards but on the Surface – the camera is angled upwards so it always shoots in front. Smart!


2-in-1 keyboard & cover
The Surface RT doesn’t come with the optional keyboard / cover – it can be purchased as a bundle with the device or separately for RM 379 (for the Touch Cover) and RM 409 (for the Type Cover). I’ve tried both and personally, I highly recommend going for the Type Cover. Nothing beats a physical tactile feedback. Oh and did you know that the touch cover also has a built-in trackpad?


Dedicated HD Video Port
If you do quite a bit of presentations, you can present directly from the Surface using this dedicated port. Think the accessory costs around RM 100+.

How easy is it to use?
To be honest, there’s a small learning curve when using the Surface RT. There are some Windows 8 gestures and a number of tips and tricks to be familiarized with… I’ve created a quick video to showcase some of these on my Surface.

How’s the performance?
If you’ve watched the video above, the Surface RT is really quite responsive. Multitasking, watching videos on one side of the screen while working, switching from app to app, typing mails, working on documents, surfing the net – it just works!

The only time I experienced a lag was when I went to some heavily scripted sites like Gmail,, Google Drive etc. – it works just that it slows down a little. Problem is, the browser is detected as a desktop browser so it loads the full ‘desktop’ version of the site instead of a mobile one. It’s good and bad, you get a full desktop experience of the website but performance could be better. So Microsoft, if you’re reading this review – it’d be nice to put in an option for it to be detected as a mobile browser.

Battery life?
This is when it’s AMAZING. 7 hours non-stop according to specs. I’ve tried showing off the device to all my friends and colleagues from day to night and end up with 70% of battery life left. It’s wayyyyy better than my iPad mini. If the battery ever goes flat midway, a quick charge will bring it up to full in 2-hours.

Should I buy it?
The Surface RT is more of a work + play machine; and if you notice – I placed work first :)

If you’re looking for a laptop replacement - this could be your device if your work is primarily done on Microsoft Office, you rely on social media and web heavily and you are cool with not installing other desktop apps like Adobe Photoshop, video editing suites etc.

If you’re looking for tablet that does a bit of what a laptop does - like you’d love a full-on keyboard, a USB port that can hook up all sorts of devices with a great battery life then this could work for you.

If you’re looking for a computing work horse – does everything from video editing, graphic design, install intensive PC games, please buy a normal laptop

If you’re looking to have a tablet and have more play than work - you might want to checkout the iPad

My thoughts…
The iPad is a great tablet, great screen, amazing battery life, omg the games… woohoo! – I absolutely love it but it’s not the best environment for work and there are limitations such as the absence of a USB port; so when it comes to something that puts productivity first and play second, Surface RT is that no brainer device especially at that very competitive price point.


I have both so I ain’t complaining :P



  1. Nice.. thanks for the review, been waiting for a comparison..
    If my understanding is correct, 720p camera gives lower resolution than 5mp camera? So iPad’s rear camera is better than the Surface’s?

  2. Hi Ben, I’m wondering how is the Surface’s performance up until now, seeing it has been almost a month, does it lag or anything?
    Also, do you think it’d be suitable for university use? I’m entering university soon and want to get something that is not overly pricey, light and basically just surfing random sites, writing and completing assignments (no gaming, rarely load movies, etc.) Or should I just forget this and go for ultrabooks and sorts?
    I’d appreciate your opinion. Thanks very much!

    • Wassup Sue!

      I absolutey love it ;) does it lag? Well, if I say none at all I’d be lying… it lags when you go to complex websites like where they use a lot of scripting on the site. Otherwise, most places you surf to like YouTube, Facebook etc will be perfectly fine.

      For university use? If your work revolves around Microsoft word, PowerPoint, excel – this is a perfect companion.

      Do remember this is Surface RT though, so you cannot install any other desktop software like Adobe Photoshop apart from the preinstalled ones like Microsoft Office and applications you download from the Windows Store.

      Oh yes, you’ll be amazed with the battery life and pls remember to buy the Type keyboard instead of the Touch keyboard.

      Go checkout the device and play with it before you decide.

      Have fun!

      • Thanks for replying! I’ve just checked it out at Harvey Norman, it is quite nice. However, since I’m not at all familiar with Windows 8/rt and Windows store, this might be a dumb question to ask.
        You know how on desktops we need adobe reader, java and flashplayer to be able to see a full site or see embedded things? How does this go about with Surface?
        Thanks again!

  3. Its got all that :) there’s a built in reader app that opens pdf files… you can also download the acrobat reader from the windows store if you like

    • I see. Alright, thanks so much for helping! And sorry for taking up your time. Thank you and have a great day!

  4. Hi Ben, thanks for the review and video. They help a lot. Do you mind to advice me which do you think is better i.e., Surface or Samsung ATIV as I am contemplating to choose between these two. My preference should be speed and weight. More of work than play. Thanks and regards, Sida.

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