Microsoft Surface, Windows RT and International Travels

Usually when I am on travels away from home I pack quite a comprehensive technology bag including cameras (a tough camera and a higher end replaceable lens camera) as well as a backup smartphone, tablet and a laptop. The laptop I have been packing recently is a MacBook Pro but decided to throw caution to the wind and see if I could survive just with my new Microsoft Surface running Windows RT.

This was unchartered territory for me. Normally, I would have the comfort of a full blown operating system (be it Mac OS X or Windows 7/8) there to fall back on if my tablet wasn’t cutting the mustard. Going all in with Windows RT was potentially going to be a risk even if it did have a touch keyboard on it with a built-in trackpad. For good measure, I packed my Logitech Performance Mouse MX which would work on virtually any surface (no pun intended, truly). My wife did bring her MacBook Air so that was a potential fall back option if required.

So, how did a week in Thailand go?

Well, I was able to continue blogging without a fuss at all. I have used Metro IE10 for all of my blogging and browsing without a hitch apart from one website that wanted to use Flash but wasn’t in Microsoft’s whitelist. I could have gotten around that manually but I lived with it. The Wi-Fi in the room and around the hotel meant that a lack of cellular data capability was not a problem (not that I would use it internationally given the crazy rates but could be a factor for domestic travel). I have made do with the touch cover but I wouldn’t turn down a type cover with physical keys if I had the opportunity to get one – it’s very much a case of getting used to the lack of tactile feedback.

The Microsoft Surface also survived long stretches of time away from the power socket. In our little hut by the pool where we would laze for up to ten hours. Despite the presence of power sockets in the hut to keep devices juiced up by I deliberately chose to keep the Surface off power and the Surface managed over nine hours on average per session. Plus, recharging back in the room was very quick thanks to the beefed up yet non-standard charger. In Thai hotels, you may have a choice between 110V and 220V sockets so make sure you use the 220V socket where possible for the quickest recharge time.

The full-sized USB 2.0 port has also been handy for use with the wireless mouse transceiver plus giving me the ability to plug in flash storage if required. I’ve not required extra storage though on this trip. Furthermore, since Windows RT support VPNs in the same way as regular Windows I can connect back to my home network to retrieve or save files as well as securing my internet traffic from prying eyes on the unencrypted Wi-Fi network at the hotel.

The only real drawback I have encountered is that my Fitbit wireless base station does not have a driver for Windows RT. This I so I can keep track of my step and calorie counts during the day particularly as I visit the gym in the mornings when on holiday. Windows RT does correctly identify the base station but fails to initialise it given the lack of driver. I have made do with hooking up the base station to my wife’s MacBook Air but it seems like the Surface Pro would provide the advantage here.

All in all, the Microsoft Surface and Windows RT have done a good job in meeting my needs and certainly gives me more confidence to travel without a full blown laptop in the future (at least for shorter travels).

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