Surface RT as a Desktop Replacement – an Experiment

Surface RT

Surface RT as a desktop machine for two weeks.  And why not?

I want to remind everyone that Surface RT is not designed for this. It is technically designed as a tablet, just like an iPad. But since it has gotten so much criticism over this, I decided to actually try it out as my main desktop machine.  The results were surprisingly good.

By the way, you can duplicate this set up with a Surface Pro too.

Here is the setup I used:

What you need to duplicate it:

1) Surface RT (obviously) – or Pro if that’s what you have.

2) Monitor – I bought ViewSonic 27-Inch Monitor and absolutely love it!

3) Surface 5 in 1 USB Adapter – This one is handy because you can also use it to read different size SD cards: SD/SDHC/MMC4.0 and Micro SD/SDHC.

4) Video Adapter – In my case, I used MicroHDMI to DVI but to see which one you would need check out my table on different video adapters for the Surfaces.

5) Keyboard – I love ergonomic stuff because my wrists hurt all the time, so I used this Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard


6) Mouse – I used a wireless Microsoft Mobile Mouse, you can get it in black or white.

7) RT Power Supply – If you’re going to set this up as you “docking station”, then I’d recommend you get a spare one and besides it’s nice to have two anyway.

8) Speakers – Totally optional; I used my existing ones but you can get a nice Bluetooth speaker like this Portable Bluetooth Wireless Rechargeable Mini Speaker System.

9) Oh yeah, and you’ll need a desk to put this all on too.

After a little tweaking, this setup turned out quite nice.  I really liked it.

Some of the software I used:

  • Obviously, the whole Office Suite that’s built-in: Excel, Word, PowerPoint
  • Foxit Mobile
  • FotoEditor
  • Paint
  • Movie Edit Touch
  • OneNote
  • WordPress
  • Skype
  • Kindle
  • Box Sync
  • and more..

So now, how it functioned:

The Pros – things I liked:

  • I was very surprised how well this worked. Surface RT is obviously not as fast as Suface Pro or a laptop but it was fast enough.  I used it as my main machine for everything: from writing posts, to managing my websites, to editing images, to creating Excel spreadsheets, to paying bills, to surfing the web.  It just worked.
  • I loved that Office was built-in and I didn’t have to buy it.
  • I installed a bunch of apps from the Windows Apps Store and they all worked just fine.
  • It was very convenient to “plug in to the docking setup” for a desktop experience or just “unplug and go” for a tablet.
  • All the apps I used, had no problems.  I experienced no issues. Everything loaded and ran fine. I created posts, webpages, took notes, originated my business files and finances.  Worked great.

The Cons – things I didn’t like:

  • No Java support on IE 10 for RT. This was a pain when I was trying to use a web-based java chat, couldn’t get it to work because add-ons are not allowed in IE10 RT.
  • I could not edit Google Docs. This is not RT’s problem, it’s a problem with Google and everyone else.  Their stuff just doesn’t play nice together.  I could view the docs but I could not edit them. I suspect it has something to do with the Java support.
  • No options for other internet browsers. This is probably the thing that I found most annoying. I really like to use Firefox but there is no option to install any other browser on the RT.

I liked the experience. I think one can definitely use the Surface RT as a desktop and run a business out of it. It will be a little bit slower and it does have some drawbacks but it is possible and quite doable.  I can see if one had an on-the-go job that required a tablet and then needed it at home for running a business (or whatever), I think it would work just fine: can’t beat the ease of integration if you’re using one device.  Given the fact that the Surface RT was not designed to be a laptop/desktop replacement, I would give it 5 smilies for its performance in this experiment.


Now, don’t get me wrong, if you have the money to buy both the Surface RT and a desktop at home and you don’t mind transferring files back and forth; then get them both. Better yet, you could use this set up for a Surface Pro if you want something with a little more power.

You may also like our posts: Comparing Surface Rt/Pro/iPad and Accessories for the Surfaces.


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