Travel with a Surface RT

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, if you’re like me, you don’t want to haul any more on your trip than you absolutely need.

It just so happens that, one of the great things about tablet computers is their portability. It makes them a perfect device to take along with you on a trip. This is especially true when you are traveling for pleasure as I like to do. So, I thought I would share my thoughts and experience with my Surface RT tablet as a travel companion to help keep me entertained and in touch with my friends and family back home.

I divided my experiences into the following categories based on what’s important to me when traveling:

  1. Travel Portability
  2. Durability
  3. Internet Access
  4. In-flight Entertainment
  5. Storage of files and pictures
  6. Facebook
  7. Keeping in contact via Skype

So, let’s examine these things one at a time below…

1) Travel Portability

I’m a female and I do not want to lug a heavy brick in my bag when I travel.  I want something light and portable that will not give me a backache.  So, the lighter the better, as far as I’m concerned.  My Surface RT is only 1.5 lbs.  I tow it all over the place and really like that it’s light. Another advantage is that it does not get the same type of attention in airport security as a laptop might. In other words, you don’t have to turn it on to show to a TSA agent that it is actually a computer (not something else) while your bags are sitting unattended at the other end of the conveyor.

You simply take it out of the bag and slide it through the x-ray. No muss, no fuss. It doesn’t even get as second look from TSA. This makes life easier since I’ve seen quite a few people with laptops get the TSA “shake-down”.

I don’t know why the rules are different for tablets versus laptops but, I’m glad they are.

2) Durability

The Surface is made out of a material called VaporMag (and seems pretty durable).  With a keyboard cover protecting the screen, I’ve not had any problems. Obviously you would not want to throw the Surface (or any other tablet) around and expect that it would not suffer damage. However, with reasonable care, it stands up quite nicely to being in a backpack or a travel tote. I purchased a thin neoprene sleeve with handles for mine and it’s very convenient to carry in and outside of other bags.

3) Internet Access

As most other tablet devices my Surface RT easily connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi.  It can be set up to auto-connect to a specific Wi-Fi network (like a hotel or a coffee shop) and I find this seamless and convenient.  It also has an airplane mode that can be turned on when Wi-Fi is not wanted. It would be nice if it had 3G or better for traveling in the US but outside of the US (where those international roaming fees are so expensive) it’s actually better that it doesn’t.

4) In-flight entertainment

For in-flight entertainment I am pretty happy with the Surface RT.  I’ve not had any battery life problem using it for entire 4 hour flights, reading books or playing games, and I usually have battery to spare.

When I’m on the plane I tend to do two things:

  • Games – I am not a huge gamer but there are a few games I like to have when I travel.  Sadly there is not currently a large selection of games for Surface RT but, it’s getting better. I have a list of favorites I like to play and I can find about 1/2 of them for free and, maybe another 1/4 of the games for a fee in the Windows Store. Unfortunately about 1/4 of the games I like, I simply can’t get on my Surface. I also have a Windows 8 Phone and, surprisingly I can find more games and apps on it than for the Surface RT.  This is somewhat disappointing.
  • Books – I use the Kindle app for reading my books and it works very well.  It’s about the same as experience as reading Kindle books on a PC. Me Gusta!

5) Storage of files and pictures

The Surface RT is great for sharing files with your phone using the SkyDrive App. You can easily upload pictures and documents to the cloud but, as Tim mentioned in a previous post you can’t access SkyDrive without an Internet connection.  Unfortunately, in addition to that, the Windows RT does not allow for Bluetooth transfer of files between a phone and the tablet. That is a bit of a bummer because it would be nice to have that capability if internet is not available.

Those things aside, the Surface does have a several things going for it. For example, the full-size USB port means you can pull images off of your camera to look at them on a bigger screen or upload them to Facebook to make your friends jealous.

Also, don’t forget that it has some internal storage that can be expanded with the addition of a MicroSD card. That means that you can use the Surface to copy pictures off of your camera and free up space so you can take more.

6) Facebook

Now that we have our pictures, Facebook can be used both via the browser (I actually prefer this method) or via a couple of apps downloaded from the store.  As long as Internet access is good, Facebook via the web browser works just fine. The Apps vary a bit depending on how they were written but most of them work as advertised. I currently use FaceBook Touch when I’m not using the browser version. You can download it from the Windows Store.

7) Keeping in contact via Skype

The Skype app from the Windows Store is easy to use and works quite well.  I actually think that the Surface’s quality of the camera is pretty good and so is the sound quality. It’s by no means a High Definition experience when you’re Skypeing with your friends but it’s good enough to make them a bit jealous when they have snow outside and you’re on a beach vacation.

And that’s it. I hope you find my experience traveling with a Surface helpful and share your thoughts.


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