microsoft surface rt

Last year Microsoft did something radically different when it came to new PCs. In addition to releasing the more touch friendly Windows 8 and Windows RT, they announced their own Surface line of tablets to go with it. These Windows tablets were designed and made by Microsoft directly– not HP, Lenovo, Acer, Dell or any other Windows PC maker and they have nice designs and some cool keyboard covers that “click” in (like in these ads for the Surface that were seemingly everywhere earlier this year). Over the weekend Microsoft dropped the price of the 32GB Surface RT down to $350, and the 64GB Surface RT down to $450 (both a discount of $150). With back-to-school season approaching this would seem like a great deal, but you may want to wait before you buy a new Surface RT.

If you’re looking for a tablet to replace your laptop for taking notes in class this may be the perfect tablet for you. The Surface RT (like other Windows RT tablets) comes with Office 2013 Home and Student pre-loaded, meaning you will have access to the full versions of Word, OneNote, Excel and PowerPoint right out of the bow. The RT’s NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor also is great for battery life, giving you somewhere between 8-10 hours or much better than most laptops and similar to the iPad’s. While this is all great, if you were looking for something to be a full laptop replacement then you may want to pass on this.

The Surface RT runs Windows RT which means that while it has Office, it can’t install any apps that aren’t available in the Windows Store, which is still really lacking in good apps especially compared to what’s available for the iPad regular Windows 8 PCs. This means no iTunes, Spotify, Chrome or any other app that you would download online on a regular Windows 8 laptop or tablet with an Intel or AMD processor. For the breakdown on the differences between Windows RT and Windows 8 see our earlier post here.

The full “PC-version” of Surface is called the Surface Pro and while it looks identical to the RT, it runs on a more powerful Intel processor with the regular Windows 8 and comes with either 64GB or 128GB of storage. Microsoft didn’t cut the price of the Surface Pro and as of this writing it still starts at around $900 for the 64GB version, though you can get 10% off that when you use your student ID at the Microsoft Store.  And while the Surface RT comes with Office 2013 Home and Student pre-loaded, Staples, Best Buy and the Microsoft Store are all giving away 4 free years of Office 365 University (which also includes the full versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) when you buy a new touch-enabled Windows 8 PC or tablet like Surface Pro.

Throw in the fact that the Surface RT is also almost one year old and the strong rumors that Microsoft is planning some major updates to the Surface RT and Surface Pro soon (updates that would make the RT much faster thanks to a new Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and that would give the Pro much better battery life from Intel’s new “Haswell” chips), and you may want to skip this deal for now.

If you’re fine with your current computer though and just want a tablet that runs Office for school then the RT at this price is a solid option. Otherwise, its best to save the $350 and put it towards a full Windows 8 PC.