Here to Help

Since 2002, we've been helping Irish primary teachers in all areas of the job, from advice on technology to getting a job. We also post regularly on all social media. We're here to help so ask us anything.

Blog Post

Review: Microsoft Surface RT

During the summer, Microsoft offered schools a heavy discount on their tablet, Surface RT. Costing less than €200, Surface RT had all the power of any other tablet on the market but with a special version of Windows 8 on it. For anyone who has a computer with Windows 8, you’ll have heard that it was made for touchscreens so I was expecting great things from Microsoft’s tablet. Effectively, I wanted to find out two things:

[list style=”check”]
  • Could it replace my laptop in school?
  • Is it better than the iPad?

Image from

In this review, I’m not going to get into the geeky details of specs or anything like that. Suffice to say, it’s very fast and the touchscreen is very responsive. Using Windows 8 is dead easy once you learn a couple of swipes, e.g. to get the menu, you touch/swipe the side panel of the screen. Starting off with the big big positive: Surface RT comes with a complete Office suite. Better yet, it’s Microsoft Office. You get MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint. All work very well and although they are not the full versions of the Office you’d get on a PC, they perform well enough for me not to have missed anything.

One of the coolest things about Surface is its keyboard that doubles up as a cover. It snaps on via a magnet and works really well. It’s actually ok to type on and feels much more comfortable than a glass screen. Another cool feature is a flap built into the back of the Surface, which lets you prop the tablet up and use like a laptop. It looks and feels really cool!

Having MS Office alone makes it instantly attractive for schools. You can buy a lead that hooks your Surface to a projector too so you can show off presentations, etc. which is good. Another cool thing is that Surface comes with a USB port, which means you can plug it into loads of devices – cameras, USB sticks, printers, etc. This was a very good move by Microsoft, in my opinion.

You can download apps from Microsoft’s app store. I got a few bits and pieces but there aren’t really that many to choose from. I’m not much of an app person but as this is the only way of running any software, the very limited number of apps was worrying. Microsoft have promised 10,000 new apps shortly to the store, which should satisfy people.

The big problem for me is that while Surface looks like a Windows 8 machine, acts like a Windows 8 machine (complete with Windows 7 desktop in the background), in a frankly bizarre move, don’t allow users to run software that hasn’t been downloaded from their app store. I can’t think of any decent reason for this as there are so many brilliant pieces of software out there that could easily run on the tablet but because they haven’t been made available on the store, the tablet won’t let you run it.

Image from:

The reasoning behind this is, I guess, that the iPad only lets you run software downloaded from their appstore but when your tablet looks and feels and works like Windows, it’s frustrating not to be do everything Windows usually allows you to do. While the appstore is so limited in its apps, this makes it doubly frustrating. The other, and more serious problem, is that while the tablet can link up to many printers, it can’t link up to all of them, including the one I use at school. I know the iPad shares the same problem, but this was an opportunity missed.

There’s a couple of other annoyances, which I’m told are going to be fixed soon. For example, the App store doesn’t have an alternative browser such as Firefox or Chrome so you’re stuck with MS Internet Explorer, which is ok.

Overall, I still think I prefer the Surface RT with all its faults over the iPad. The keyboard and MS Office are a massive plus and because I’m not that bothered about apps, I’m able to do most things that I need. There is a camera and microphone so I can do lots of creative things using that. As I said, Microsoft have over 10,000 apps coming to their European store soon so when that happens, it will be interesting to see how they match up with Apple’s offerings. However, it definitely won’t be replacing my laptop in school. If I can’t print from it, it’s not going to be much good to me.

I’d imagine Microsoft already know that RT falls short of brilliance and their next incarnation will hopefully take away the silly restriction of the App store. However, I can’t imagine the price will be any where near the €200 mark but if it’s the same price as an iPad, I’d be diving straight for it.

Comments (0)

  1. Luke 14th September 2013 at 8:24 pm Reply

    The application issue with Windows RT is down to the hardware. It uses an ARM processor (same as iPad & Androids) instead of an Intel X86 CPU, so Windows applications all have to be completely rewritten for the ARM CPU. Another downside I found was the lack of space due to Windows OS taking up half the disk space, so a 32GB Surface RT really only has about 15GB free (the same as a 16GB iPad).

    1. simonmlewis 15th September 2013 at 8:28 am Reply

      Thanks, Luke. It’s just a bit frustrating to see something that looks like “full Windows” but doesn’t act like “full Windows”. If they even hid the desktop, expectations wouldn’t be as high!

  2. Clare Marie 17th September 2013 at 4:41 pm Reply

    If you had the option of buying a class set of these or half a class set of Ipads what would you recommend?

    1. simonmlewis 17th September 2013 at 9:06 pm Reply

      I’d go for a class set of these if I had to choose. However, if I didn’t have to choose, I’d wait for the next incarnation of Surface. I don’t think I’d buy an iPad yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Does Maths make you feel like a fool?

As it’s April Fool’s Day, here’s a puzzle that causes some bother for many

Review:Reading for Success Books 1-4 by Prim-Ed

Review:Reading for Success Books 1-4 published by Prim-Ed The Reading for Success Books have been

Create Calm Dining Halls

Review:How to Create Calm Dining Halls by Jenny Mosley This book aims to help schools

Review: New Wave Pre-Writing Patterns by Prim-Ed Publishing

Review: New Wave Pre-Writing Patterns by Prim-Ed Publishing  I have a couple of products to

Review: Comprehension and Critical Thinking Digital Games:Prim-Ed

Review: Comprehension and Critical Thinking Digital Games:Prim-Ed  You may have read my reviews on Prim-Ed’s Maths

Review&Competition:Language Games Galore-CD ROM

Review&Competition:Language Games Galore-CD ROM have been sent a whole bundle of wonderful CD-ROMs from

Review & Competition: Literacy Boxes (Prim-Ed)

Review:The Literacy Box 1-3 from Prim-Ed  If you have read my review on Writing Prompts

Review: 101 activities to help children get on with each together by Jenny Mosley and Helen Sonnet

Review: 101 activities to help children get on with each together by Jenny Mosley

Review: Dyce Game

NOTE: New version has been released. This is a repost of original review with

Review: MiTouch Interactive Touchscreen

The Interactive Whiteboard is dead! Long live the Interactive Touchscreen! This is what people

Tablet Review October 2014

Almost everyone is interested in buying sets of tablets for their schools these days. 2014

Review: Cé mhéad cat? Smarty Cat Games

Review: Cé mhéad cat? Smarty Cat Games We have been sent some very attractive and

10 Educational Books that have stayed with me

Facebook is awash with challenges from ice-buckets to listing how you’re grateful for the

5 Websites for the beginning of the school year

With all primary schools in Ireland now open for the 2014/15 year, I thought I’d share

Review &competition: Writing Prompts Boxes from Prim-Ed

Review: Writing Prompts Boxes from Prim-Ed  Writing prompts are a new product from Prim-Ed. They

Review:Jenny Mosley's Top Tips for Calmer Classrooms and Puppet Scripts

Review:Jenny Mosley’s Top Tips for Calmer Classrooms and Puppet Scripts  We love Jenny Mosley and

Review: Helix Library System

Computerised Library Systems for school seem to be the “in thing” these days and

Review: IPEVO Wireless Station

IPEVO are an interesting company. They make simple, affordable teaching tools and 32% of all primary schools in

Review: Fáilte go Sesame Street (Edco)

Fáilte go Sesame Street – Practise Irish with the Sesame Street Characters-New Irish Language

Review of Tablets: May 2014

I get quite a lot of emails from teachers asking for ICT advice. Over

Can a Drag Queen teach Primary School Children about Acceptance?

At, we don’t write enough about the arts in education, even though we’re

Review: Book Creator (iPad)

I am busy working on some lesson plans under the theme of the new

Is it time for Tablet Rental Schemes in Primary School?

From what I read in the media, Secondary schools seem obsessed with tablet rental

The Literacy Shed

In my free time, which isn’t very much, I love, love, love writing and

An Unbiased Look at the World of Tablets

It’s very difficult to find articles about tablet computers in education without it being

Review: Big Book of Cloze:Prim-Ed

Review: Big Book of Cloze:Prim-Ed Everyone loves a cloze test! They are tried and tested

Review:Developing Maths Concepts:Prim-Ed

Developing Maths Concepts in the Early Years:Prim-Ed This is a nice, chunky book for all

Prezi for Brainstorming

I got one of those mass emails from the guys at Prezi today showcasing

Review: Symmetry School

Creating educational games isn’t easy. It’s not the product itself that’s the difficult bit

End of Year Tablet has Surfaced

As we come to the end of a school year, the battle lines for

Review: Bullying( Prim Ed)

The Bullying photocopiable resource books are made up of three books-lower, middle and upper. They

Review: Know Your World (Edware)

Just when you think a game can’t get any better, Luke from Edware has

Review: Conflict resolution(Prim-Ed)

Conflict Resolution is a set of 3 teacher resource books from Prim-Ed. As teachers,

Review: Cloze:Interactive solution for teaching cloze skills-Prim-Ed

Review: Cloze:Interactive solution for teaching cloze skills-Prim-Ed Cloze is a CD-ROM developed by Prim-Ed for doing

Review:Prim-Ed Essentials…

I am in a writing group and we often debate various pieces of grammar.

Review: Scratch from Scratch

Scratch is a fantastic programming language that has taken the world of education by

Review:Dice Activities(Prim-Ed)

Dice Activities:Building number sense and power is a photocopiable teacher resource book available from

Review: MiTouch Interactive Monitor

Regular readers of may have noticed that there haven’t been many articles about

Review:Preparing for first reconciliation-a guide for families(Veritas)

Preparing for first reconciliation:A guide for families is aimed at families who want to

Know Your Ireland goes App

I suppose I wasn’t surprised to hear when I got a message from Edware

Maths: It’s Rocket Science summer course in Dunsink Observatory

Maths: It’s Rocket Science summer course in Dunsink Observatory I’ve been teaching for 12 years

Review: Cloud Cuckoo World

With the baffling cuts to language learning in our primary schools in a time

Review: Rí Rá (Coimicí Gael)

Rí Rá is a new Irish language comic for children. It is a bright

Review: 2012 Irish Olympics Team (Prim-Ed)

The Olympics will be held in London this year and Prim-Ed are the official

The Big Book of Energizers

The Big Book of Energizers September is always full of energy and optimism for teachers,

The Big Book of Calmers-Review

We all have had those days when the kids are hyped up and it

Review: Jenny Mosley – Golden Rules in Action

The Golden Rules have been part of many classrooms all over Ireland. Jenny Mosley

Review: Classroom Art and Crafts (Prim-Ed)

When I first saw this book, a feeling of dread came over me.  Art

Review: Céard É Sin? (ResourcED)

When it comes to educational software, Irish teachers can generally rely on other countries

Review:Positive Press:Singing Games-songs for learning and playing together

I really liked this book! It does what it says it should do! It comes

Review: Grace App (Steven Troughton-Smith)

For those of you who have any experience of working with children with autism,

Review(Positive Press):Clapping games:Whole brain workouts for lively children

Here we have some fun and stimulating clapping games for children from 1st Class

Review: ICTs in the Primary School

ICTs in the Primary School is a book published by the Dublin West Education

Review: Jenny Mosley's Golden Rules

Golden Rules Animal Story books(Positive Press:Jenny Mosley GR series) The Golden Rules have been part

Review:Prim-Ed:Bullying in a cyber world

Review:Prim-Ed:Bullying in a cyber world Prim-Ed have produced a set of 4 books on the

Review: Know Your Money

Edware have decided to branch out of the geography market and have now entered

Review:Songs and finger plays for the early years-Prim-Ed

Review:Songs and finger plays for the early years-Prim-Ed Songs and finger plays for the early

Review: Easi-Speak (TTS)

Easi-Speak from TTS The Easi-Speak from TTS is a microphone designed for children. As with

Review: The Vikings in Ireland (CDGA)

The Vikings in Ireland is a CD-ROM designed to teach children about the lives

Review: Fizzbook Spin

Schools have been hearing about the Fizzbook Spin for ages but with the IPPN

Review of the Year – Top of the Class 2010 takes a look back on some of the products we reviewed and awarded

Review: Early Years Themes (Prim-Ed)

Junior Infants are one of the most fun classes to teach. The children

Review: Signposts

If you work in an Educate Together school, one of the biggest challenges is

Review: Reading with Phonics( Prim-Ed)

Reading with Phonics:Phonics in context-Early Readers( Prim-Ed) Reading with Phonics is a set of 3

Review: Qwizdom Actionpoint Q6

One device that hasn’t “gone viral” in a big way in Irish classrooms is

Review: eGaeilge 1 (CDGA)

Last week, I reviewed CDGA’s software Reading Tracks 1. I thought that the

Review of Think Green: Environmental studies in geography:(Prim-Ed)

Think Green are a new 5-book series from Prim-Ed that aim to teach environmental

Thematic planning using India (Prim-Ed)

“India-a cross curricular theme” is a new set of 3 photocopiable teacher resource book

Reading Tracks 1 (CDGA)

Reading Tracks is the first in a series of educational games designed and written

Exploring Visual Arts (Prim-Ed)

Exploring Visual Arts is a new 3-part series divided into 3 age brackets. 5-7,

Handwriting Today (Prim-Ed)

When I received the package of Handwriting books from Prim-ed, I must admit, I

Purple Mash

In Ireland, we use a lot of technology resources from other countries. Our market

NCCA Planning Toolkit

Out of the blue, a few days ago, the NCCA released an online planning

The Comprehension Box (Prim-Ed)

When a large box arrived on my doorstep, I got very excited! It wasn’t

S.A.L.T Teaching children how to deal with conflict.

The S.A.L.T. Programme is an innovative programme, specially developed for the Irish Curriculum and

Spell Rite Right (Learning Horizons)

I worked with a small group of children in the Support setting for the

Literacy through Science (Prim-Ed)

Let’s take two reasonably unrelated subjects – English and Science – and integrate them.

Investigating Renewable Energy and Sustainability (Prim-Ed)

Being green has never been more important.  It is often said that the companies

Iomega StorCenter ix4-200d

Memory Bank is a wholesale provider of technology products and services. They supply companies

Puffins by Vincent Hyland

Vincent Hyland Learning is a Kerry-based company founded by the man himself.  Vincent is

Review: Wizteach (Qwizdom)

Every so often, a piece of software comes along which tries to steal the

SESE Interactive

I spent some time looking at SESE Interactive, the latest piece of software from

Review: Grammar & Word Study (Prim-Ed)

How do you make grammar more fun for kids?  That’s the question that’s never

BrainSnack (Prim-Ed)

BrainSnack comes in a very big box full of big shiny cards with problems

Review: Problem-solving in Mathematics (Prim-Ed)

As a fan of facilitating higher-order thinking skills, I always get very worried when

Review: Aladdin Schools

One of the interesting things about the Expo at the Irish Primary Principals Network

YTeach (Prim-Ed)

YTeach is a new online resource aimed at children from 3rd class upwards. When

Turn your school around

This review is the last of a four part “Jenny Mosely” book month that

I was asked to review the web site, which is an online eLearning

Ask us a Question !

You will get a notification email when Knowledgebase answerd/updated!

+ = Verify Human or Spambot ?