Surface and iPad mini: Keep or return?

A few months ago, I got over my longstanding objection to buying gadgets just so I could review them. It beats waiting for a distracted or picky PR department to send a loaner unit, and it ensures I get the same hardware any reader might buy.

But unless I’m going to become a one-man stimulus program for the electronics industry, I can’t keep everything I buy to test. When I tried the iPhone 5, for instance, I had to return the phone within Verizon Wireless’s 14-day trial to avoid sentencing myself to a two-year contract.

(Returning used devices usually entails a restocking fee, but it would take a lot of those to equal what I spent on the ONA conference fee alone, much less all the other expenses it takes to stay in business.)

That brings me to my two latest review purchases: Apple’s iPad mini and the Microsoft Surface.

Going into this, I might have picked the iPad as the one more likely to go. We already own an iPad, I’d been leaning towards getting the Nexus 7 as our smaller tablet, and the absence of restocking fees at Apple’s stores would make returning it a cost-free proposition. The Surface, on the other hand, would be a new type of device in my home, and it would also allow me to experience Windows 8’s interface on hardware designed for it.

But now I’m thinking I’ll keep the mini and return the Surface. It’s a great little device, especially for use away from home, and our iPad 2 is starting to run out of space between the apps I’ve put on it for test purposes and those my wife uses for her job. Meanwhile, I don’t need Microsoft’s tablet to test Windows RT apps when my ThinkPad’s copy of Windows 8 also runs them. The Surface itself is too heavy to carry around as a tablet; when I tried using it on my lap, the Touch Cover flexed distractingly with my typing and the kickstand didn’t stop the screen from wobbling back and forth.

Plus, my MacBook Air only weighs a pound more than the combined Surface and Touch Cover but can do a lot more. It also cost twice as much–but that money was spent long before I set foot in a Microsoft Store to buy a Surface.

So that’s what I think I’ll do. If you think I’m making a huge mistake, you have until tonight to talk me out of it in the comments.

11/11/12, 10:34 a.m. Welcome, Loop Insight readers! I did, in fact, return the Surface last night–and found myself next to another Surface buyer at Microsoft’s Pentagon City store who was doing the same thing, for about the same reasons. The clerk apologized for the tablet not meeting our expectations and suggested that the upcoming Surface Pro might be a better fit. He could be right.

Author: robpegoraro

Freelance journalist who covers (and is often vexed by) computers, gadgets and other things that beep.

34 thoughts on “Surface and iPad mini: Keep or return?”

  1. Your Thinkpad runs Windows 8, but cannot run Windows RT applications. Only ARM-based Surface tablets can run RT applications. The Thinkpad can run new “metro”-style livetile applications, but those only look like RT applications; under the hood they can be entirely different. This is a huge failure on the part of Microsoft’s marketing department, and the company’s focus as a whole.

    1. You are wrong here. The Windows Store Apps that run on both Windows RT and Windows 8 are the same. The APIs, tools, and languages for developing them are the same between the two platforms.

      The only places where running Windows 8 to review Windows Store Apps falls short with regards to the RT versions is regarding availability and performance. A small number of apps will not have the option selected for Windows RT availability, which you wouldn’t be able to comment on. The performance characteristics of an ARM device are quite different to an Intel which may affect your experience.

      I think Rob has made a good decision here which fits his circumstances. The Surface and iPad Mini are very different devices and, from his description, it seems the latter better suits a gap in his gadget needs.

      1. thanks for correcting me. in that case, Microsoft’s marketing has done an even worse job than I’d though! obviously I have done some reading into the topic, and even after a slew of windows supersite articles, that was not clear to me.

        I wasn’t saying he’d made a poor decision though. I would have done the same thing. just didn’t want him to return the one thinking the laptop could run the same apps. glad I was wrong about that.

  2. You don’t need the Surface of you already have an iPad and a MacBook Air and a Wintel PC.

    But if all you had was the Surface and iPad mini and no other devices, if I were you I would return the Surface and get a second iPad mini and a Wintel net book running Windows 8. Then you and your wife would both have iPad minis and you would both have an account on a Wintel PC, and your total I-T spending is about $1000 for all 3 devices, and you can run iOS PC apps, iOS phone apps, Wintel apps, and Metro apps.

    Surface is just too expensive when it costs the same as one Wintel PC and one iPad mini put together.

  3. I’m shocked someone’s even considering keeping a Surface. Hehe. But as someone mentioned, Air + iPad beats surface every time. And Surface can’t replace Air + iPad due to performance, bugs, weight, and many other issues.

  4. I agree with returning the Surface and keeping the iPad Mini. I have the 32 GB Mini and find it to be a fantastic device. I moved from the original iPad to the Mini and find a great speed boost and love the small size. I am using it constantly. It is such a novelty to me to call my iphone using friends via facetime on the iPad Mini.

  5. I tried a Surface at the Microsoft store in Costa Mesa. What a piece of junk! The fact that a 32 gig Surface has barely more usable space as a 16 gig iPad makes the choice a no-brainier. And then you add all the other problems with it and it’s hard to understand why MS thought this device was ready for prime time. Not even close.

  6. Keep the iPad mini because of all the apps available. I had a Nexus 7 but gave it away because there are no tablet apps and reading is better on the iPad mini. The Surface is really a light weight laptop that isn’t comfortable on your lap. For me it’s all about apps and portability.

  7. In case anybody’s wondering what happened to the most recent comment here: You can disagree with me or any other commenter as much as you want, but if you start throwing around sexist insults (or ones about somebody’s race, religion or sexual orientation), I reserve the right as proprietor of this establishment to trash your worthless input.

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