How Windows RT Lightened One Email-Addicted NVIDIAN’s Load

Oh $#!%.

It was 6:55 in the morning and I was in an airport parking lot. I was about to embark on a business trip and had just given my backpack a hard tug and unexpectedly yanked it into my face. I quickly realized it was missing something: my laptop. My stomach hurt.

Then I remembered I hadn’t forgotten my laptop. I had replaced it –  with a tiny tablet/notebook hybrid, Microsoft’s new Surface RT. This lighter load would take getting used to. This trip would be the first time in 12 years I had left the office without a laptop.

A little about me: I double dip in my PR role here at NVIDIA, getting the story out about our notebook GPUs and the Windows RT devices that use NVIDIA’s Tegra processors.  So, on my latest road trip to talk about GeForce Experience I decided to put my Surface RT to the test. In tech we call this ‘eating your own dog food.’

Eating The Dog Food

Brian's backpack looking quite empty without his laptop.
Big bag, tiny tablet.

And I was about to take an awfully big bite. NVIDIA is a very ‘email-centric’ company. People who join NVIDIA are often overwhelmed by the volume of email. Hundreds of notes come in each day. Smartphones can’t handle it. So can an email-addicted PR guy survive without his trusted laptop?  After that scare in the parking lot, my trip got better. When the plane took off, I reached for my Surface RT. Where did I get all this space? The laptop backpack I had come to love was now grossly oversized. My Surface RT looked ridiculous in there, like it was hiding in a wizard’s sleeve.

My flight had Wi-Fi, so I checked the weather, read some sports updates and hit my favorite websites.  Now off to work, as I’m knee deep in email already. Answering all those messages was a breeze thanks to the Surface’s type cover. My tray table was plenty big enough even with the dude in front of me reclining.

My email revealed a new embargo date for GeForce Experience.  Windows RT tablets come preinstalled with Office, so I opened my PowerPoint presentation and made the edit.  You can’t do that with just any tablet. Excited that I had just become a case study for Windows RT tablets, I opened Word and started this blog post.  I even squeezed in an episode of Freaks and Geeks on Netflix before we landed.

Upon arrival at the hotel for set-up I learned that my colleague had the presentation on his MacBook Pro, but did not have the proprietary cable needed to display it on a TV.  No problem, I have a mini HDMI port on my Surface RT.  Using it in tablet mode to present was awesome.  I never had to look away from our guests, so I was more engaged, and I could see the upcoming slide and even cheat by referring to my presentation notes to get my specs right. Perfect.

Brian and his Surface RT.
Surface RT turned out to be the perfect portable presentation tool. 

A Battery Life Measured In Days

Wednesday was a full day of presentations, and about half way through my Surface was down to 16 percent battery life, so I plugged it in between meetings.  An editor for CNET noticed, so I explained that the last time I plugged it in was Monday night.  It had handled a heavy workload for a day and half, and still had some battery left.

I loved traveling without a notebook, but I am adding a messenger bag to my Christmas list. I’m not going to risk bonking myself in the face again.

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  • Alexander ypema

    Still don’t get why people are so eager to throw out desktops and laptops. My 12 inch thinkpad with i5 ivybridge and 8GB RAM outruns any tablet and any smartphone by factors, not just percentages. It has 3G, GPS and a day’s worth battery life, for about the same price as a surface.
    Tablets are a nice addition if you’re a lazy couchsitter like me that just likes the ease of touchscreens when it comes to browsing and media applications. But business-heavy stuff especially with a lot of email traffic? There’s a reason my smartphone has a hardware keyboard too. I hate touchscreen typing. And while the surface does have a sort of hardkeyboard, as soon as I have to write anything longer than 500 characters I’ll just whip out my laptop.
    There’s just a place and a time for things; When you want to have a combination of things, like power and portability, you’ll end up with strange schizophrenic compromises.
    I have a phone with 3G/GPS that runs google maps fine, yet I still have a tomtom.
    I have a laptop with a decent quadcore and 8GB RAM that runs most anything fine yet I still have a desktop.
    I have a tablet that does browsing and things just fine yet I still have a laptop.
    Aforementioned phone also have a decent 8mp camera with flash, yet I still have a DSLR.
    And no, I’m just a student. I don’t have a lot of money, I just happen to spend the money that I do get over the years on technology. These things are really essential to me.

    Don’t get me wrong, the surface seems nice, just, it’s not gonna replace my laptop, ever.

  • Ben Fletcher

    You spent $400 on a Thinkpad with an Ivy Bridge i5, 8GB of RAM, 3G and a GPS? I’m skeptical, but if you did, I’d like to know how/when/where.

  • Alexander ypema

     No, mine costed around 900$ but when you google the price for the surface you’ll find it around the same height, interestingly enough.
    This is also a thing that makes it less likely for me to buy it. I already have a tablet AND a laptop, for that price you’ll get a whole lot more punch in any other kind of hardware than the surface. So the market is rather niche, of course.

  • Brian Caulfield

    Thanks for weighing in. I’m a laptop addict, too. I can’t imagine going through a day at the office without one. But — like Burke — I’m taking my tablet with me to more and more offsite appointments. I even take it to meetings around the office when I’m feeling too lazy to un-dock my laptop. 

  • Mike Fried

    When I was younger, I had a 14″ CRT connected to a computer running Windows 95 on a 66MHz 486 which had maybe 16MB of RAM, worked fine with the Microsoft Office of the day, and I could develop and test apps on it in VB or play games in DOS. My iPhone 5 is 1GHz+ with multiple cores, multiple GPU cores, and more memory than I had HDD capacity for over a decade, and more flash ram and internet connectivity than I need. So it’s hyperbole to say that you can’t manage your email without a larger device. I often use my 4″ screen to read and reply to these kinds of messages. What the surface *can’t* do is play the innovative games developed exclusive to the iOS ecosystem like Infinity Blade and Infinity Blade II. The issue of someone with a Mac without a Mini DisplayPort adapter is the fault of that person for not having the right accessory. I carry a MDP to DVI-D adapter that enables 2560×1600 level resolutions with my MacBookPro. It works great running Windows 7 with the NVIDIA GeForce 320M and the full version of PowerPoint runs on both Windows and Mac OS. I’m not going to ditch my 2010 $1300 laptop with all the accessories I added to it for a $600 surface tablet. What I _will_ do is install Visual Studio on my MBP and maybe Windows 8 or Server 2012 to develop apps on a surface. Just like I have XCode on the Mac OS to develop apps for iOS. If Microsoft really wants people to ditch their iOS tablets, they need to bring something like Visual Studio (but something more *fun*) to the tablets. If I could develop with a more visual programming language by dragging smarter code objects together, I might ditch my PC… The truth is that the keyboard + mouse paradigm is hard to replace. Touch is great for the 1/1000th of the apps that embrace it. The UIs I’ve seen in iOS and Android and Surface look like well done evolution of the Windows 3.1 Program Manager paradigm. We were there in the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Brian_Caulfield

    Posting on behalf of Brian Burke, because of some issues with our commenting system..

    Hi Alexander,

    You make some very good points, several of which I agree with.

    I am by no means replacing my laptop. My work rig is a laptop connected to a second display and a full size keyboard and mouse.  I’m posting from it right now.  It is great for the daily grind. 

    And it will not go anywhere….. well the laptop will not the display and stuff.

    I have been using a laptop for work exclusively for years and years (I have a gaming desktop but it is just for gaming).  I loved the set up for work and the fact that I can take it with me.  But when I took my tiny Surface with Windows RT on the road I never missed my laptop.   It did every task I normally did with my laptop.  It also did stuff may laptop could not do when I used it in tablet mode.  And my load was significantly lighter.

    But when I got back in the office I turned back to my laptop, full size keyboard and second display.

    It is not a replacement, but another tool you could put in your bag.  I like having a keyboard AND a tablet option, and I like access to the Office apps. I’m not saying my tool bag is right
    for everyone.  But it is right for me.  And I wanted to share my experience in case it helps folks pick the right tool for them.

  • Alexander ypema

     Perhaps it’s just my specific workload that makes me unable to really throw out my laptop; I do a lot of programming and managing related tasks.
    Not that I dislike tablets though, when I go out and hang with friends at their home or sit on the couch and have a moment off work I prefer taking my tablet with me because it’s better adapted to leisure activities and quick overviews of information (like server webinterfaces and such).

    I very much agree it’s a good addition to what we already have, but what I’m seeing is that most of these ‘tablet advocating’ articles try to convince people to let a tablet replace all their other appliances. In fact, Microsoft has gone so far they make the (formerly known as) Metro interface mandatory for every platform, regardless of whether you’re on a desktop, laptop, or tablet, and whether or not you have a touchscreen and touchpad that’s required for taking full advantage of the interface.

    I don’t see it replace my other appliances, my work simply doesn’t allow me to do that without sacrificing usability. Typing and doing keyboard and mouse and large screenspace intensive tasks like developing and managing CAN be done on any device these days because of the amazing advances in nanotechnology such as smartphones, but the small formfactor and lack of the three aforementioned makes them not very useful despite having plenty processing power for some of the tasks.

  • Brian_Caulfield

    “The truth is that the keyboard + mouse paradigm is hard to replace.”
    Can’t agree more. I have a keyboard for my Nexus 7 that’s bigger than the thing itself. Can’t replace my notebook, but the combo is better for note-taking and light email in many situations. 

  • Brian_Caulfield

    From Brian Burke, the post’s author (we’re having some trouble with the commenting system today):

    I’m not replacing anything. I’m adding.

    And, I’m not advocating one platform over the other. 

    If you like MacBook Pros with a killer Retina Display or iMacs,
    just get one with GeForce. : ) 

    If you like PC, get a desktop, notebook or RT tablet with NVIDIA inside.

    Like Android? We got you covered. Whatever floats your boat.

    But doing email on a phone is not great for me… looks good on you though.

  • Brian_Caulfield

    Great points, but my tablet has changed the way I use my laptop computer. I tend to leave it docked more, treating it as a ‘desktop’ machine, and I tend to tote around a tablet to meetings or appointments where in the past I would have taken a laptop. That said, there’s not a chance I’m giving up my laptop (yet). 

  • Andy Houghton

    Loved your expression ‘eating your own dog food.’ That’s great. I’m trying out my Surface RT right now too. So far, so good. I was too scared to not bring my laptop along with it on my last business trip, but I actually only ended up using my RT.