Over the weekend, Microsoft announced stiff price cuts to the Surface RT in the US. Here there’s been no announcements, but some slightly more limp cuts in any case. Just a case of clearing the decks before a new model comes out, or a flag of surrender?
Back when I reviewed the original Surface RT for ABC’s Technology+Games, I came to the rather swift conclusion that it wasn’t a tablet computer that was particularly worth investing the full asking price in. A bit too slow, a solid kickstand that never quite works on the lap and a whole heap of program incompatibility made it less than optimal in my opinion. I haven’t yet reviewed the Pro, because it took some time to launch here in Australia, and when it did, according to Microsoft, they had no review units they could provide to me.
Over the weekend, Microsoft cut the US asking price by $150 for the retail Surface RT. Here in Australia, as Gus over at Lifehacker notes, there’s no official cut, but JB Hi-Fi is offering between $71-$80 off the prices of various Surface RT units, making them between $388-$608.
That’s better, and undeniably better value… but I still can’t help thinking it’d be wise to hold off, for two distinct reasons.
If it’s just a case that Surface RT: The Next Generation is imminent, then you’ll be left with a slower, less capable unit on your hands, and one that’s more likely to miss out on any future software updates. Remember that Surface RT doesn’t run Windows 8, because it’s not running on an x86 core.
What if it’s a run-out because Microsoft’s decided that all the money is in x86 anyway? I’d still advise caution. Surface RT’s application compatibility problems run deep, and unless you’re satisfied with just the basic office apps and IE, and can live with having the rest of your standard Windows apps inaccessible save through remote apps, it’s still a tough ask. That kind of money can easily buy a competent enough basic Windows 8 laptop, after all.
Before the hordes of RT defenders jump on me, I’m not the only one who draws that conclusion; Paul Thurrott’s view, based on the tastier US pricing, is essentially identical. I don’t hate touch-based Windows (indeed, I’m in the middle of testing out a pair of very tasty Windows 8 based devices right now), but I just can’t see the ongoing value in Windows RT.
There probably is a price point where I’d pick up an RT on a whim; the $99 TechEd pricing, for example, saw plenty of folks lining up to buy, and I would have been amongst them. But at $498 (I wouldn’t buy one without at least a keyboard) minimum, it’s still not a great buy.