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At $349, the Microsoft Surface RT is suddenly worth a look

With news that Microsoft has officially knocked $150 off the Surface RT’s price, the tablet has suddenly jumped onto my radar as something I might want to buy. It isn’t because I’ve always wanted one — that isn’t the case at all. I’ve owned many different tablets but have never felt the pull toward a Microsoft device. And it isn’t because I’m unhappy with my current slate. I have never used a tablet as much as I use my iPad mini and, short of a Retina upgrade, I feel it’s going to be very tough to beat.

So why do I think the Surface RT is now worth checking out? By dropping the price $150, Microsoft seems to be admitting that the Surface RT can’t compete with the 9.7-inch iPad head-to-head. And it can’t, at least not the categories of apps, accessories and consumer mind share. But Microsoft’s tablet still has something going for it that other tablets don’t — Xbox.

xbox-games-surfaceBecause Microsoft has thumbed its nose at dedicated portable gaming devices — unlike competitors Nintendo and Sony — the Surface RT is the closest you can get to a mobile Xbox experience without making the switch to a Windows Phone device. The tablet ties in very well with the Xbox experience, enabling you to play games that have Xbox Live Achievements and Gamerscore points attached to them. You can also use the Surface RT as an Xbox 360 SmartGlass device, though you can do the same with iOS and Android devices, as well.

With the Xbox One coming, and with that console’s close ties to Windows 8, it stands to reason that Surface tablets and the Xbox One will play very well together. And did you know that the Surface RT actually supports the wired Xbox 360 controller right out of the box? Were Microsoft to introduce some kind of streaming remote play feature — similar to what Nintendo does with the Wii U and what Sony will do with the PlayStation 4 and Vita — Microsoft could sell a boatload of Surface tablets.

When you take all that into consideration, the Surface RT suddenly looks like it’s worth the $349. It may not be all that impressive to the Windows faithful, but for fans of the Xbox 360 and those who plan on picking up an Xbox One when it launches later this year, the Surface RT could be a cheap way to do some on-the-go, Xbox-branded gaming in lieu of an actual Xbox portable.


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— Shawn Farner

Shawn Farner is a Harrisburg-based tech blogger who has been involved in online media for over eight years. He covers consumer electronics, Web companies, and gaming.


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  1. Christian says:

    For them to make a tablet that streams full console Xbox games like halo, gears, and fable. They would have to make another tablet seperate from the RT and PRO that has as much power as the nvidia shield, because the RT and PRO don’t have enough power like the shield. You can’t simply play Sky rim on the RT and PRO, I’m not saying they should stop making the RT and PRO, but make a surface that has enough power to play full console Xbox games.

    • The way streaming works, you don’t necessarily have to have the portable be as powerful as the console. The Vita, for example, is nowhere near as powerful as the PlayStation 4 will be, but you’ll be able to stream and play PS4 games on the Vita.

      It’s technology that is similar to OnLive — the major processing is done on a remote machine (in this case, the PS4) and the visuals are streamed over the network to your portable. If Microsoft were to implement something like that, the current Surface tablets would do just fine.

      • Christian says:

        Oh OK, I really understood it completely tell you said that about OnLive, yeah I never really thought of it that way.

      • Christian says:

        And also I could see Microsoft buying OnLive in the future like Sony buying Gaikai. And they could use that to stream Xbox one, Xbox 360, and possibly Xbox games to their device like the one, the 360, and their surface tablets.

  2. Microsoft could promise the world today (for example to sell these RT’s) and turn around tomorrow and say ‘sorry, we changed our’ mind, and everyone is left with a turd. This happens all the time and consumers are expected to suck it up.
    The idea that the RT would ever stream games is laughable. I’ll continue to buy my products based on what they can do today, not tomorrow’s promised features.
    Regards, Pat.

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