Microsoft has not been very upfront in explaining the differences between Windows RT and Windows 8. This is bad for the consumer and I hope this post would clarify things. If you’re looking to buy a flashy new Windows tablet/laptop hybrid, you need to be very clear on the huge differences between RT and 8. I won’t be writing this in technical terms because people who know that RT and 8 differs on ARM vs. x86 won’t need this post. This is targeted at mainstream consumers who are likely to be caught unaware.
Windows RT – A Toy like Current Tablets
Windows RT is not a fully featured operating system. The major difference is that you cannot run traditional Windows applications such as Adobe’s Creative Suite and fully featured PC games. This is very important because most users will pick up RT thinking they can swap to desktop mode and use traditional applications. That is not going to happen on RT. If you want that capability, get Windows 8. Windows RT devices are just like the iPad and Android based tablets – consumption orientated, sub par productivity.
Windows RT devices are just like Apple’s iPad and Android based tablets – consumption orientated, sub par productivity.
Windows RT devices have a few advantages over the offerings from Apple, Samsung, Motorola, HTC, etc.
Windows RT will be able to run 4 native Microsoft Office apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote (Outlook will NOT run on RT). Some more advanced features such as macros in Excel are not available on RT but most users don’t need that. No other tablet has a proper document editing app when compared to the RT. Sure you can use apps like QuickOffice, etc but if you are a seasoned user you would understand how poor those apps are compared to the real offering from Microsoft. It is not confirmed if Microsoft will launch Office on iOS and Android in future, but for now Windows RT will provide you with a near fully featured Office for free. This is a pretty significant offering for students.
The iPad doesn’t support plugging in USB devices and so do some Android tablets that do not support USB OTG. Windows RT will provide full connectivity to external storage options. So you can plug in your external hard disk, thumb drive and even mouse and keyboard. There’s no need to buy an expensive Bluetooth mouse and keyboard separately, you can use current wired peripherals with no problems. However, don’t expect all USB devices to work. It is unlikely that a USB printer, sound card, game controller, etc is going to work unless drivers are specially written for them. If you want such capabilities, get Windows 8 not RT.
Because Windows RT cannot run normal full featured apps that Windows 8 can, you will be limited to Microsoft’s version of Apple’s App Store / Google Play – the Windows Store. The Windows Store is RT’s major weakness compared to its competitors. For the first year, expect Windows Store to be behind offerings on iTunes and Google Play. It will almost certainly catch up in a while but this is a short term disadvantage that must be seriously considered.
There’s a big reason why Windows RT is cheaper than Windows 8.
Windows RT is a dumbed down version of Windows the way iOS can be seen as a severely handicapped brother of OS X. There’s a big reason why Windows RT is cheaper than Windows 8.
Windows 8 – The Real Thing
Windows 8 is the full product. You get that new user interface formerly known as metro and you can switch back to the familiar desktop interface if you like to. A Windows 8 tablet is just like a fully featured laptop the moment you plug a keyboard and mouse in. It can hook up with any of your USB peripherals may it be an external sound card, hard drive, USB stick, printer, etc. It’s a full operating system. And yes, it can run games like Battlefield 3 and Diablo.
Windows 8 is the no compromise solution that is recommended for most users.
Windows 8 tablets are laptop replacements. It can do everything your laptop does and also convert into a fully featured tablet. This is what I term a hybrid in a former post looking at the future of PCs.
For Apple users, Windows 8 tablets is a combination of the MacBook Air and the iPad. Imagine that you could detach the screen of your MBA and it turns into an iPad. Plug it back into your keyboard and it is back to the fully featured OS X. That is what Windows 8 is. No compromises. In many ways, it’s like getting 2 devices for the price of 1.
There’s really not much to explain about Windows 8 because it just simply does everything your current desktop and laptop does. This is the Windows that most people know and should buy rather than RT.
A Huge Difference
Microsoft’s decision to not fully explain the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT is rather sneaky. The differences are huge because Windows 8 offers so much more than Windows RT can ever muster.
If you are going for just purely a tablet to play some simple games, surf the net and check email, you would be fine with Windows RT. However, I still see the iPad as the best in class device in this category targeted at only media consumption.
There is no other device in the market that competes with Windows 8 hybrids. It’s a new product category.
If you want your tablet to do more and have the ability to completely replace your laptop – get a Windows 8 tablet. There is no other device in the market that competes with Windows 8 hybrids. It’s a new product category. Apple has stuck stubbornly to its clearly delineated offerings and Android is simply not ready for replacing your desktop / laptop. If you want a device that can do it all, you won’t be disappointed with Windows 8.
Personally, I would be going for Windows 8 and not bothering with RT. If I wanted a toy which is what Windows RT is, I would have got myself an iPad or Samsung’s Galaxy series long ago. Be careful when you buy your Windows 8 device, make sure its the version you want because they both look visually similar and Microsoft has done a poor job informing customers of the differences.