Available user memory… This seems to be a very hot topic right now where Microsoft’s Surface PCs are concerned. So let’s see if we can bring some sanity to this mess the tech world is drumming up. Microsoft’s Surface RT is currently available in 32GB and 64GB versions while the Surface Pro will be available in 64GB and 128GB versions. What’s getting some all heated up under the collar
is that each one of these devices has considerably less available user space than what is being advertised. A 32GB Surface RT has approximately 16GB of free space and a 64GB version has approximately 45GB. The soon to be released 64GB Surface Pro is reported to have 23GB of free space, while the 128GB version is reported to have 83GB. As you can see with the exception of the 128GB Surface Pro all the other offerings effectively leaves users with what amounts to less than 50% of the total installed memory right out the box.
What appears to be consuming so much storage space is the operating system, pre-installed software like Microsoft Office RT (Surface RT only), and a recovery partition. Unfortunately, this is being compared to other tablets on the market, mainly the iPad which by the way with both the iWork and iLife suites installed on the 32GB version still leaves users with 26GB of available space to work with. Therefore, we don’t even need to bring up the 64GB and the recently released 128GB versions. Although, this isn’t just a little more than a hairs difference between the two devices these really are two totally different devices.
Essentially, the Surface is a laptop without a keyboard permanently attached. It is closer to ultrabooks or the tablet PCs of the late 90’s but with significant improvements and a detachable keyboard. Keeping that in mind it shouldn’t really be of any shock that the memory allocation is setup in such a fashion as the Surface is no different than any other computer running Windows, Mac, Linux, etc. But since, the Surface is posing as a tablet it will be compared to as such by most people. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Surface’s memory allocation considering what it is. If you need more builtin space you can simply create a bootable USB flash drive and delete the recovery partition. While power users wouldn’t think twice about doing such a thing, businesses and the general public aren’t always as savvy. It should also be noted that you will probably only recover about 8GB or so of storage which is nothing when it comes to desktop applications. Add in the fact that the Surface Pro does not come with Microsoft Office builtin. If you are also inclined to using Microsoft’s “Modern UI” (formerly Metro) it will require a separate application install which means you will now have two applications to perform the same tasks on the same machine. All of this software chipping away at memory before you even get any files or media loaded up. Now of course, you can use a microSD card, an external USB hard drive or both, but that does kind of negate the purpose of a mobile device of this type. You should not have to worry about purchasing and carrying around extra peripherals just to accomplish your daily tasks.
What Microsoft should have done for starters was to supply a USB flash drive with each Surface tablet which contains the recovery software. This is how Apple handled the MacBook Air when it was originally released which also started out with 64GB of storage. Secondly, the minimum amount of storage should have began at 64GB for the Surface RT. Windows 8 and Windows RT are not mobile operating systems like iOS or Android. They are desktop operating systems which have not been pared down enough to have a more negligible impact on builtin storage compared to other tablets on the market. You may be getting a more complete desktop computer to carry around but is it worth the cost when you only get half the builtin storage space to work with. This is ultimately a question each person needs to ask themselves. The Surface line of PCs are more laptop oriented than tablet in their current iteration and should probably be thought of as one in every way.