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Windows 10's tablet mode will be Surface Go's biggest weakness

Best microSD Cards for Surface Go
Best microSD Cards for Surface Go

The Surface Go is not a laptop. It's the first Surface in a long while that's built primarily as a tablet for consumption and entertainment purposes over being a straight up laptop replacement, and that's going to be the Go's biggest pain point due to Windows 10. A good tablet is about more than just good hardware, you need a good OS experience to go along with it. Unfortunately, Windows 10 doesn't have a good tablet experience to offer, not when compared to iOS on the iPad at least.

It wasn't always like this, though. Back in 2014, Microsoft had an excellent OS for tablets known as Windows 8.1 that was built from the ground up for touch-first experiences. It wasn't so great on desktops, but was an interesting new way of interacting with Windows on tablet based devices. The original Windows 8.x tablets were before their time, thanks to both design and software experiences that were fast and fluid, beautiful, and animation heavy; everything you'd want from a tablet experience for consumption.

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The tablet experience on Windows 10 is nothing like this. It's bare of any animations or gestures, and it most certainly isn't as beautiful as it used to be. Its biggest problem is that it's very obviously a desktop experience that has been poorly optimized for tablets. It still has a taskbar that's only there so that you can go back to Start, any animation it does have are just fade effects with no real flair to them, and many of the apps, such as Edge, aren't really optimized for tablets at all.

On the iPad, everything flows together. You tap on an app icon, and that app icon floats in to fill the entire screen. To go back, you just swipe up from the bottom of the screen and the animation follows your finger until you drop it back to the home screen. It's a beautiful experience and is all part of why the iPad is such a good tablet. On Windows 10, tapping an app icon on the Start Screen initiates a fade effect, which just isn't as nice. To close an app, you just tap on the Start button, and the app fades away again. Not intuitive at all.

And that's without evening mentioning the bugs. Windows 10's tablet mode is full of bugs, especially around the keyboard. It's not as reliable, and crashes way to often for a keyboard; an important part of the tablet experience. I often find myself having to tap things twice before they activate too, especially on the Start screen.

Microsoft has nailed it before

Back in the Windows 8 days, the tablet experience was super gesture based. On tablets, gestures are the best way to go about things because they're so easy to do. On Windows 8, you could swipe in from the right on any screen to open the Charms Bar, which would have different options for you that were contextual depending on the app you were in. To get to multitasking, you'd swipe from the left. You can still do this in Windows 10, but the experience has been severely mutilated.

For example, on Windows 8 you could swipe in from the left, and your previously opened app would follow your finger. It'd be stuck to it, making the user feel like they were in control with what they were doing. From here, you could quickly swipe back towards the bezel to see all your open apps or flick the app to the right to switch to it. On Windows 10, this experience is nothing like that. You swipe from the left, and a fade effect throws you into Task View.

There's no fluidity here. On Windows 8, the gesture interaction responded to your movement, but on Windows 10 it simply acts as a shortcut to Task View. There's no connected animation that connects the gesture to opening the Task View UI, you just swipe and then everything fades to Task View. It really sucks. The lack of connected animations is one of the biggest reasons why Windows 10's tablet experience feels so rough. It just feels unfinished.

On the Start Screen itself, there's just very little customization you can do now. Sure, you can still change your accent color and arrange your tiles, but there's no longer any awesome patterns or effects that you can apply to the background of Start. It just shows your desktop background, which is fine, but nothing like it used to be. What's more, the Start Screen sometimes does a terrible job of making use of space, leaving large gaps where tiles aren't allowed to be placed.

Now, don't get me wrong, Windows 10's tablet mode is good in some areas. For example, it's the best when it comes to pen input, but unfortunately, that isn't enough to call it a great tablet experience. It needs to go back to what it was with Windows 8.1; a much more beautiful and fuller experience than what it is today. Windows 10's tablet mode just feels unfinished, and it really shouldn't three years into its existence.

Four things to fix

To fix tablet mode on Windows 10, Microsoft needs to do four things. First, bring back the connected animations. Connected animations are the glue that makes a good tablet experience good; the iPad nails it, and Windows 8 nailed it. Windows 10 falls short in this area. Dragging from the left bezel should initiate an animation that follows the gesture you're performing, not just act as a shortcut that's disjointed with the action that I'm performing.

Second, it needs to figure out a better navigation system than relying on the taskbar. The taskbar is an old, unwelcome UI element on tablets. It's a bad way of showcasing relevant information to the user without building a new experience for it. I shouldn't have to tap the Start button to go home, I should be able to use a gesture to do that instead.

Third, and this ties in with the second point, apps should be tablet optimized and be able to operate in full screen. Microsoft Edge is a huge offender in this area, with no real tablet optimized UI unlike with Internet Explorer in Windows 8 or Safari on iPad. Also, the taskbar being on screen at all times takes up valuable screen estate, which could be put to better use showing app content.

Fourth, Microsoft needs to focus on improving overall performance and stability. I find there's lots of dropped frames when manipulating Windows 10 in tablet mode, even with the minimal animations already implemented. Microsoft also needs to improve stability of system elements such as the keyboard, which crash way too often on the latest release.

5 things Microsoft could do to improve tablet mode

Windows 10 does get some things right, including treating desktop apps like tablet apps when in Tablet Mode. Windows 8 was poorly received because Desktop and Tablet Mode were treated as two different things, which was very jarring when going back and forth between UIs. On Windows 10, desktop apps operate and behave just like UWP apps when in tablet mode, which is exactly how things should be.

I'll admit, when Windows 10's tablet mode first launched, I was excited about its future. In fact, I even liked it. But, nothing has really changed since its initial debut in 2015. It's still missing some of the magic that Windows 8.1 had, and that's a huge problem.

Overall, Windows 10's tablet experience isn't terrible, but it definitely isn't good. It's a basic experience that offers no real game-changing capabilities over what the iPad or other tablet platforms offer. Arguably, the other thing Windows 10 needs is better tablet apps from third-party developers, but that's an issue that's out of Microsoft's hands. For now, all they can and should be doing is focusing on the OS experience.

I'm told that with CShell, Microsoft is planning to improve tablet mode which is very reassuring. For now, though, we have to make do with the lackluster tablet mode we have today. What are your thought on Windows 10's tablet mode? Do you prefer it over Windows 8's or the iPads? Let us know!

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Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

130 Comments
  • Just a little low-hanging fruit to check something off your list... Why not set the toggle in the Tablet Mode settings to have Windows 10 automatically hide the taskbar when in tablet mode in order to address the issue you are commenting on with the ever-present taskbar?
  • Yes, I always have the taskbar auto-hide, but that just brings up another problem: no gesture to open Start. I use TouchMe Gestures to create customized gestures for this sort of thing. But it's a hack - it should all be built into the OS.
  • Swipe to reveal the hidden taskbar - Tap Start. Not a hack.
  • Not a hack but it sure feels clumsy. Especially with Android and Apple moving more toward gesture navigation.
  • TouchMe is great
  • ?? You can already do that in both Taskbar settings, *and* in Tablet Mode settings.
  • Makes the Back button a real pain to use. We should be able to set the hardware Window button to Back instead.
  • If you have one. Surface devices don't have a hardware Windows button any more.
  • Really wish they still did. I can understand wanting to make the display bigger on the SP4 but using my Pro 2 in tablet mode I always rely on the button for the start screen and I imagine it would be inconvenient with out it
  • That no where near solves the problem. Usually it just makes things worse. 1. you can't even hide it in the one place you really want to hide it: the start menu. It's ironic that can't be hidden there where it serves no purpose (proof that "tablet mode" is just a start menu blown up to full screen - the taskbar is always visible in desktop mode when pressing the Windows button)
    2. When hidden it always pops up when you try to interact with an app at the bottom of the screen, covering the buttons you wanted to press and often refusing you to interact with the app again until frantically tapping several times further up the screen. Extremely frustrating during gameplay, as you might imagine.
  • I have personally not encounteredyour point 2, my hidden task bar does not do that, or maybe the apps I use do not have buttons at the very bottom, that would possibly cause the Taskbar to come up. Do you maybe use legacy x86 applications while in Tablet mode? That is the only way I can think this to be a problem. As for your point 1, that is purely subjective. I personally like, that the task bar stays up in the full screen start menu. Tastes are different I guess.
  • One thing they can check off the list for sure is the closing of apps. We can still drag down from the top of the screen like we used to do on 8.1
  • good video. I agree 100%.
  • You can optimize tablet mode of W10 in settings : always full screen apps | start screen in fullscreen like W8 | always hide task bar | task bar on left hand side -| bigger task bar | edge generally in fullscreen mode | enable preview of tabs That's Windows 10 in Windows 8 mode - for it's great to use..
  • I agree there is room to improve. I would point out timeline and open apps do have a gesture when you swipe right and notification center if you swipe left. I hate the all apps button. Mostly tablet mose is too busy. Simplify it
  • what bugs me....almost 10 years ago they came up with the concept for Courier and everyone loved the idea.. 10 years later Microsoft still can't deliver that vision even though prosumers are clamoring for it... That's a such a shame! Every time they have a lead they surrender it because of lack of foresight and risk avoidance of the decision makers :)
  • Pudhu: I think it may still be in the works, but is now called Andromeda:
    https://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-andromeda-everything-we-know-so...
  • Dude, you from TN? Me too.
  • I think this about right. I am frustrated with tablet mode on Windows 10, and this is coming from someone who uses my Surface (and used his old Surface 3) as a tablet very often. I have installed TouchMe Gestures to supplement the nearly useless suite of gestures built into Windows 10.
  • I wondered how long it would take before people pined for the days of Windows 8.1. Apparently the answer is 4 years. I was very optimistic when Microsoft didn't openly address the widespread complaints about 8.1. I hoped they would do the Apple thing and push forward. Then Steve Sinofsky was gone and the rumours of a wholesale redo started to circulate and I knew all was lost. Instead of on option that basically said "I'm incapable of understanding this, because I'm resistant to change" they threw the baby out with the bathwater and we are stuck with Windows 10. Perhaps CoreOS will save the day.
  • Any idea when CoreOS will be ready?
  • RS6.
  • thanks. the answer to your previous question...yes.
  • Windows 8 was a disaster and needed to be replaced with a desktop OS on desktops, which they did. It wasn't about people resisting change, it was about Windows 8 being extremely unintuitive and frustrating.
  • I think, with Windows 8/8.1, Microsoft threw mouse users under the bus, but mice are Satan's I/O device, lol. It worked almost exactly like 7 with keyboard shortcuts but most users don't seem to bother with them much. It also was pretty bad on systems with three or more displays, a very small group. But with a single or two monitors it was pretty much Windows 7 with a really big, very useful, Start menu. I think what most users never figured out with 8 was that the desktop was an app.
  • I would go so far as to say that even with keyboard and mouse, Windows 8 was better than Windows 7 in many ways.
  • I had literally zero issue with Windows 8.1 as a desktop OS.
  • “I wondered how long it would take before people pined for the days of Windows 8.1. ” For some of us, it was when the very first preview build of Windows 10 came. I was shocked at how they completely killed the 8.1 tablet mode. This is reason #17 why I still use 8.1. Windows 10 has very little that I like. It is a huge step backwards in many ways.
  • CoreOS and Cshell, let's hope so.
  • Here is the thing... the people who complained about Windows 8 were the people who didn't use it like a tablet. The problem is... when people want a tablet, they wanted Windows 8. But for desktop and laptop and just plain computer use, Windows 10 is better. And for hybrids, windows 10 is still better.... The issue is... when they took up Win10, they also abandoned the stuff that is actually good for a tablet. Win10 is much better for the tablet/laptop hybrid stuff... but it could be better... I mean, look at Apple. There is a reason that the OS for Mac and Ipad are different. As long as Microsoft didn't take away the start menu, and gave the option for a regular desktop mode without issues, Win 8 would not have gotten the backlash it did. Win 8 was the best tablet mode, Win7 was a great desktop mode, Win10 was a hybrid with a great desktop mode and a decent tablet mode. In truth, Microsoft could have EASILY solved all the issues of Windows 8 by just keeping the start menu and letting people have the option of which mode to use, making the Metro UI into a tablet mode instead of making it the default mode.
  • Personally, I don't care for gesture based navigation. Especially when things aren't spelled out for you, how are you supposed to know that you could even do those things? As long as they have a good intro program, it's not so bad. I still prefer looking at what I want to do and tapping it. Like navigating back on browsers. I absolutely HATE swiping left to go back in Chrome on my phone. Thumbs are attached to a joint, which means they travel naturally in an arc. If you go just slightly one way or the other, it misinterprets that as wanting to go back. And the way Facebook in particular, will automatically assume you want to go back if you scroll "past" the bottom of replies. I was just scrolling dammit, stop assuming things...
  • One of my complains is my tiles constantly go blank after exiting apps. In order to get them back, I have to change from tablet mode to desktop and then back.
  • This happens to me ALWAYS! And I thought it was specific to my hardware/setup!
  • From the masters of half baked products not surprising Microsoft thinks launching a small screen device without a small screened optimized UI is a good idea. Bravo! /S
  • It's not perfect, but I like 10's Tablet Mode better than 8/8.1's because of the always visible Task Bar, which I use to switch apps rather than Task View. To each their own, I guess. That said, improvements have been pretty much halted because of Windows Core OS's development, it really couldn't come soon enough.
  • I also love the always visible taskbar, I only wished I could force store apps that force themselves to full screen to not hide the taskbar. Love the Start and Back buttons on the left, but for the rest Windows 8.1 tablet mode was better.
  • Could not agree more. I LOVED Windows 8 and how its start menu and fluidity just worked. I just think Microsoft caved to people unwilling to "flick" to click "Start". I think that Windows 8's UI could be brought back as an option, rather than the norm.
  • It "just worked" if you had a touchscreen. Problem was that MS imposed the same interface on people who didn't have touchscreens, and then the experience was miserable. Pressing PgDn in a Metro App did nothing usually, and often the down arrow key didn't do anything either, because the app just assumed you would use touch. I had to resort to finding an often-hidden scrollbar and multiple-clicking the little down-arrow just to scroll content. People forge that Win8.1 was really, really miserable for desktop users.
  • What?! I have used Windows 8.1 on my desktop the first day it came out! DESKTOP! And I absolutely HAVE ZERO issues using the mouse and my keyboard. NONE! And I still use it to this day. Everyday! For the life of me I've been trying to figure out what is so difficult for some using 8.1 with a mouse or KB? Are they trying to use it blindfolded? I use Windows 10 on my laptop and I go back and forth using both my 8.1 desktop and my Win 10 laptop interchangeably without any issues. Point mouse and click. Use scrolling on mouse and click. Use keyboard shortcuts on either. The notion that windows 8.1 was or is difficult to use with mouse and or keyboard is such nonsense. It's just a bunch of bull.
  • Here is the issue Whodaboss... you're case is only your own case. For MOST people, Win 8 really was an issue for mouse and keyboard. Here is a general rule of thumb, everything has exceptions. For users of desktop mode, Windows 8 was crap. You are obviously an exception. Having a start menu and just switching between windows on a taskbar is MUCH better. And I used Windows 8 quite a bit. In fact, the real issue was the format. To use Win 8 without issue, I had to download a separate program and bring back the start menu and also needed it to make the desktop mode more of a desktop mode. And it should be noted that Windows 8 might have been crap, but 8.1 was actually pretty good. It fixed most of the issues people had with 8 (minus the lack of start menu).
  • I agree with this entire article. It's one of the reasons I decided to sell my Surface 3. Lacklustre performance combined with the poor tablet mode made it an unenjoyable experience. The Go should fix all the hardware issues of the 3. Now Microsoft needs to fix the software issues.
  • Windows needs a complete rewrite to properly support a tablet but that won't happen. Or they need an alternative OS for mobile. I don't know if CoreOS will ever be released.
  • Most of what you said is a red herring to me. Tablet mode on Windows 10 in my opinion is far superior to the iPad. Swiping down to close a window is great. Swiping left to select the app you want to open makes much more sense. In that Windows 10 has a menu system in the first place makes for a far superior experience. I use all three (Android as well) and prefer Windows 10 tablet mode to the iPad. Obviously this is only my opinion but to be quite frank, I find the iPad the least intuitive of the three operating systems that includes Android. The Surface Go will do great. You seem to be make a big deal about the small differences that you personally don't like. Sent from Mail for Windows 10
  • Windows 10 has now been out for 3 years and touch has been prominent for a decade. They really should have had a new UI ready to go for this device if they really want it to be anything more than another small laptop. Maybe there is too much bureacracy in Microsoft, they get stuck and cannot go in any direction. Maybe they need to break it up a bit. I am sure the Surface Go will be a great seller, but it won't push the boundaries of Windows.
  • Microsoft can't win, they had a tablet interface with Windows 8 and people hated it, granted that the criticism came from KB and Mouse users. Microsoft then redesign the Star Screen to be a larger version of the Start Menu to keep it consistent and to allow for KB and Mouse users, Surface users are also KB and Mouse users as well, to use it should they want to and people want the Windows 8 tablet interface. Personally I think that the Windows 10 tablet interface is a great compromise between a full tablet and full KB and Mouse interface.
  • Microsoft can win, but they need to make the right moves. Forcing a tablet interface when 99% of your userbase didn't have a tablet is not the right move. Hindsight is 20/20, but that should have been obvious. What was wrong with the focus groups for Windows 8 that they didn't catch that? Windows 10 is great with a keyboard and mouse. No issues there. It sucks without them. Period. I don't think Windows 8 was very good on a tablet either, I feel people romanticise it today. With Windows 10 and especially Windows 8, there are just too many tasks that are too complicated and not touch optimized. You quickly run into roadblock without a keyboard and mouse. The on-screen keyboard, although much better today, is still nearly unusable. They need a new version of Windows that is touch only and installed on appropriate hardware. It sounds like CShell or Core might bring that, but they needed it out years ago. I don't think it is too late, but it needs to be really good to gain any traction in 2019.
  • What they need to do it just port windows 8 into 10 as tablet mode. It would be killer then. But then apps. Not many for tablet, but a few need to be on 10 and working correctly.
  • Perhaps tablet UIs and desktop UIs are just inherently incompatible. You get either a great experience on one and poor on the other, or okish on both.
  • Yes, however, with the breed of devices now in convertibles and 2 in 1s, Microsoft should just make windows a little larger and put 8's tablet mode as tablet mode when you hit the button. They already have the code, and features already nailed.
  • Microsoft have had years to solve this problem but they screwed the pooch. Windows is a bloated mess of legacy code and perhaps trying to turn it into something that will work properly on desktops and tablets is impossible. They abandoned the mobile market and they're paying for their lack of vision and desire in this particular market.
  • This is something I've been complaining about for years.. I really need Microsoft to acknowledge this!!!
  • Despite the little shortcomings of the Surface Go, it will do what I need it to do. I'm sure that as the Go matures, the OS will mature right along with it.
  • As mentioned elsewhere. The windows based tablet suffers from not having texture app in a working state. I need this app for travel / magazine reading. I use it daily. One of the main reasons I got rid of my S3 was because this app was not working even though it was in the store.
  • Tablet mode is definitely a short-coming but I also think people will find that lack of apps on par to those available on both iOS and Google tablets will be another huge weakness of the Surface GO. Lack of app support was one of Windows Phones biggest crippling issues... and I see it being a deal breaker for what is being marketed as a possible educational tablet solution as well. To say there is no app gap or that Microsoft does not have an issue with available apps is insane when you take into account the availability of apps in just iOS. Add in services like Google Classrom and the problem gets bigger. If this tablet had the same options for apps and services that it’s competitors do when it came to things designed for children, especially apps designed for children with special needs, then it might be a No-Brainer in which one to choose, especially if Microsoft can get educators on the Microsoft train instead of iOS or Google Classroom. Without apps and good services.... the Go might become the No-Go of the tablet world, except maybe for business, which it seems is the basket where Microsoft puts most of its eggs... in my opinion. Allow me to add... I am not a troll, nor an iOS or Google fan boy. I LOVED my windows phone and preferred it over any other device, and would continue to prefer Windows based devices over any other... and prefer Windows devices for my kids thanks to the included family safety options. Unfortunately I was forced to move due to lack of support for devices and apps, and now iOS is honestly starting to catch up to the Microsoft based Family Safety options.... but I hope for the best when it comes to Microsoft for sure as they are my bread and butter when it comes to my employment.
  • EzMonger, I think you are indisputably correct that lack of apps is a negative. But that also seems pretty much irrelevant. Microsoft is clearly interested in regaining momentum on tablet form factor devices and their core OS. They can't just snap their fingers and make the app gap go away. The best they can do is make hardware and an OS that users want, encourage users to want to get touch apps in the store to make it an attractive platform for developers, and then provide some direct incentives to developers to help build the apps.
  • Honestly after switching to Android, because my 950 had a fatal accident, I've found that my app load is pretty much the same as my 950. I've never felt the "app gap" on my SP at all.
  • Because the Surface Pro is a laptop. It has a laptop UI and likely is rarely used without the keyboard for any meaningful amount of time. The keyboard doesn't take up much space, so there really isn't many reasons to remove it. There are big reasons to not remove it though, namely all the things this article mentions about the tablet UI and lack of one.
  • Can you list the types of apps that Windows is lacking on their tablet that will end up impacting users negatively, or as you said: cripple the computer?
  • They had it mostly right in 8/8.1. Maybe they'll get it right in Win11? Or would that be "Windows 10, summer 2020 Edition"?
  • I strongly disagree with the premise of this article. It's NOT the OS that is the problem, it's the lack of tablet only software the consumers are hooked on (from FaceBook to Kindle to Texture to you name it). The grid of awful aligned icons that is iOS is an abomination ten years in the making - even the lame tablet mode of Windows 10 looks better than that. There is NOTHING inherently better in iOS or Android that merits this level of ansgt - just give us larger touch targets and your mobile Office apps and get out of the way. EVERY Windows user know the UI that they have lived with for decades - just upscale with a good display algorithm and all will be fine. WE DO NOT NEED TO MIMIC THE FRUIT NINJA'S.
  • I don't agree. I have an iPad, and I rarely use it. I have a Surface Book, and I routinely think about getting a Surface Pro to markup documents and do work. The only "apps" that I need are Evernote, OneNote, Spotify, and Wunderlist. I only really use Instagram anymore, and it works way better on the Surface than the iPad. Otherwise, I need Microsoft Office, Box, Cisco VPN, and Citrix. I used Google Photos a ton, but now I use Lightroom CC. I guess you don't have apps like Waze, but I don't use that on a tablet anyway. One thing Microsoft does have to do is make a deal with Amazon. Amazon has ZERO apps for Windows, which is just bizarre. I'm increasingly integrated into their ecosystem, and it seems like MS and Amazon should be natural allies. Even Alexa support is bad. How hard is it to make a skill for Wunderlist?
  • Please read the article again. He's talking about bringing back the features that made Win 8.x great on a tablet. That has nothing to do with antiquated jumble of icons on a desktop that is iOS or Android. He's simply refering to the gestures and animations that iOS supports and Win 8.x used to have.
    I still see Android and iOS as touch 1.0 OS'. Still locked in the old PC convention that devices should have a desktop with icons on it. Win 8.1 and Windows Phone were in my mind touch 2.0 OS'. They did away with the pointless desktop with icons, instead MS filled the entire screen with tiles.
    Great for touch devices, but not very good for traditional PC's. Sadly in their effort to fix the OS for PC's MS ruined the touch part in Win 10.
  • In tablet mode, with application running, swipe down from the top the application will close, to get to task bar, swipe up, swipe in from right for action center, swipe in from left for running applications, really frustrating when I try this on iPad or Android and nothing happens
  • Totally agree. And for other commenters telling us that we can make things better by changing settings, well, that's just the problem though. They had an excellent vision in Windows 8, but now you have to dive into the settings to recreate it, when they are still trying to accomplish the same things re: tablet mode. The average user is going to try it either in store or out of the box and just not be wowed. Unlike the iPad. Yeah, my surface pro 2017 is more to me than just a tablet, but it could be excellent at that too right out of the box with a few tweaks - it could do more than an iPad *and* compete with it at its own game. Right now it's not, even with some setting changes. Edge really needs some work to be more tablet-friendly, especially with the keyboard bugs too. I still use it from time to time, but I can't imagine my wife (much more the average user than I am) having patience to put up with it, and I can't blame her a bit.
  • Good points but to me what's even more problematic in tablet mode, is the how many websites -- including Microsoft sites -- are unusable with touch. I find myself having to go to the onscreen trackpad far too often just to accomplish basic navigation (drop down menus are huge offender). I dont know if this an Edge issue or what (I definitely miss the touch-based IE in Win8.1) but to me, web browsing the biggest challenge to Win 10 as a tablet.
  • I agree with you about websites! It's web devs who should face the firing squad. HOVER behavior for menus is a MOUSE ONLY thing. You'd think they would have a clue from their own web browsing on touch devices.
  • Zac, do you hear anything from within Microsoft about their thinking on this subject? Do they agree that the tablet experience in Windows 10 could benefit from restoring some of the features (especially gestures and animation) of Windows 8? I suspect most of us here generally agree with that. Does Microsoft? My concern is that the market beat them up so badly over 8 that internally they can't accept that anything about it was any good. I hope that's not the case, but that's how it looks from the outside.
  • The author misses the mark completely. This is Surface RT but with a much less functional GUI in W10 tablet mode. I fear this model has too small a screen and likely will be hobbled by lack of apps. Will it at least come with free, full Office like the RT? At least on Skype you can hold it to your ear and use it as a Windows Phone!
  • Well said Zac! To me it feels like someone, during the final meeting of windows 10 development, suddenly remembered that people used Windows on tablets as well. Since there was no time to develop a decent UI, they just decided to add a button to blow up the Start menu to full screen, and called it "Tablet Mode".
    The sadest part is that 3 years have passed, and they have hardly changed that. There used to be a plethora of Win 8.x tablets available, now there are hardly any non-hybrid Windows tablets.
  • They have to work on a better tablet mode for sure.
  • I must be unusual. I've never had major issues with the tablet mode. W8 was better in some respects, but lacked folders (which should be live in W10 like they are in mobile, but that is a small issue), and the easy shortcuts to major features (settings, timeline, etc.). I actually like it more than W8
  • You spend the entire article whining about the lack of animations and at the very end mention that what animations they have suffer from dropouts... Do you see the problem? Do you? Somehow, I doubt you do... You're an obvious Apple user that values Pretty over performance.
  • Agree. Seems a strange choice to bring out what is mostly a Tablet, but you've completely neglected the tablet experience (and even made it worse) since Windows 10 launched. Although, it is a little amusing that Zac made a video a couple years ago saying why the Win 10 tablet experience wasn't all that bad and why were people moaning about it lol.
  • To me, the important point in this article is that the limiting factor with Windows mobile is not the hardware, but the fact that software is far from touch-perfected. I agree with that completely. While Zac does a nice job pointing out Windows 8-like tweaks that would improve the touch side of the OS, I think the bigger problem is that Windows software is not as touch friendly as it needs to be. But the way to motivate the developers (internal and external) to improve the touch-friendly nature of the software is for MS to make a commitment mobile devices. Abandoning Windows Phone, teasing but cancelling the mini, teasing but endlessly delaying Andromeda -- none of this inspires developers to invest their limited resources into improving the touch experiences on their apps. The only reliable "mobile" experience is the larger Surface line, which to date works just fine with keyboard and pen and which does not depend on a touch experience. Make a commitment to mobile, and the developers will come. Perhaps the Surface Go will mark the start of a true commitment to mobile. Or perhaps MS will abandon it in a couple years too. But I suspect that a lot of developers are wary given MS's inconsistent dedication to mobile in the past, so it may take a while before you see major developers across the board really getting behind a great touch experience. When that happens, the app gap goes away by itself.
  • What a bizzare article. Windows 8 was hated by almost everyone, so many articles were written hating the charms bar and start screen. Windows 10 fixed all the complaints, and now you are comapring Windows 10 to Windows 8. I have a Surface 3 tablet, which started on Windows 8 and is now on Windows 10, and I really cannot say that tablet usability has changed much at all. You have also completely missed all the things that actually make it rubbish to use on a tablet, which is everything is too small. Scrollbars, window buttons, controls, all are so tiny, they are often impossible to click with your finger.
    When watching videos, it takes multiple attempts to pause and result or move to another point in the video. None of this improved with Windows 10.
    Which is ironic since it was mean tto be primarily for mobile devices since Windows 8.
  • I remember MS mentioned it's leaving windows 10 as is meaning, desktop or tablet with legacy compatibility. MS also getting into cshell, one core etc for next windows 10. I suspect that next windows can be implemented per form factor. Telephony, fingerprint, scanner, can be added to Andromeda including tablet only form factor. 100% Tablet focus is coming, I guess we have to wait for MS to confirm this. Remember, people down voted windows 8.1 and forced MS to implement start button back. I don't know why this always happen, just like digital games was a BOO.. during E3 but now everyone embrace it. Jeez..
  • I have to say, I really don't see the issue with W10 in tablet mode. Sure, it can be a bit buggy, particularly the keyboard, but overall it's pretty decent
  • I made an account JUST to comment on how right this article is. FINALLY someone is addressing just now awful it is. My biggest issues are the bugs--animation bugs, keyboard bugs (opens when it shouldn't, doesn't open when it should) and just how jarring and unoptimized it is. It's the worst thing by far with Windows 10 and major upgrades haven't addressed them (if anything, made them worse with the keyboard). I used a SP2 with both 8.1 and 10 and man...8.1 was so much better. Now I use an SP2017 exclusively as a tablet and while I've gotten used to its quirks, it's still sorta inexcusable for Microsoft's flagship product and 4 years of development.
  • I couldn't disagree more. Windows 10 works best as a desktop OS that works occasionally as a tablet, which is exactly what the Surface is designed to do. The mere fact that Surfaces are sold, marketed, and officially pictured in their docket state shows that.
  • Yea, I want to second that. I use my 2017 Surface Pro as both a consumption and work machine. Even while surfing the web or watching vids I keep the keyboard attached. Because it has a frictionless hinge it does not get in the way. So I'm always going back and forth between the touch screen, touch pad, and keyboard. And I go back and forth between tablet and desktop modes, depending on what I'm doing. This is where Windows 10, as is, shines, and matches my use case much better than iOS.
  • Hey Zac. I love your reviews. But I have to disagree with you on some of your points. 1) I'm not terribly excited one way or the other about animations. They could be improved, made more cool. But this is not a big differentiator in my view. 2) I like the task bar as is. I put it on the left edge of the Surface Pro screen and use my thumb to start/open/close apps. I would hate to see it go. 3) Maybe. But I use the tabs and other features of the "chrome" often, even in tablet mode. So sure, full screen as an option would be nice. But lack of this feature compared with all that is lacking in an iOS tablet or phone. No comparison. In my view of course :). 4) Stability. Reliability. Dependability. These are all super important. But, again, my experience differs from yours. You may push your device more than I do. But on my i5 Surface Pro 2017 edition, I rarely experience crashes. Just not an issue for me. 5) BUT you failed to list the accuracy / tilt detection problem of the 2017 Surface Pro Pen! Without using a digital artist's glove, inking is MUCH better on the iPad. Which is very sad because other than this fault I'll take my 2017 Surface / Android phone combination any day over an iPad/iPhone combination. Really wish you'd do a story on the pen issue. In any case, keep up the good work.
  • Re: 3) If you full screen edge you can swipe to see your open tabs ;)
  • I have not recently used Edge in full screen mode. In fact I had forgotten it existed! In full screen I see that putting the cursor at the top edge of the screen reveals the tabs, and moving it away from the edge causes them to disappear. Also, as you note, swiping down from the top reveals the tabs. And I just figured out that swiping down again disappears them. This is also the way the notification area works. So while not super intuitive (as with many gestures in touch UIs) the swipe down / swipe down again method works fine once you are aware of it. Thanks for reminding me about the Edge full screen mode, by the way.
  • I agreed that Windows 10 tablet mode sucks, but I don't like Windows 8 either. It's messy to me.
    I want the Windows 10 Mobile home screen, period.
  • I use a Lumia 950 and a Surface Pro. What do I not have on the SP that I have on the 950? Live folders works fine. I've got Start running full screen. Can tap the app list icon to see apps not pinned. What functionality/feature are you looking for?
  • I'd also like to comment on the points made in your video. I like the way the swipe in from the left or right edge of the screen work in Windows 10. The new timeline feature is, well, to use one of your fav words, fantastic. I did not of realize this until I tried it and found that it's a great way to find a video, document, or website that I had visited or worked on recently. Also, I like the way the notification area swishes in from the right by flicking my finger from right to left over the right edge of the screen, and then disappears when I do the same flick gesture again. I admit that flicking from right to left to disappear the notification area was something I had to discover. It is not particularly intuitive. But after using it a bit I find this part of the Win 10 UI to be well designed.
  • Gee, I was thinking the biggest weakness might be the battery that doesn't get near 9 hours, but then I started my imaginary Surface Go in my mind 12 hours ago, and it's still running strong. I'm waiting to see more complete data, but at first imagining I'm not using my Surface Go for much out of keyboard mode, yet, like the other Surfaces and 2-in-1s here are used with touch mostly as a convenience while using a mouse or the touch pad (or even the pen).
  • If you turn your screen brightness down to 40%, battery life should be "all day". If you crank it up to 60% plus, you will get "half a day" of battery.
  • Microsoft can't win with anyone apparently. Win 8/8.1 sucked except tablet mode. Win 10 sucks in tablet mode, but no one wants to go back to the jarring Win 8.1 experience of an obviously different experience in Desktop mode. UWP has failed because it never got support, because Microsoft dominated so hard between 1990 - 2010 and screwed over so many devs who had no other option that now karma has caught up with them and no one wants to bother with UWP. Which is what tablets NEED. It's getting sadder each day, loving my Surface and Xbox but looking at the wreckage in the past of Zune, Groove, Mobile, and others that just were damn good but also half baked and never really supported correctly by both Microsoft and devs alike. Nutella (yes, I will call him that because he is clearly a nut that cares more about what people think of his nonsense bleeding heart SJW crap than people who buy Microsoft stuff) is focusing on cloud stuff and not looking back. Keep making money in the cloud Nuttela, and remember, Nutella killed all of your favorite stuff next time Rubino or another bleeding heart non-realist praise the guy. Oh and when they never release Andromeda, don't pretend surprised either. it's something that fans want... why would fans get what they want?
  • "On the iPad, everything flows together. You tap on an app icon, and that app icon floats in to fill the entire screen. To go back, you just swipe up from the bottom of the screen and the animation follows your finger until you drop it back to the home screen. It's a beautiful experience and is all part of why the iPad is such a good tablet" What? that's your big beef. Maybe you should just play video games because that's the experience you are apparently looking for. I am buying the Surface Go precisely because of Windows 10. At the moment I am using my Samsung Tab S2 and my wife's IPad. I hate both operating systems and I don't give a hoot whether an app floats in to fill the screen. I am more interested in a practical operating system that mimics my work environment. Windows 10 gives me that.
  • I don't run tablet mode on any screen over 12 inches, and never on any size screen if I have a physical keyboard connected (BT or pogo pins). I have an old HP Stream 8 that I use as a low-end test machine for Insider updates, and I mostly use that device in tablet mode just to avoid the maddening experience of accidentally thumbing the upper right corner and closing a window in which I am working. I'm probably going to pick up a Go. I'll try it in tablet mode, but that may not be my operating mode of preference. I think I may prefer it to the 9.7" iPad Pro I got over a year ago, but it will take some side-by-side comparison to nail down which device I prefer for basic reading, quick lookups, and note-taking.
  • So what your saying indirectly is that it may well be DOA, and thats not great if MS are pivoting thier position and seeing the reception of Go before deciding about Andromeda. MS is just soooo frustrating at times!
  • “Windows 10's tablet mode will be Surface Go's biggest weakness” No S Sherlock. I have been saying this for 3 years. Windows 10 is a horrible mobile OS. The fact that ALL of the Surface “tablets” are always shown with the keyboard and trackpad in EVERY review, ad and picture, just underscores the point. It screams “you need a keyboard and mouse to use this”.
  • Especially with Microsoft's own tablets not having a hardware Windows key, the lack of a gesture to bring up the start screen is a huge mistake. The tiny start button on the task bar is not useful.
  • I wouldn't have complemented Windows 8 tablet mode as much as this article but it did do some things okay. Microsoft likely will never get a touch/tablet interface to ever work as good as the iPad but we can hope.
  • No. Stop. When Windows 8 came out, everyone and their mother bitched about how it was "too touch-oriented" and "too gesture-based" and "too unintuitive" and "the start screen sucked" blah blah blah. So Microsoft walked everything back with Windows 10. Now, you don't get to ***** about how Windows 10 isn't tablety enough. We had that, you people bitched about it, so they took it away. Deal with it.
  • I do not know anything about tablets. I want to use Surface Go as a notebook. Are there any problems here?
  • Learn how to use OneNote. Inking is a thing and my Surface Pro and Pen works great. But there are probably other apps that may work better for note taking. There are apps you can use. I often take handwritten notes on my Surface Pro using a pen. The Go might be a little "slower" without the coprocessor that is used on the Surface Pro.
  • Sad day when Microsoft quit windows 8, my windows 8 RT was great and now with less apps what's the point of tablet mode, I think there are very few people looking for a Windows tablet so not much point in tablet mode anymore.
    When are Microsoft going to push apps, I've switched to a chromebook just for the apps
  • There are more people out there who prefer Windows 10 to Windows 8. Microsoft listened to most of their customers; going back would be a mistake, but please a few people here.
  • The problem is that 90% of the complaints about Windows 8 were from desktop users. They're right. IT was awful on the desktop, where people used predominanty desktop apps and the OS relegated your entire Desktop to "App Status." The usability was absolutely awful. They didn't realize how huge of a deal the Start Menu and it's compact nature was to users; ESPECIALLY now in these days of huge high resolution displays. Windows 8 had you mousing everywhere. Windows 10 has the sasme issue, except it reversed it. Now, Tablet users are stick with a predominantly desktop UI, but Desktop Users are stuck with Microsoft pushing an App Framework designed for Touch (i.e. Mobile) down their throats. So, the apps still lack usability on the desktop form factor (menu bars, keyboard shotcuts, etc.), and the overall UI is pretty bad for tablet. It's also quite buggy, as well, still. For example there is one Laptop here that cannot run BT Audio (i.e. to Earbuds) and WiFi concurrently on Windows 10. On Windows 8.1, this works. The minute you switch out the OS (or boot over to Windows 10), trying to listen to Music over BT and surf the web results in every web request failing. IT's like you have no internet connection. Turn off BT, and the WiFi works properly. Same machine. Official/Supported Drivers in each OS. Completely different behavior.
  • The problem with Windows 10 is that it has to be both: Desktop and Tablet. Apple choose to keep it seperate. Microsoft is still not able to deliver a good experience on both. With Windows 8 the Desktop mode sucked, now with Windows 10 the Tablet mode sucks. They will keep on working on it, but I don't know if they will ever get it right.
  • That's not a problem. That's a feature.
  • Seems the main problem with 2-in-1s is nothing to do with technology, it's more about its tendency to generate user civil wars. Kneejerk commentards decide they're either keyboard-mousers or pen-touchers, and flame hard at the other side. Not helped by MS being like a referee who panics and changes their decision every time someone in the crowd boos.
  • … Unsurprisingly. Which is why I'd never buy a Windows Tablet. iPad or bust. Maybe ChromeOS when after a couple more updates from Google. But I'd never waste money on a Windows Tablet. Their UI/UX design team is clueless, and the apps are horrible.
  • I use my Pro 3 exclusively in tablet mode. I don't see a problem. The only thing that was better in 8.1 was touch support for IE.
  • Did you properly try these things before writing this article?? Edge has a very nice full screen mode now where you can swipe down from the top to get at the address bar and tabs. The taskbar can be set to auto hide and also set to show your pinned apps so you don't often need to go to the start menu anyway. Or swipe from the left to see all recent apps and switch that way. Using the small movable keyboard with shape writing also works well for the filling of forms or searching which is surely what you mostly need to do on a tablet anyway? I also take issue with saying the Surface Go is primarily a tablet. It isn't. Like the Surface Pro it is primarily a laptop AND a tablet.
  • Full screen edge hides all the UI elements, which can be revealed with a swipe (OH MY GOD A GESTURE!)
  • … and then disappeared with the same swipe down across the top edge of the screen gesture. It just works :)
  • This article is one big fat whine.
  • The mistake made in the days was launching the tablet targeted os Windows 8 as a successor to Windows 7 targeting the desktop. Windows 8.x should have been named LiveOS 1.x, enhancing Msft's Live brand.
  • A lot of Windows legacy should be dumped, e.g. the Start screen, which to my opinion should be replaced by something like Microsoft's launcher for Android.
    The state of affairs with File Manager is a shame too.
    Windows' current we of a connection hub to internet services is in a pre-natal state compared to several Android versions.
  • Wish MS were a software company.....
  • Windows 10 now has 700 million users and at the same time there has been a phenomenal growth of the 2-in-1 device category like Surface that can act both as laptop and tablet. It seems therefore that a lot of people like me are actually quite happy with an OS that can switch seamlessly between laptop/desktop and tablet mode. So maybe Microsoft actually nailed with Windows 10? Personally I have used Surface both with Windows 8 and 10, and have found no difficulties in using Windows 10 in tablet mode. As several people are saying in their comments the main challenge for tablet mode in Windows and for Surface Go is probably the serious app gap of the Microsoft Store. Hopefully, this will be improved, and in any event the advantage of being able to use the Surface Go for real productivity and creativity outweighs the app gap. All the more so that you will probably use the Surface Go with an Iphone or Android phone that will give you access to all the apps you could ever dream of.
  • 680 million Win 10 desktop users, about 20 million “tablet users “. Win 10 blows unless you have a keyboard and mouse, and even then it isn’t all that great. Meanwhile, 1.5 billion phones and REAL tablets were sold in 2017. None of these were running Windows. They are running actual MOBILE software.
  • Thank you Zac for addressing the glaring issues with Tablet Mode (and UI in Windows 10 in general). The current state of UX in Windows 10 is abysmal compared with the competition, and the longer the Windows team takes to address these issues the less consumer love Windows as an entire platform is going to get.
  • To be fair, most people will use it in desktop mode anyway. I rarely put mine in tablet mode it's great for media consumption though.
  • Windows 8 was great it sucks that it had to be killed off because a majority of the population is retarded and forgets how to use a computer just because their Start menu is full screen.
  • To be fair, the downfalls with Windows 8 was that it didn't have a Real desktop mode. You can't sell desktop to people and expect them to accept that limitation.
  • Exactly. It was mostly sold on laptops and desktops which even even have touch screens.
  • “Surface Go is primarily a tablet”. No, it isn’t. It’s running Windows. That makes it primarily a laptop, but with a detachable keyboard. With real tablets, a keyboard is a rarely needed option. Not a necessity.
  • And Microsoft has since realised this but stop promoting them as tablets, even though it's form factor is this. It's odd to everyone else why a keyboard isn't included. It's difficult to use solely without one.
  • I agree windows 10 lack of investment in improving the tablet exprience is hurting the windows tablet (pc) devices, which is unnecessary. If microsoft is serious about surface a hero device, they must put more time and effort into finishing half baked tablet mode experiences to improve workflow and productivity. There is more than enough feedback on the microsoft community and feedback to start adressing issues. It's not that difficult. Many issues were already there in very early builds of windows 10. But yes, for a device like the surface go, with it's specs it must have a better tablet UI experience on windows 10 to be a viable device with good long term value.
  • I used to read my books on a kindle. Then I started using my Surface Pro with the Kindle app. The SP was easier to use than the Kindle (more responsive). Then I bought a book on the Microsoft store and read using Edge. A better experience than the Kindle App. All the controls (moving between chapters, etc.) were so much easier to figure out on edge than the Amazon Kindle App. So, I will look for more books on Microsoft store and using Edge to read my books.
  • Good article and video. Our company purchased touch monitors for windows 8.1 desktop use and the experience generally was excellent. Some aspects of 8.1 were clunky, especially how the desktop and tablet interfaces were so different. 8.1 is getting old and we have moved on to windows 10. There is no question the touch experience on 8.1 was more artfully executed. It is baffling that MS makes excellent touch enabled hardware, had figured out so many aspects of making windows work with touch in 8,1 and made such a huge retreat in windows 10. Hopefully over time touch features and gestures will be better integrated. It is improving. At first windows 10 was like being sent back to windows 7.
  • You're forgetting Microsoft were forced to change tablet navigation after how hated Windows 8 was. We may like gestures but they're rarely intuitive and loads of people complained they couldn't work out how to use Windows 8.
  • Is there a way to install Windows 8.1 on the Surface Go?
  • I expect so. Stick in a USB stick with the Windows 8.1 installation on it. You may need to source some Windows 8 drivers, or even Windows 10 ones. It's a PC and you get downgrade rights with Windows Pro so I don't see why not. It'll need to be a Clean install though, so have a backup.
  • It would be terrible though. Windows 8.x doesn't support UWP apps, so you'd be stuck with the old and unsupported Metro apps. Windows 8.x may have had tablet advantages but it's apps are terrible.
  • You're forgetting Microsoft were forced to change tablet navigation after how hated Windows 8 was. We may like gestures but they're rarely intuitive and loads of people complained they couldn't work out how to use Windows 8. Microsoft sell the Surface Pro/Go as laptop replacements now, no longer primarily as tablets despite being this. Personally I find Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 both really clunky when used with just a finger. Windows 10 Tablet Mode is now the future and it leads loads of work. Mostly it's so unresponsive. I can live with it though as it's nice to have a tablet when watching media compared with a laptop and it's extra bulk. I don't mind the odd one but animations just slow you down waiting for them to finish. No thanks. Even Android is much better tablet OS and this is just a scaled up phone experience. At least it's responsive though.