Can A Windows RT Tablet Replace My Laptop?

Angela Randall 31-01-2013

windows rt tablet previewSince tablets these days are amazingly powerful little devices, many people are starting to wonder if they can replace a regular laptop completely. Especially now that there are some great Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets available, the prospect of working entirely from a tablet is indeed looking more likely.


However, in the case of Windows RT, this is not quite as easy as you might think. This is because Windows RT is not anything like a regular windows install – It looks like Windows 8, but it’s really very different Which Windows 8 Version Is For You? If you’re interested in upgrading, you’ll also need to know which edition of Windows 8 is right for you. The good news is that Microsoft has simplified the different editions of Windows in Windows 8... Read More . Most notably, you can’t install regular Windows applications on it. You can only install apps from the Windows Store, similar to using an iPad or Android tablet. That’s not to say that working from your Windows RT tablet is impossible, though. You may be surprised.

Completing Day-To-Day Work On A Windows RT Tablet

You may recall that recently Christian wrote an article about trying to do all his regular day-to-day work using only a tablet MakeUseOf Experiments: Going Tablet-Only For a Week & Staying Productive You took one look at the headline and thought "this guy is crazy", right? That's pretty much what I thought at first, but as the week progressed I found myself struggling with apps, multi-tasking and... Read More . His experiment proved to be somewhat difficult, although I’d say his day-to-day work needs were more involved than most people would need. I won’t be trying anything of the sort, as I already know that there are certain things I just cannot do using Windows RT involving programs I can’t install. This doesn’t rule out using the Windows RT tablet for a large portion of my work though.

windows rt tablet preview

You’ll find that the Windows RT store has a huge selection of applications, however many popular tools do not yet have an official app. For instance, you won’t yet find apps for: Remember The Milk; Facebook; Twitter; most Google tools; Flickr; LinkedIn; Tumblr; Pinterest; GoodReads; Delicious; and much more. This is not the end of the world, though. Read on!

Personally, I use a lot of web apps like Google Documents and other Google products. Gmail can be set up quickly with the native Windows RT email program, and the native calendar application will easily sync with your primary Google Calendar. It’s not quite seamless , as you can’t use Gmail functions like Starring and you won’t automatically see all your other Google Calendars. However, with a little program called gSync, you can get your other calendars back. Google Documents and other Google tools can be opened in the browser and used that way.


windows rt tablet

For all of the web apps you use on a daily basis, just navigate to the page in Windows Explorer then pin the page to your Start Menu (swipe up from the bottom to get the pin option). You’ll then be able to group it with other apps you use and have quick access to it when you need it. I’ve found almost all of the web apps I use regularly work quite well in Explorer, barring a few exceptions that use Java or flash. Internet Explorer in Windows RT is unable to install add-ons, which rules out Java, and will only run Flash on a whitelist of sites.

Windows RT has a selection of popular Office applications ready to use natively: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. All of these apps are set up to automatically sync your files to Skydrive so that you can work on them elsewhere seamlessly.

windows rt tablet


Essential Windows RT Apps To Download For Daily Use

To get you started, here are some truly useful applications which will help you to make the most of Windows RT. All of these links will open in a browser, then if you’re using your Windows RT tablet it will offer to open the app page in the store for you.

windows rt tablet

  • gSync – For syncing all your Google Calendars
  • LastPass – For password management (use it in split-screen mode to copy and paste credentials into websites)
  • XMarks – To access your everyday bookmarks from your regular computer (use this in split-screen mode to easily pin all your favourite web apps)
  • Evernote – Access all of your notes.
  • Dropbox – Access your documents.
  • Box – Access your documents.
  • Basecamp – Co-ordinate your projects and to-do lists.
  • gTasks – Sync your Google tasks locally.
  • EBay – Keep track of eBay sales.
  • Amazon – Easily shop at any Amazon store.
  • Skitch – Powerful, yet simple annotation tool for images.
  • IM+ – Use all your IM accounts in the same app.
  • Note Anytime – Great note-taking app.
  • Share All – Easily share anything to Facebook or Twitter.

windows rt laptop replacement

Some programs, like Skype and Kindle come pre-loaded with Windows RT. For your other entertainment needs, browse around the Windows RT store. There are some fantastic apps available. In fact, sometimes there is too much choice.


windows rt tablet preview

Multitasking With Windows RT

With many tablets, it’s impossible to multi-task. However, with Windows RT you can multi-task in two easy ways: switching between open applications by swiping from the left to right; or using two applications at once by dragging another open application in partially and locking it in place.

Limitations And Strengths Of Windows RT

Windows RT is limited to store apps, which rules out using any of your regular Windows applications. If you must use Windows apps, find a tablet running Windows 8 We've Actually Used It - What Does MakeUseOf Think Of Windows 8? If you haven’t installed Windows 8 yet; don’t worry, we’re technology writers - it’s our job to test these things out for you. Quite a few MakeUseOf staff including myself have taken the plunge and... Read More instead. Another limitation of this decision is that the Windows store doesn’t yet have a lot of popular applications available. Check out another MakeUseOf article on what you can and can’t do using Windows RT Windows RT - What You Can & Can't Do Windows RT edition was discreetly launched about a month and a half ago with the flagship Microsoft Surface RT tablet device. Though visually indistinguishable from Windows 8, there are some key differences as to what... Read More .

The limitations of Windows RT do seem to work in its favor though, as it is a very stable OS. You are unlikely to have problems with malware either, as you can only get apps through the store and the only browser is limited deliberately.


Despite the limitations, Windows RT is quite powerful and designed very well. It’s easy to see yourself using it on a regular basis to replace a laptop. The app store will only get bigger and meanwhile web apps are generally quite accessible.

More To Read If You’re Buying A Tablet

If you are considering buying a tablet, there are more than a few previous MakeUseOf articles you should check out first. Read about things to know before you buy a tablet What You Need To Know Before Buying A Tablet Tablets are starting to mature. Android’s new 4.1 release includes tweaks that dramatically improve the user experience. Apple’s iPad is now on its third iteration and continues to dominate the market. And Microsoft is about... Read More , reasons to buy a tablet 5 Things to Consider Before Buying a Tablet PC Read More , ways to use a tablet to boost your productivity at work Use Your Android Tablet To Boost Your Desktop Computer at Work Android tablets have a ton of potential, with the ability to use bluetooth, wi-fi, awesome cameras on the front and back, a keyboard and mouse, and a small form-factor that make it highly portable. In... Read More , reasons to buy Android tablets over iPads 4 Reasons to Buy an Android Tablet Over an iPad There are alternatives to the iPad on the market, and not all of them are as crappy as some would have you believe. Read More (some of those reasons may lead you to consider Windows tablets too), reasons to buy a cheap tablet Why I Chose To Buy A Cheap Android Tablet [Opinion] After doing a little more research than was healthy, I took the plunge and chose a tablet. One which I now own and use every day. It wasn't an iPad, or even a name-brand Android... Read More , our Microsoft Surface tablet review Microsoft Surface Tablet Review and Giveaway Read More , and crucial things to know before traveling with your tablet 8 Crucial Things You Should Know Before Travelling Abroad With Your Phone, Tablet, Or Laptop If you're about to go international with your smartphone, tablet and/or laptop there are a few things you should know before you go. You might need extra peripheral devices and plugs, entertainment and maps pre-downloaded,... Read More .

So, can a Windows RT tablet replace my laptop?

In conclusion, I knew from the start I could never completely replace my laptop with a Windows RT tablet, but I am very impressed with the sheer amount of things I can do with it, the quality of some of the apps and how user-friendly the whole Windows RT experience is. I can certainly do a LOT of work on the Windows RT tablet, which is good enough for me.

Have you tried using a Windows RT tablet? Could you replace your laptop with it?

Related topics: Windows 8, Windows RT.

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  1. Edgardo Gonzalez Pereyra
    April 9, 2013 at 7:29 am

    First of all, I want to express how happy I am seeing the changes in todays world related with technology, I can see today the war between notebooks and tablets but, how everything started!

    Long time ago and because of my boss, I started playing with a tablet PC, an Acer tablet 100 something, I think. We wanted to improve the way we do things in a private hospital and I was the most technologically able of the group, involved, even in the upgrade of the 6 OR's to make them 100% digital and with the setup to broadcast everything all over the world with 4 cameras (analog! in the hand, the manual light, in the ceiling and the overall view) and with a real fiber optic T1 for videoconference!! and I'm talking about 2003 !!!

    Bill gates, if you can remember was all the time all over the place with a tablet in his hands...
    I loved them!; the handwriting recognition and many other new specifics, but it wasn't the time yet...

    So what changed everything really to make it possible?
    Well I think 2 great changes in technology:
    One the microprocessors and second the batteries!

    One thing took it to the other, how?
    Well, just Imagine a tablet 1 kg (3 lb) all day in your hands! oh, actually more impossible with 1.5 hours max! for battery Nickel Cadm batteries never worked really...

    The change on the speed of microprocessors, their energy consumption and the arrival of lithium batteries made it!
    How it happened?

    SMARTPHONES!!! Yes, this little guys changed everything!

    Think about it, then, better cameras, add a GPS, sensors etc, without the juice, impossible...

    But technology is not all, the main reason of all this changes are the war for the best APPS!

    How crazy is to get a 900 dls software for 10? or 99,99% of any software for 99 cents? WOW! this changed the world and how things are played today, and we have to admit that who started all this change was RIP Steve Jobs with the apple music store, show the world that "a nobody" can fight the huge mega music companies and sell your music in 99 cents and, even become rich!!!

    After only few years (look! less than 10!) we changed from a little phone and or a 17 inch laptop to something in between, and even Steve Jobs swered that the Ipad was going to be one size only, see what happened...All sizes everywhere every brand. Like Kodak for the photography industry, here , who didn't see the change, died, like Blackberry (OMG!!!! Impossible!!!), yes sorry, death and others like Google, are taking over the world!

    For me, very sad, I can't even use my desktop properly anymore, I tend to touch the screen (well, one of the 3, 27 inch) all the time.
    Why 3 monitors?, well thats the only way to work a desktop as a tablet!!! And that's the trend!!!

    I'm trying to became 100% tablet, it is way more efficient than a desktop.

    Well you can't do everything in your tablet (Asus transformer Prime 201) but, in the short future we will, the market is deciding what is the best for everyone and how, but the demon is already out, and I'm loving it!!!

    The changes coming in the next months/years I think will be related with the generation and use of energy, but the most important (not the batteries) is the storage of energy, clean energy.

    I'm so loving it that I want to born again 3 times minimum...

    Once we have (they are already there) the energy changes meaning unplug from the grid, we will be in heaven! no hunger, in the world and rocket launch for global technology, research and creativity...
    For Now, I vote Android over Win RT...

    • Angela Alcorn
      May 30, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      You're right. Technology has evolved so quickly and so well. It's quite amazing.

  2. Victor Ong
    February 1, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    The windows RT is not the best machine for the job yet, but I believe that the surface pro would help things along. The apps are not the best yet, but as workplaces evolve I believe that the windows store will be impossible to ignore in the future.

  3. Daniel Joshua
    February 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Have anyone ever thought of trying Windows RT in Android Tablets?
    Most Android devices have ARM chips which forms the basic platform for RT to run.

    Could it be done?

    Most of us would love to know about this.
    Please post any links if you came across 'Running RT in Android'

    • Angela Alcorn
      February 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Interesting idea. Maybe someone should try it.

  4. Gary Volk
    February 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    The other issue is storage space, or lack there-of. Once I can replace the storage as I need to, ie open a cover and slide in a bigger SSD, the tablet, no matter what brand, could not replace my laptop. The OS should not be affected by this upgrade either.

    • Angela Alcorn
      February 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Good point!

  5. Scott Macmillan
    February 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    I can't see how a tablet can ever do everything a laptop is capable of.I use a tablet because its handy for fairly ordinary tasks and has a larger screen than a smart phone.

    • Angela Alcorn
      February 3, 2013 at 3:20 pm

      I think that's the sensible way to view tablets.

  6. Rubis Song
    February 1, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I once sold my laptop to buy a Windows RT thinking that it would easily replace my former laptop. What a mistake I did! After a couple of week I found myself that this lovely thing would never replace my laptop. Mostly for the reason you said... I am now using my desktop but will certainly buy another laptop very soon. So for me the Windows RT tablet is not yet a laptop-killer.

  7. Scott Hilderbran
    February 1, 2013 at 12:18 am

    I think that the RT could in no way replace a laptop. The lack of apps is enough to turn me off.