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Windows 8 vs Windows 8 RT: Which one should you choose?

By: Arie Slob

Windows 8 vs Windows 8 RT

Now that Microsoft is offering its Surface for sale, users may be advised to think about the version of Windows they will get when ordering it. Right now Microsoft is only shipping the device with Windows RT. They are expected to start shipping a Surface with Windows 8 Pro 90 days after initial availability of Windows 8, which will be at the end of January 2013.

Windows 8 RT will not be available in the retail channel, so there's no chance for you to buy Windows 8 RT as an upgrade. The main difference between the two is the hardware they support. Plain Windows 8 (be it Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Enterprise) will run on the x86 and x86-64 architectures that most PC's use. Windows 8 RT will only be available pre-installed on ARM-based devices such as tablet PCs. ARM chipsets are not compatible with Intel-compatible chipsets, but since ARM-based devices are the standard in low power usage scenarios they are almost always the only chips used in small factor (tablet) devices.

Because ARM chipsets are not compatible with the x86 architecture, devices running these chips are not capable of running any of the legacy Windows software applications. So when you buy a device that runs Windows RT, know that you will need all new software. The only place this software will be available is from Microsoft Windows Store.

So for most people that are thinking of buying one of the new tablet/convertible devices that ship with Windows 8 RT installed, the question you'd want to ask yourself is: "Do I want compatibility with legacy Windows applications?" If the answer is yes, you can't use Windows RT.

There are a few other things some people need to consider. For one, you can't sign into an Active Directory-based domain with Windows RT, so for some people that need this function for work purposes, you can't use Windows RT. Windows Media Center is another feature not available on Windows RT, something to keep in mind too for some people.

Please note that Windows RT does ship with Office 2013 which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

So for anyone that doesn't want to be limited to the new Windows RT compatible apps only available through Microsoft's Windows Store: Get a device running Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro.

If you have any questions, you can post these on our Forum.