One of the problems with the Microsoft Surface RT and Windows RT in general, was the lack of a decent email client. While the Surface RT comes with Office Home and Student Edition installed for free, it doesn’t include Outlook. This leaves users with the bleak and underwhelming Mail app, or bouncing between web-based email accounts in IE. But Microsoft is about to patch this hole with the upcoming of release of the Windows RT 8.1 update.

In June, Microsoft officially announced that Outlook 2013 would be coming to Windows RT tablets as part of the Windows RT 8.1 update. I installed the Windows RT 8.1 Public Preview (beta) when it was released on June 26th during the company’s annual Build Developers conference. True to its word, Outlook had finally arrived on my Surface RT.

It runs on the desktop and is not a modern Windows 8 app like OneNote, looking and working as you’d expect from Outlook. You can connect all of your IMAP and POP email accounts as well as Exchange Active Sync accounts.

By default the RT version is optimized for touch. That provides more space between menu items and makes touch targets much easier to tap with your finger while on the go. If you have the keyboard connected while sitting at your desk, you can switch it to Mouse Mode.

Also, by default the Ribbon is set to display only the menu tabs which is a happy medium. It provides you with more screen real estate to view your messages on the smaller screen tablets. For even more room, you can set the Ribbon to auto-hide, or if you want all the commands you can set it to show the full set of Ribbon tabs and commands all the time.

In an attempt to improve slow Surface RT sales, Microsoft lowered the price of its 32 and 64GB models by US$150. Will the lower price tag, addition of Outlook, and the 8.1 upgrade be enough to breathe life into the hybrid device? Maybe. I own a Surface RT and buying a Touch or Type Cover is a necessity, especially when using Office 2013 programs. The Touch Cover adds $119 to the price and a Type Cover is $129.

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