Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I highly recommend the Microsoft Surface Pro, and I don't even work for Microsoft

The LCD screen on my Lenovo laptop went bad a couple of weeks ago, and Lenovo's next day on-site business warranty disappointed. But that's a story for another day. I needed a laptop ASAP as I was going to Europe the next day on a business trip.

On the day I flew out, still with a non-working Lenovo laptop, I decided to purchase the Microsoft Surface Pro as my laptop replacement. I've been eyeing this for a while anyway, and for those who know me, I'm just not a big Apple fan.

The basic specs of my Surface Pro was:
  • 10.6 inch screen
  • 1920x1080 resolution
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 128 GB SSD
  • Whatever the processor is
  • One USB 3.0 port
  • MicroSD card slot
The cost was:
  • $1000 for the Surface Pro
  • $60 for my cool Microsoft mouse
  • $106 for a refurbished "Type" keyboard
  • $58.30 for taxes
  • $40.00 for the VGA monitor adapter
Official specs can be found here.

Now my Lenovo X220 was already one of the smaller laptops on the market, but the Surface Pro was clearly a lot more lightweight. Carrying it from meeting to meeting was a convenient relief.



My main issue with the Surface Pro is that the little tilt stand only supports 1 angle. Depending on where you're sitting, it's either too angled or not angled enough. This is one of my biggest gripes with the product.

Though the "Type" keyboard doesn't have all the keys (such as Print Screen or right-CTRL button), I thought it might take me a while getting used to the compressed keyboard. It only took an hour of use, after which I was able to type on it naturally.



The power adapter cable was not as long as I would like it to be, but still acceptable. What's neat is the fact that you can charge your USB powered device through the adapter simultaneously. This frees up the USB port on your "laplet" (as I started calling it).



The screen boasts an impressive 1920x1080 resolution. But realistically, this is frankly way too high for the small 10.6" screen. I ended up opting for the more reasonable resolution of 1366x768 and would only switch to full HD when connected to an external monitor (Note: You need to buy an adapter to connect to an external monitor).



Though a lot of people are complaining about the lack of a "Start" button in Windows 8, I'm finally starting to understand what Microsoft is doing. Whether it makes sense or not is a different story. Microsoft wants you to use the "Start Screen" as the entry point of everything. Simply clicking on the Windows key and opening up your "All apps" list reveals something similar to what you see here. Microsoft divided the apps into "Tablet Apps" and "Desktop Apps", all of which can be launched from the Start Screen.

You click on the Kindle app, it'll launch in tablet mode since it's a tablet app. Click on Adobe Photoshop, and it first takes you to the Windows desktop and launches the program.

For example, you can decide whether you want the standard Windows Photo Viewer application to view your photos, or the tablet app called Photos. Sometimes it gets confusing, and it will take a bit to customize it to your liking.



Overall, I'm happy with my Microsoft Surface Pro and am officially using it as my fulltime laptop and tablet. Yes, I'm missing some good tablet games, but I can make do with some really good desktop games.

The good:
  • Extremely light as a laptop... only 2 pounds.
  • Full Windows 8 OS. I can run everything from Microsoft Outlook to Adobe Premiere to Oracle JDeveloper.
  • Bootup time from power off to full on takes exactly 10 seconds... and you never have to shut it down afterwards.
  • Battery life is not bad for a laptop (around 3-4 hours).

The bad:
  • Extremely difficult (if not impossible) to work on while in bed or on a couch due to the inability to control the angle in which the laplet can stay open. This is only a problem if you want to use it as a laptop, not as a tablet.
  • Battery life is weak as a tablet (around 3-4 hours).
  • No backlight for the keyboard.
  • The number of tablet apps suck, and those out there on the Microsoft Store are relatively weak or poor in quality (e.g., no Facebook app, no WorldMate app, no Alarm.com app, no Google Maps app, no Google Voice app, no Google anything).
  • No swype-equivalent soft keyboard.
  • When the keyboard is resting on your lap, the angle at which the keyboard curves triggers the mouse-click in the touch pad.

The neutral:
  • Keyboard doesn't have all the keys (e.g., no Print Screen) but you simply have to learn alternate ways to get the same results.
  • There is a learning curve for Windows 8, but it makes a bit of sense if you give it some time and are not a hater.
  • A little on the heavy and thick side as a tablet.
  • The Surface Pro is not really designed to be used in portrait mode.
  • Can you live without a 'Start' button? Takes some getting use to, but yes.

My overall rating of the Microsoft Surface Pro is a 9 out of 10 as a laptop replacement, and a 3 out of 10 as a tablet. I still miss my Motorola Xoom android tablet and all the games I had on it, but as a "laplet" (yes, I created that term), the Microsoft Surface Pro can't be beat.

Everyone in the office now wants one, even the Apple lemmings. But the small screen with its high resolution may not be for everyone. For those on the move a lot, don't mind small screens, want something lightweight, but don't want to sacrifice power or functionality, I highly recommend the Microsoft Surface Pro.



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