Trying it on the road and at home
Well, I had to give it a shot. I’ve been looking for a way to carry only one device in my bag. I suffer from the heavy-should syndrome or the Techie bag is too heavy syndrome…
So, I decided to take the plunge and give the Surface Pro 3 a try. Not just using it as an additional device but giving it a fair shot and completely switching over to it for a minimum of 2 weeks (time that the store actually lets you return the item if you’re not happy with it).
First, the specifications. I’m very happy with the configuration that Microsoft finally decided to put in their Surface.
– 8GB of memory
– Intel i5 proc
– 256GB SSD HD
– 12” crystal clear touch-screen (resolution of 2160 x 1440)
– Very good keyboard that you actually don’t need to charge!
Microsoft went with a 3:2 aspect ratio for this one, which is a good improvement over the Surface 2 that came with 16:9. They also claim that they can display more on their screen than the competitive Apple product (well, that one is stretching it).
Now, it comes with Windows 8.1. Yes, I know, a lot of people have given Microsoft a bad rap for making 8.1 the way it is (full details on Windows 8.1 U1 features). The Tile are not that great, even with the up to date version where you can resize the tiles, it’s still not as productive. BUT… If you take the time to customize your UI, you definitely can get to a place where you will be as productive as you were on Windows 7 and probably more productive. It took me about an hour to get the UI just the way I like it, have the additional shortcuts I like and configure the hot corners (or disable them in some cases) for what I need the most. Adding a minimize and close button accessible more easily with the mouse really helps avoid a lot of frustration keeping multiple full screen app open.
They took the time with the hardware design and it shows. When you have the tablet in your hands, you feel that it’s solid, not like some other cheaper plastic versions.
I used the camera only once so far but again here, Microsoft made a good effort, putting 2 1080p cameras on it, allowing you to do good video recording and Skype video’s or other multimedia software capture.
The small things that make it big
For me, it’s the pen. The precision on the pen is just spectacular. Its very light as if you’re holding a real pen but not too light as if you’re holding a small fake iTouch pen. The simplicity of using the click button on the pen to automatically start OneNote, one word: Brilliant!
I was not a big OneNote user before switching to the Surface, now, I have to say that I’m almost as productive with OneNote that I am with Evernote. The hand-writing recognition software is pretty impressive, I type a lot faster than I write and my hand writing is similar to a doctor writing a patient prescription, close to unreadable. Well, I’m getting close to perfect recognition when writing notes with the pen. I still prefer typing but being to quickly take notes in a one-step process, helped improved my meeting interaction with customers. Funny enough, customer prefer that you still take notes with a regular pen than seeing you type on a keyboard, somehow, it appears that you’re paying more attention (no correlation, just an observation).
The next small improvement that makes a big difference, the double hinge on the back of the Surface. Being able to adjust the viewing angle seems like a small detail but now you can adjust to your preference. I like it when I’m doing writing work, like this blog, to have the viewing angle almost 90 degrees but I also like to have it almost completely down when making PowerPoint presentations.
The other really good change they made is the keyboard. Keyboard automatically is back-lit, making it easier to see the keys you’re typing on, in low light conditions (if you need it, you can turn it off or course). I like the typing sensation on the new keyboard, more than the Surface 2. Now you can actually hear yourself type, small detail but an important one nonetheless. One word of advice though, disconnect the keyboard when you don’t need it. It’s a good thing that they keyboard does not need any external power source or batteries to work, the tradeoff it that it’s sucking all the power out of the Surface while it’s connected. I’ve experienced a differences of 2-3 hours less battery life with the keyboard connected.
One thing that hopefully will be resolved soon -> The Wireless networking. Right now, you can read about it on the web, it’s a known fact that the Surface Pro 3 has some issues with Wi-Fi with some access point. Well, I have one of those access point that the Surface has a hard time with. My access point is an Asus RT-AC68U and when the Surface is not connected (which is most of the time), I get small disconnect on the 2.4 and 5GHz. Usually comes back on its own or I turn off Wireless then turn it back on and it fixes it but it’s pretty annoying right now. Microsoft said they have a release coming out shortly that will address this issue…
The next thing I’m looking to had as an accessory is the Docking Station. Yes, it’s a little bit pricey but I think that if you’re working from home and you spend a lot of time in front of your computer, it is definitely worth it.
It comes with:
– Power supply input
– 1 USB 3.0 Ports
– 3 USB 2.0 Ports
– Ethernet port (10/100 Ethernet RJ-45)
– 3.5 mm audio input/output connections
– 1 mini DisplayPort video output
I think they should have gone with GB for the Network interface but beside that, the rest of the ports makes this accessory a must for people that want to work on the Surface full time, when working at a desk. I always work with 2 monitors, just because of the work I do. I can easily live with only 1 monitor when on the road, presenting to customers but at home, I could not live without that 2nd monitor for all the apps I keep running.
Don’t get me wrong, the Surface Pro 3 comes with a VGA Display port that works very well, so if the only need you have is a 2nd display, then use the VGA port but if you need more “stuff” connected to it, the docking will make a big difference.
The switch is complete
Well, after 2 full weeks, some initial stumble and adjustments, I can confidently say that I’ve switched over to the Surface Pro, as my main laptop and Tablet. I still need to get use to some of the quirks of Win 8.1U1 but I’m as productive as I was before on a regular laptop plus the iPad but now with only 1 device. My laptop bags is a lot lighter now, my shoulders feel the relief every day. Curious to hear what other people think about their experience and if they think this will become a device that Microsoft can finally be proud of…