Monday, 1 July 2013

A few weeks with a Surface Pro

So I needed an upgrade for my work PC and Laptop, I wanted something that would give me power, flexibility and be lightweight to take with me when out of the office.

There were a few options open to me and our IT Department took me through the usual suspects they had in the system - basically a laptop with dock all of which where heavier than I was really after - also I already had a laptop and desktop I just wanted one device! On device to rule them all!!!!

OK let me get this straight up front, yes I could have just gone with the normal procedure and got a laptop - a Dell Inspiron or similar and yes it would have been fairly light and as powerful as the Surface Pro - but really why settle for just the usual when there are so many new options available, and on top of all that work was looking for a guinea pig to try the tablet hybrid world!

Firstly as a tablet/laptop hybrid

As you can see from this first image the screen gets a little messy with finger prints and such however as you will see it really doesn't matter as when on as you really can't see the finger marks when it is working - and yes I am working with it so it's going to get finger marks - it's a touch screen!
Finger marked
Once turned on they seen to disappear
One note - this is a work machine so it is covered in work ID stickers - I have blurred them out - not that they mean anything outside the IT inventory but hey I guess I should be good and not show them off to the world!

We got the Type Cover, which is the more keyboard like cover with mouse touch pad and the usual keys that you would find in a laptop - this cover basically turns the Surface Pro into a 10 inch laptop and I don't have too much trouble typing in it - even with my big hands. The keyboard are sold separately to the device and they are essential to the unit - without the keyboard this is an expensive tablet (MicroSoft please just bundle them together!!!)

I needed one hand to take the picture (where are my Google Glasses?) but you get the idea I have easily type two handed on this thing!
Alternatively you can use the on screen keyboard or the script to text using the pen/stylus (more on that later)

Both work OK for times you are without the Type Cover (or in full tablet mode) - not something I'm likely to do for long stretches but useful at times.

I found this very similar to the iPad keyboard - only downfall is screen area is greatly reduced

I was VERY impressed with the script to text function and the pen is easy to use - even has an eraser!

The Look and Specs

Microsoft call it a Dark Titanium colour... and who am I to argue? It certainly looks the part of a futurist piece of computer hardware - it feels solid and has enough weight to it so you are reminded that this is an expensive and solid device.

From the spec sheet on it's packed with a 3rd Gen i5, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4 GB Ram, 128 GB SSD HDD, 10.6" ClearType Full HD Display 10-point multi-touch, two 720p HD LifeCams (front and rear), Microphone, Stereo speakers, USB 3.0, mirco SDXC car slot, Heasset Jack, Mini Display Port, Cover Port.... and more - see it all here 

Basically it is a powerful little machine for something under a kilogram

Dark Titanium Colour (or black as I called it!) the rear camera is angled so that when sitting open with the kick stand it still points straight ahead - neat addition...

Here you can see the USB 3.0, volume and headphone jack

The microSDXC card slot, power and Mini Display Port - the power uses magnet to hold the lead in which also serves as a place to put the pen... which means I had better get some extra pens for when it falls off...

Pen in place....

And all set up ready to go...

 I have yet to use the mini Display Port - work are getting me a lead to use the in house projectors etc... in the mean time I had to borrow a laptop at the last presentation - kinda defeats the purpose of the all in one machine but we are working out the bugs...

Work Use

So I got this thing for work - but what do I do and what do I need it to do...?

Well the Microsoft Office suite for starters! We use the usual suspects, Word, Excel, PowerPoint,Outlook, Project etc and they all work really well. What I have found to be the MOST useful is OneNote.

Here is a program that I had not used previously which I find myself using all the time. Print PDFs to OneNote and suddenly I really can be paperless at meetings - using the pen or Type Cover I can make notes straight to the PDF. Create historical documents for all my various meetings and programs in one place and with my handwriting!!!

The stylus/pen makes all this possible and the power of the software that seems to be learning my handwriting and adjusting - script to text in OneNote and the native Surface (Windows 8??) is brilliant - so much better than I expected!

 Desk Setup

This is the real power of this device. When I am at my desk there is NOTHING different from using a normal desktop machine - I sit down to two 19" monitors, a normal sized keyboard, mouse and just get to work. Currently I have set up with only the two monitors, once more programs become available through Windows Store I might change to use the Surface Pro as a third monitor for things like Social Media or news but for now this is the perfect setup.

We have gone with the Toshiba Dynadock USB 3.0, this provides me with MORE than enough features and is powered by one USB from the Surface.

The DynaDock is a versatile little unit - perfect for most office or home uses where you want to take your device with you and use it as a desktop machine... Yes I need to tidy up the cables... I'm still not certain this is the 'right' position for it..

I can use the Surface as a third monitor at the moment I don't but I might when there are more Windows 8 touch capable apps that meet my work needs

As a desktop unit nothing has changed and it looks just like any other desk at work... 


Because with everything there is a downside.

My one big thing screen resolution.

At under 11" the Surface is small - I already have glasses and I don't want to be bent over in front of a tiny screen when working away from my desk. In that case when using the Surface and a Tablet/Laptop I upscale 150% size (it's simple to do and has three levels of preset 100%, 125% and 150%).

However to change resolution you need to log-out, maybe this is due to the security that we have at work, (log-in is something that we just do all the time to our machines and phones) but if I want to jump out to a quick meeting I have to adjust screen and log-out - losing all my open work, files and webpages only to do that in reverse when I come back to my desk...

Maybe I have this wrong but I would say that is my one big gripe at this early stage...


I would have to say that for me and many in my position this is a perfect device for work - for the moment it does everything I need it to and as Windows 8 develops with more "metro" apps the true potential will shine. For the average desk jockey this has no advantage over a desktop machine but for someone in my position who if often in and out at meetings being able to simply unplug and go bringing everything with me it is perfect.