If you talk to enough people that I know, you will eventually come across at least one person that says, “He wins everything!” A few weeks ago, my friend Amy would have been the one most loudly claiming that I did win everything. It was about that time that the folks at 2Ring sent me a message to let me know that I had won their Microsoft Surface Pro at a drawing they had at Cisco Live. I was excited of course, winning something is always exciting, but I was also unsure of what I was going to do with a Microsoft tablet. For the past four years I have been using Apple products pretty exclusively. My work computer is a MacBook Pro, I use an iPhone and an iPad (which I won at an EMC conference, ok I do win a lot of stuff) and my family uses Mac computers, I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with it. I decided that I would use the new device for a week and see where if and where it fit into my daily life and go from there. As I said before, it’s been three or four weeks since I got it and I thought I would put my thoughts down here. I’ll split it into the good and the bad:
I will say that when I heard that Windows 8 was on this, I wasn’t really sure what to think. Awhile ago I had heard several people complaining about Windows 8 on the whole, so I was starting with low expectations. After using it on this device, I can say that I both see why people might not have liked it but can also see the value in it. If you are running a computer with a touch screen interface then Windows 8 actually, in my opinion works really well. There are a couple of weird things in it, that I will cover I the “bad” section, but for right now I will say that overall I really like it. In addition to working well with the touch interface, it runs a lot of the historical applications that I need for work. Whether it’s firing up Jabber for Windows or writing a UCCX script or putting together a scope of work in Word, it’s all possible here and in a tablet like form factor.
The picture here is actually 2Ring’s wallboard application demo and it worked seamlessly on the Surface Pro, just like it should on any full powered OS.
I opted to go with the touch keyboard cover and have been really pleased with it. It took me a few minutes to get used to the relative lack of “action” in the keyboard buttons, but once I did it was great. A couple of days ago I went back to the keyboard on my MacBook Pro it simply felt slow and frankly a little old. I know that some may have trouble adjusting to this style of keyboard, but you can always hook whatever keyboard that you want up to it through the USB port.
The keyboard snaps on and off just as easily as the commercials make it seem so you can easily go from desktop to portable tablet without the keyboard in a second. Additionally, if you leave the keyboard connected and just fold it around to the back, you can still tablet it up and the keyboard will disable itself.
While this machine doesn’t have a processor that will beat out the higher spec machines, the I5 processor combined with the solid state drive have given it enough capability that I haven’t had any trouble with it keeping up with my workload. As I said earlier, I have used many of the Cisco applications, office suite and more and have had no problem with performance. Sure if I was a huge gamer and wanted to play high end 3D rendered games it probably wouldn’t be the right machine for it, but for my uses it has been great.
As I have said before, the Surface Pro isn’t an iPad, and you won’t be able to leave it in a sleep state all the time with an instant on without wearing down your battery. But so far, it has had the fastest boot time of any Mac or PC machine that I have used. It comes in at just under 10 seconds boot time to the login screen, but even better once you log in you are instantly able to work as you don’t have to wait for a profile to load or anything. The only thing that takes a little longer to startup than I would prefer is the wireless connection, more on that later.
Just like any computing platform, everything is not rosy. There are a few things that I would fix or change if I had the opportunity. Here is what those are:
While I like the OS quite a bit, I will say that there are some things that are a bit disjointed, especially between the “Metro
interface and the desktop interface. A couple of the things I have seen include:
- Sometimes a web site will have a component that the Metro browser can’t handle. It’s good enough to ask you if you want to open it in the desktop browser, but when it transfers you over it doesn’t transfer over any authentication that you had already entered. So you have to log in again even if you just logged in. Sure you could just use the desktop browser all the time, but I do like the touch implementation of the metro side, especially when I’m not using a mouse.
- I use both the Microsoft Mail client (for personal e-mail) and Outlook. For some reason when I click on an e-mail address in an e-mail within Outlook, it wants to start an e-mail to that address in the Mail client (rather than Outlook)
Metro App QC
I haven’t used a massive quantity of Windows 8 apps that run on the Metro interface, but the ones that I have, don’t seem to work the best all the time. Application crashes or failures to load. I have even have occasionally had problems with the built in apps like Mail and IE doing this. The saving grace here is that it is typically so quick to re-open the apps that it’s just a minor annoyance. I think that if some additional developers get out there and start writing some quality apps then this will improve.
Wireless Network Attach
It is entirely possible that I need to tweek some settings to make wireless work better for me, but right now when I boot up the computer it takes an inordinately long time to connect to any wireless networks nearby that I had previously set up. It does eventually come up with some patience for me, but I think I am so used to everything else being quick in this that I just expect it to be ready to go.
I know that I have missed a lot of reasons that I like the Surface Pro and I have intentionally left out others (like portability) because they are obvious. I know that once I submit this I will say “I wish that I would have added this thing!” but the post is what it is. I guess what some that are reading this might want to know is whether this tablet is worth it. Everyone is different, but I will say that for me it definitely is. The only times I have used my MacBook Pro over the last couple of weeks has been when I had to (there was some file located there, or some application that I didn’t want to double purchase, something like that). I would say that using that as a measuring stick, it is definitely a worthwhile platform.