My experience using Surface Pro as main computing device

I bought a Surface Pro a couple of weeks back and decided to give it a real try to replace my other devices and see if it can hold true to Microsoft’s promise of being a real hybrid tablet / pc device.

I use a Dell Latitude 6420 14″ laptop as my current laptop for work, complemented with an Ipad 3 for consuming stuff on the road, in the airplane and at home. I also have a powerful workstation at home with two 26″ monitors attached as well.

I’m working in the IT industry as a consultant, and do everything from programming to presentations to writing documents and not least: I attend a lot of meetings. I read books on my precious Kindle to keep up to date. I’m also interested in photography and use Lightroom and Photoshop on my home workstation extensively.

When I purchased the Surface Pro I decided to try and let go of my other devices to get some real experience using the Surface.

The first thing I decided on was what kind of peripherals I would need to succeed with my goal. I decided on the Touch keyboard, but primarily as a lightweight cover as I was skeptical using this as my main keyboard at work. I bought a nice, lightweight, backlit Logitech Bluetooth keyboard (K810), external mouse, MiniDisplayport to VGA adapter for my presentations, extra power adapters, 64GB Micro SD card for a total of 192GB of storage (in addition to my SkyDrive and external USB disk), some spare pens and a nice bag from Case Crown tailored for the Surface device with room for my accessories.

Case Crown bag for Surface

Case Crown bag for Surface

It’s a pleasure travelling around with this bag filled with all of my stuff – it weights next to nothing on my shoulder, and compared to my previous gear this is a HUGE difference, so I was off to a good start!

When I initially looked at the specs of the Surface Pro I falled in the trap comparing it with the Ipad, from different angles such as weight, battery life and price. The thing is – it doesn’t make any sense to do this comparison. Yes, it is a bit heavier, yes, it has shorter battery life (around 4 – 5 hours) and it’s not cheap either. BUT it’s a very lightweight pc, it’s got more battery life than other pc’s with comparable performance and I think the price is more than decent – it’s a very nice piece of hardware, not comparable with an Ipad or a cheap Atom-based laptop at all.

I have been using Windows 8 since early last summer, but must admit that the what-used-to-be-called Metro user interface wasn’t used much. I jumped into Desktop mode first thing after boot and stayed there. With Surface Pro this has changed in a profound way – to my surprise. I’m preferring to use the Metro apps, and really look forward to the rumoured versions of Metro-based Office apps later this fall. I’m finally appreciating what Microsoft is trying to achieve with the move to Metro, and I now view the Desktop as what the shell was for Windows 3 – it’s a legacy and will be treated that way from Microsoft moving forward. Embrace Metro sooner rather than later, and get used to it! Together with the Surface, this really start to make sense…

So, here I am, two weeks into my experiment. The Surface has been joined to the corporate domain with BitLocker enabled. It has fully replaced my Dell laptop which hasn’t been used at all. The kids have taken complete control over my Ipad, it’s hasn’t been missed after I got the Surface Pro. I haven’t used my workstation at home either, but will continue to use it for my photography activities, but Lightroom and Photoshop is installed and will be used for photography work while on travel which the Ipad would never be able to do. And of course – I’m using the Kindle app for reading books, not the Kindle device.

I’m surprised with the quality of the Touch keyboard. It’s much better than anticipated and is actually useful. I don’t bring with me my Logitech keyboard in meetings or at home, but at my desk I prefer a real keyboard and mouse and here the Logitech keyboard is really nice. I do miss 3G / 4G capabilities that I had with my Ipad. I use tethering on my phone, but that means I have to think more about battery usage than I did before.

The pen is way more useful than I had expected. Combined with OneNote, the pen is truly a nice addon. OneNote is probably my most used application (except Outlook), and with the pen this has been an even better tool for me.

I’m subscribing to the Xbox Music service and have suddenly my whole music collection (approx 1.000 CD’s) available from the cloud after having done an initial Xbox Music Match on my Surface as well as on my phone – Nice 🙂

Of course – there are some shortcomings:

  • I would like an even better battery. It is way better than my Dell laptop, but because it is so much more convenient to use everywhere (on the train, in the airplane, on the bus, while eating breakfast and so on), it’s being used in a different way where increased battery life becomes more important. It’s not a big deal (4 – 5 hours is not bad at all), but 10 hours would be even better
  • I’m looking forward to more apps migrating from legacy Desktop to Metro
  • I’m looking forward to Windows 8.1 with more flexibility with regards to running more than 2 apps side by side in Metro
  • I’m looking forward to a next-gen Surface that will no doubt include 3G / 4G capabilities
  • Finally, although the screen is great, I would like a better experience when extending with an external monitor.

It’s not the perfect device, but it’s the best one out there if you ask me. Highly recommended!