Thursday, May 23, 2013


Occasionally, I am moved to write up a quasi-review of a new piece of technology, not so much for others who might want to learn, and not even for myself, to get my thoughts organized, but for automated search engines, so that they have something to crawl through.

I bought a Surface Pro a few months ago and have been putting it through a few paces and I wanted to write up my feelings about it. I was going to call this "On the Surface" but figured that that wasn't oblique enough. So I went with "Superficial." You may smile politely when ready.

So I have the Surface Pro running Windows 8. Here is what I have discovered. This is 2 different computers in the same hardware. One is a tablet, used for apps and stuff like that and one is a laptop, acting like a regular old laptop. A user has to stop expecting this to be one or the other for the sake of comparison. All of the negatives I will list pale in comparison to the fact that this is 2 solid machines in one.

It is thicker and heavier than iPads I have used. It also isn't as streamlined (in terms of the exterior design and Metro interface). The tiles are annoying (and I can only imagine their being more annoying for someone without a touch screen). In fact, I don't see much use to the Metro interface, but that's because I use this 95% of the time as a laptop. I wonder if the tiles are really good for people who live in Metro mode. Please let me know.

So the negative list is

1. when it isn't on a perfectly flat and solid surface, the keyboard loses keystrokes
2. having the stylus plug into the same spot as the charger means I'm going to lose the stylus
3. sometimes the trackpad stops responding. I have to scroll up or down with the arrow keys a little and the track pad comes back to life
4. I have had a few IExplorer crashes (and the system is really bad about reopening up tabs)
5. I have had some "display adapter not responding" issues but each time, the system is able to fix the issue
6. a couple of times the entire screen when kablooie (for lack of a better word). Pages looked wierd, words got mashed. Typing didn't appear. Closing the software and reopening fixed it
7. requiring that one holds an FN key in order to make the function keys operate in the traditional way is annoying. It also means no right side Ctrl key (which I use when opening urls)
8. battery life stinks
9. it has occiasionally lost wireless signal, especially while in the app store
10. to my eyes, the rendering on other browsers seems less crisp than on IExplore. I wonder if that is intentional

But here are some things not to complain about

a. no start button. I installed a 3rd party one. Big deal
b. not booting to desktop. Come on. Desktop is literally 1 click/touch away. And when the machine boots up in (literally) 5 seconds, I end up in desktop mode much faster than on any other computer

My wish list for it is

i. to be able to plug it into the keyboard in the portrait mode also so tall documents can be worked with as tall documents
ii. more flexibility in terms of positions. The stand has the screen a bit inconveniently angled for my eyes

and some positives

1. the way it handles pictures and music is great
2. you can search for anything just by typing (this doesn't replace my favorite wildcard searches but it is nice)
3. the touch screen mixes well with traditional keyboard/mouse interface
4. lots of memory and fast
5. moving between applications or interfaces is easy
6. the charging cable has a little light on it to tell you hat it is plugged properly

There are different areas for discussion -- the hardware and the Windows 8 both have plusses and minusses. The interfaces within the system (Metro vs. desktop) have different uses and moments of convenience. But this is 2 separate machines in one and on the whole, I give it a solid B+. It has replaced my tower and is, in some ways, an improvement over it. Granted, I'm writing this all on an acer netbook running XP SP3, but that is just because I am not at home. I give the Surface Pro and Windows 8 a solid thumbs up. Room for improvement? Sure. But solid, long term investment? Yup.

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