Surface Pro (128 GB) Review-General User Perspective

Photo taken by: E. Sarbeng



Edmund's Technoblasts: Surface Pro (128 GB) Review


There are many reviews of Microsoft's foray into the PC manufacture business; however, based on the majority of the reviews, there seems to be a bias against the Surface and an inaccurate comparison to Apple's iPad. The Surface RT can be compared to the iPad, but the Surface Pro cannot.

Similar to the iPad's initial debut, the Surface Pro is in a category all by itself. The Surface Pro aims to give you the performance and functionality of a full fledged PC, and the mobility and user experience of a tablet.

I am happy to say that the Surface Pro pretty much delivers on all fronts. Let's break down the benefits and caveats of Microsoft's new mobile PC. I will also address some of the complaints/issues that people have pointed out regarding this device.

Benefits/Features

Screen Size: Both variations of the Surface have a 10.6 in. screen. Many people (meaning tech bloggers with obvious biases) have complained about the size saying that it is too small and not conducive to an optimal user experience. I can tell you personally, I do not feel I am comprising anything; and I had a 15" lap top screen before moving to the Surface Pro as well as a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. In my personal opinion, I would say a screen size between 10.5"-13" is optimal. It gives you enough screen real estate without significantly compromising weight.

Screen Resolution: The screen resolution is 1920 x 1080 which means Full HD. The screen is bright and text is very clear and crisp. The screen also features a 10 point multitouch display. That means that the Surface Pro can recognize ten different touch points on the screen. Most screens on other PCs and tablets can only recognize 5.

TypeCover (Optional): Currently, there are two keyboard options that connect directly with the magnetic hinge on the Surface. They are the TouchCover and the TypeCover. I have used both and I have to say that my preference is the TypeCover. It has the familiar chiclet key setup and does not require the minimal learning curve like the TouchCover. Also, it feels more solid. The TouchCover is polyurethane and comes in various colors as well as special edition cover prints.

Stylus/Wacom Digitizer: Personally, the included stylus was a game changer and made any other Windows 8 Pro based PC or Tablet a non-starter if it did not have a stylus. A lot of people balk at the importance of a stylus that feels as natural to use as a pen or pencil. They balk until they use something similar. Since getting the Surface Pro, I have no need to take paper notebooks to class or legal pads to meetings; because I can take notes in One Note and it syncs on all of my devices that I have One Note installed; just like Springpad, Evernote, and now Google Keep. The digitizer also features palm recognition; which means that when you are writing with the stylus, it will not interrupt your writing because of your palm resting on the screen. This is very advantageous because MS took into consideration the natural way people would write on the device.

Kickstand: Much like HTC's Evo 4G and subsequent variants, self professed tech bloggers mocked the Surface's kickstand. I don't agree with their assessment. What makes the kickstand great, is that it is the one feature that differentiates the Surface as both a tablet and PC. The naysayers whom claim that you cannot use the Surface on your lap are lying. I've done it on multiple occasions with no issues. In fact, my Surface Pro is on my lap right now as I am typing up this review; so their biased opinion holds no merit with me.


Wireless: The Surface Pro features integrated Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy and WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n radios, so you should have no problem connecting to a WiFi hotspots.

Cameras: There are two cameras on the Surface Pro. They are both 720p HD cameras and they output to 1080p video. I've taken pictures with both cameras. I'm not going to pretend like they're breathtaking pictures, but the pictures are clear and color representation is pretty good. When it comes to cameras on PCs and tablets, I don't expect much because to expect magazine quality pictures from them would be ridiculous.

Windows 8 Pro: Perhaps one of the best things about the Surface Pro is its operating system. Despite what a number of tech junkies and uber power users say, Microsoft got a great majority of it right. Nothing is perfect, which is why MS will be initiating Windows Blue to incrementally update Windows 8 and patch fixes. The number one thing that is great about this device, is the fact that any hardware that you have purchased for your previous desktops or laptops will work. There is no need to search an app store to look for applications or rudimentary third party equivalents to get your hardware to work with the Surface Pro. Plug and Play works the way it always has; and it is even improved. Another thing I like is that switching between Desktop Mode and what I like to call traditional Tablet Mode is seamless. Personally, I like the live tiles with the updates rather than static icons. It's refreshing and I find myself using it more than going to Desktop Mode.

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Caveats/Wishlist

No device is perfect; to expect anything made by humans to be perfect is to live in denial. I am going to list the caveats as well as what I hope to see in the next iteration of Surface (Pro or RT). Perhaps this will also address some of the gripes and complaints some reviewers have had about Surface.

No 3G/4G radios

Microsoft really needs to create a relationship with a wireless provider similar to how Amazon did to make it easier for road warriors to adopt the Surface. Integrating a wireless radio should be paramount in the next iteration of the Surface. I have no issue with not having one because I have a hotspot option integrated into my phone, so for me it's a non-issue, but that is not the case for a vast majority of users, so MS needs to address it.

Office 2013 and Office 365 not bundled in

This is primarily for the Surface Pro. It doesn't make sense that a full pro version of Office 2013 and Office 365 are not pre-installed. For an $899 starting price, MS could get a lot of people on-board with Surface Pro if they bundled Office in.

More Personalization

At the moment, the TouchCover comes in multiple colors and there are even special edition ones designed by up and coming artists. The TypeCover however is basic black. MS and other companies need to get away from the philosophy that you check your personality at the door when you go to work. Offering better options for customizing the Surface to represent You would be a boon in after market sales for MS.

Move the connection port for the Stylus

I love that the Surface Pro comes with a stylus. I love that it can magnetically connect to the Surface for safe keeping. I don't love that it connects to the same port as the power connector, thus leaving me to do the same thing I do with any other pen; looking for where the heck I misplaced it.

Google pulling their head from their backside

This is indirectly not Microsoft's fault. I use Google's product and services. I am thoroughly vested and entrenched in their web services and Android ecosystem. It does not make sense to me why Google refuses to create native Windows 8 apps. Frankly, it's idiotic. Where's the Blogger app? Where's Google+ and others. Right now, Google's Chrome Browser does not take advantage of the integrated 10 point multitouch display in the Surface Pro, so I find myself going back IE because it is offering a better browsing experience with regard to multitouch. For Google to ignore Windows 8, is a mistake. Hopefully, they wake up and realize that there is a treasure trove of revenue they can generate from Windows 8.

Virtual Keyboard

The virtual keyboard should pop up anytime I tap into any text entry field with the stylus. It is very annoying that I have to click on the virtual keyboard icon from the status bar. The Surface Pro should recognize when the physical keyboard is not connected so that the virtual keyboard is easier to access. Again, I hope this is fixed via the incremental updates MS is planning with Windows Blue.

Battery Life

The battery life on the Surface Pro is not great; however, it's not terrible either. Anyone who tries to claim that they don't walk around with chargers for any of their mobile devices is either in denial or a liar. Based on my usage, I generally get about 4-4.5 hrs on moderate usage. Hopefully this is addressed with updates from the Windows Blue road map. If MS could get 6-7 hrs of battery life, that would be optimal. Also, Intel chips are not known to be power sipping CPUs, so hopefully this can be addressed with software.

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and other ubiquitous social apps

MS needs to instill developer confidence in Windows 8. The lack of a dedicated Facebook native app -a company they have a vested interest in- is ridiculous. Thankfully, Twitter is available; I believe this is due to Twitter's policy regarding third party apps, so that ended up as a benefit more or less. I digress; there are social apps that people use on a regular basis that should be available in the Windows Store; yet, unfortunately they are not. Hopefully, MS is diligently working with developers from these companies to get these apps available in a timely manner.

Better Xbox and Kinect Integration

I am willing to guess that this is something that Panos Panay is diligently working on. I cannot wait to see what they come up with. Xbox SmartGlass is a start and there is a ton of potential, so I am eager to see how they expand this functionality.

NFC

The lack of NFC is not a deal breaker for me; however, it is curious that MS decided to forgo the inclusion of it in the Surface. Easy data transfer and possible secure connection protocols would be easy to do with NFC.

Consensus: I reiterate that nothing made by humans is going to be perfect. Given the caveats that I listed above, Microsoft's Surface Pro is an excellent machine. At this venture, it is the best full PC in a tablet form factor to date. No one has come close to offering what MS is giving you in the Surface Pro. A PC grade Intel Chip, USB 3.0, microSDXC slot, 1080p display, kickstand, HDMI output, a stylus that allows for natural handwriting, and out of the box compatibility with all of my previous Windows peripherals is what makes the Surface Pro a no brainer. Similar to the original Xbox, it is apparent that MS put a lot of thought into the product and the success of the Xbox 360 is proof positive that the next generation of the Surface will be vastly improved, as long as MS stays committed to the Surface. The Surface Pro is Microsoft's manifestation of what corporations preach in terms of work-life balance. I can get work done, zone out on websites and social networks, and unwind with games either from the Windows Store or from other PC vendors. The Surface Pro truly gives you an experience that you cannot get from any other hardware manufacturer at the moment. Based on a 10 point scale, I would give the first generation of the Surface Pro an 8. Please post questions, comments, and requests onto twitter or facebook via the links below.

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