Having used my Surface Pro as my one machine for 15+ months now . . .
As the Surface Pro 3 is coming out I just wanted to post some thoughts on having used my Surface Pro as my one machine for 15+ months now. I hope I'm adding a little something to the conversation because it seems to me every review I've read so far for the Surface Pro 3 really misses the point. The question, "Can the Surface Pro 3 replace your laptop?" is valid, but then the reviewers proceed to attempt using it exactly like they use their laptop (and fuss over how it feels using it in one’s lap, etc.).
The answer to the question is, yes, absolutely, it can replace your laptop, and your tablet. The Surface Pro 3 seems like a great improvement upon the original Surface Pro, and it has been a pleasure to use as my one machine for over a year now. It’s not an unusual day when I use the machine with the Type cover all day long – I even prefer typing on it over the MacBook I had previously as the aluminum wasn’t comfortable to rest my hands on. I do prefer using a Bluetooth mouse over the trackpad, but I can tolerate the trackpad when I need to. I typically use the Wedge mouse which is very comfortable, yet tiny and fits anywhere.
What’s extraordinary about my Surface Pro are the ways I use it that I didn’t use my laptop. When I’m at the office all day, I have a comfortable wireless ergonomic keyboard and mouse that I pull out. I put the Surface up on the raised shelf on my desk, and it’s as comfortable as using a desktop. It’s also just really elegant and natural to use this way. At times when I know I’ll be working with spreadsheets or coding all day, I’ll hook up an external monitor as well and use the Surface as a secondary screen. It’s wonderful. I suppose one could use a laptop with a dock and/or external monitor, but I’ve never liked messing with docks and it's awkward to use a second screen with an un-docked laptop. The Surface just seems to lend itself to being used in a variety of ways depending on the task at hand.
The other thing that is so wonderful about the Surface is portability and touch. Several times a day I may impulsively yank the Surface off my desk and take it over to another team member and we’ll look at something and work on it together either at a desk, or while standing. This is similar to how people use tablets at times, but in my case, the transition is instant, and there is no adjustment to software with less features. And for collaboration, the Surface is again far superior to a laptop. We work together on the same screen simultaneously by touching it - there's no need to awkwardly take over the mouse or trackpad with the machine angled towards the person using it at the moment.
I do not want a laptop and a tablet. I want to keep the devices in my life to a minimum for simplicy’s sake. When I travel, or work offsite, which is often, I just want to grab one thing without thinking and again keep the content of my bag to a minimum. My Surface is light enough I have to feel around in my backpack to make sure it’s there.
I admit it is a little awkward to use in some tablet settings. I like the 16:9 display myself, but it is sometimes a little ridiculous when using the onscreen keyboard. It’s also a little too heavy to fling around like a weightless tablet. For example, it’s not comfortable to read on - for that I do think a Nook is worth it for me. I like the fact I can get to my books on my Surface, but if I sit down and read, I either need a real book or a display designed for reading.
And I love the pen. I use it to put a real signature on my letters, and I use it in OneNote extensively. I’m not an artist, but I may sketch out an idea for a team member or just use it to write notes during a conversation or brainstorm so I’m not impersonally clacking away at a keyboard with the display pointed in my direction - my notes are out there for the other people in the conversation to see and interact with.
I *do not* use it in my lap. I hardly ever used my laptop in my lap. I have used my Surface in my lap on a couple of occasions - and I got by but it was not at all comfortable. It seems like these tech journalists go to conferences where they sit in rows of seats and need a computer to use in their lap, so they assume people can’t survive without using a laptop in their lap. If I’m working in a coffee shop, I prefer using my Surface on a table if I need to type – and I was the same way with my laptop. If I am at a conference or coffee shop without a table convenient, I use the pen to jot notes if I need to, and I much, much prefer this to typing on my lap anyway.
Not only do I feel like there have been no compromises having switched to the Surface Pro as my one machine, I’ve found I much prefer it over a laptop having discovered using it in ways neither laptop nor tablet handle well, or at all.