Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Surface: One Device to Rule Them All

About three months ago, I wrote my review of my, then new, Surface Pro 128. I was in Seattle at the end of February for the MVP Summit and had picked one up. It survived the journey to Australia and regional setting adjustments and, at that time, had proven to be an excellent replacement for my old single-core $500 laptop.

Here are my experiences three months on.

Has the Veneer Worn Off?

I am happy to say, I still think the Surface Pro is a great machine and it is serving my purposes well. In terms of the elements I reviewed previously, this is how it is standing up.

Disk Space

I am sorry to say the 64Gb MicroSD card from eBay was too good to be true and was constantly corrupting. I have vowed never to buy an SD card online again as I have had nothing but trouble from them. The good news is I do not miss being without it and have not run out of space.


The space is at about 80% capacity but, in the Surface’s defence, about 10G of this is unsorted files which were previously sitting on another SD card, before it also corrupted. Most of this will be either thrown away or moved onto SkyDrive.

ProgramData is about 9G larger than three months ago due to Avast Antivirus logs so I will look into chopping these at some point.

Overall though the OS is slowly munching up the hard drive so I will need to get a replacement SD card for the real data eventually. There is also a nice backup feature for Windows 8 where the system will back up to a secondary drive automatically so I will probably use the SD card for this as well.

Battery Life

As I write this, after having the Surface Pro off power for most of the morning, I am sitting at 38% remaining which it predicts will last me 1 hour and 12 minutes. This is comparable to the previous review (39%, 1 hour and 35 minutes) and scales to a little over three hours total battery life (my experience is to expect 3-4.5 hours out of a charge on Balanced mode). Given I am rarely more than a few steps from a power point in my daily routine this has not proven to be an issue. More battery time would be lovely and, apparently, the new Intel processors will add a few more hours to the battery life when the next generation of Surface devices emerge.


I did buy the HDMI and VGA adaptors on eBay in the end, again for a few bucks, and they have proven themselves invaluable. I now have every kind of accessory add-on I can think of and none of it was proprietary. Going cheap has had its disappointments. There was the SD card, previously mentioned. Also the USB DVD Drive eject button stopped working almost straight away, although I can get to the tray through the old paperclip in the hole trick (the DVD drive still reads perfectly well). The other accessory which disappointed me was the ethernet to USB converter. While I have only tried it at work, I find the WiFi speed to be much faster than the LAN cable through the adaptor. This is a pity because the convertor also has three USB ports on it and makes it a very cheap docking station for my Surface Pro at work.

The lesson, as a good friend of mine says, is “buy cheap, buy twice”. Wise words indeed when it comes to accessories.

The other accessory I bought was a ‘man bag’ to hold the Surface Pro and all of its bits and pieces. The Targus bag was about $50 but has replaced my much larger and heavier laptop backpack and holds everything I need for work or home.

Bugs and Annoyances

The stylus bug no longer makes an appearance. Either an update has fixed it or my previous workaround did.

The ‘c’ key on the keyboard is still twitchy but I have a phone number for support and plan to raise it when I get an opportunity. I am typing this blog on the keyboard and Can Clearly Create a Couple of ‘c’s without hassle so it is a niggle rather than a show-stopper. The other option is getting the keyboard replaced when I am back in the states. The MVP Summit has shifted to November this year which means I will be in Seattle before the 12 month warranty expires. I also hear Microsoft support is excellent and they generally just swap out the item for a new one without too many questions. Microsoft Store, here I come.

Covers with built-in stands are coming out and this will probably be on my list of purchases in the future but is more of a nice-to-have than an essential purchase.

The Biggest Change: My Entire Lifestyle

Perhaps that is stretching it a little but it is true that my interaction with my laptop has completely changed. Prior to the Surface Pro, I had a home laptop, a work laptop and I used my phone to read emails in-between. The Surface Pro now does all of this. It was always going to be my home laptop but I now take it to work every day. My company has issued me a laptop but this, for the most part, gathers dust in the drawer. The only time I open it is to access things like the network printer, which I struggle to connect to off-domain (you can connect the Surface Pro to a domain, I just have not bothered). Thanks to SkyDrive, when I do open it up the files are there waiting for me to print on the work machine.

Similarly with OneNote, I am now paperless for meetings and the notes taken are available wherever I go thanks to the baked-in SkyDrive sync.

I even stick it in the car on the weekends now. The Targus bag is tiny and means if a quiet moment presents itself (rare with two children, granted) I can quickly pull out the Surface and knock out a blog. The unwieldy backpack of the previous machine made carrying it around everywhere a chore and the boot-up time meant a good fraction of the free time was spent waiting for the login prompt. None of these elements are now a problem.


With the Surface Pro being very new in Australia, I still get people coming up to me asking how it is working out. I still tell them I am very happy with it. For me, it is almost an ideal device and has simplified my online experience, going from three devices down to one without impediment.


Dave Berry said...

Damn spammers in your blog comments.

I haven't experienced quite the device reduction you have, but my Surface Pro has taken over my mobility computing needs. My desktop space is still ruled by heavy-hitting desktop and laptop components with LOTS of RAM for virtual machines. The Surface's display resolution is fantastic, but still not enough real estate for development.

Leon Tribe said...

Mischief managed. Spammer is gone :)

The Dissonance said...

I haven't bitten the costly bullet on the Surface yet, having just dropped $300 on my lovely Kindle HD tablet. But I don't see me going away from my desktop with mondo screen in the home office anytime soon. There are sure a lot of tempting replacements though including xBox. I use the Kindle everyday on the bus, reading eMagizines, email, Facebook, blogs, etc. It is sure nice not to be lugging a laptop around anymore.