Two weeks with the Surface Pro

As a Microsoft junkie I have been looking forward to the Windows 8-led product wave for quite a while now. Reading about Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Surface, and everything else Microsoft is doing lately has been interesting (now that those things are out, we’re reading about “Blue”). Microsoft may be the underdog right now, but don’t count them out! Their game plan is coming together a bit more each day, and it’s exciting.

Surface Pro & HTC Windows Phone 8X

I installed Windows 8 on my desktop and laptop the day it was available – it’s a solid, worthwhile upgrade from Windows 7 (on a desktop, I highly recommend adding the Logitech T650 Wireless Touchpad). I got my HTC Windows Phone 8X in early December – I’m still loving it. The only thing missing was a tablet, and I had my heart set on the Surface Pro.

I was very excited for launch day – February 9 – to arrive, basically counting down the days that week. I didn’t think I would need to line up, so I got to the Microsoft Store at West Edmonton Mall an hour or so after it opened. Turns out that was the wrong decision! All they had left was a couple 64 GB models. I decided to pass, knowing I wanted the 128 GB model. I starting looking online to see if Best Buy or Staples might have it, but I quickly learned that the launch did not go so well. Either Microsoft purposefully restricted the number of devices available or they severely underestimated the demand. I pouted for a bit and then ordered a Surface Pro and Touch Cover from the Microsoft Store online. I knew I’d have to wait a couple days, but I figured that was better than driving from store to store hoping to be lucky. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long – it arrived around 5pm on the 12th.

I’ve had my Surface Pro for a little over two weeks now, and I wanted to share some initial thoughts and impressions. I’ll do a more complete review later.

  • The build quality is just as fantastic as you’ve heard it is. The Surface Pro feels solid, and the attention paid to details like the kickstand are really worth it once you start using it. I find the VaporMg case shows fingerprints a lot more than I anticipated, but it’s great otherwise.
  • It does feel heavier in your hands than most other tablets, but not uncomfortably so. You can hold it up with one hand, but probably not for very long – it’s a two-handed tablet.
  • One of the differences between the Surface RT and the Surface Pro is the thin ventilation strip (because it has a couple of fans inside). Aside from making the Pro slightly thicker than the RT, it hasn’t been an issue at all for me. I have only heard the fan come on once (during an hour long video Lync call) and it is never noticeable in my hands.
  • The screen is beautiful. It has an excellent resolution, it’s vibrant, and it feels as though it is right under the glass. A complaint some have had is that the kickstand isn’t configurable, it opens at one angle only. Because the viewing angles on the screen are so amazing, this isn’t as much of an issue as you might think (I constantly adjust my laptop screen, but that’s because it’s a pretty crappy screen that you basically need to be looking at straight on).
  • Depending on what I am doing, the battery life is OK. Definitely not great, but not as bad as I anticipated either. We’re talking about 4 hours or so for normal usage. It means I’ve always got my power adapter in my bag.
  • The Touch Cover definitely takes some getting used to, but it has really grown on me. I love how thin it is, and once you get a feel for it you can type pretty quickly. I’ve written a few of my previous blog posts using it, for instance.
  • The killer feature as far as I am concerned is the pen. I’ve had a Tablet PC for a number of years, but it’s heavy, slow, and awkward, so I haven’t used it much lately. When I did use it though, I was always so impressed with OneNote and I was hoping the Surface Pro would be just as delightful to write on. I can safely say it is (and it’s probably better actually). The ability to jot down notes in meetings or draw out ideas is huge for me, especially as I’m trying to go paperless.
  • The other nice thing about the pen is that it makes navigating the desktop much easier. Because the resolution is so high but the screen size is just 10.6 inches, stuff appears fairly small on the screen so it’s hard to tap with a finger. In “laptop mode” the mouse solves that problem, and I find myself using the pen when in “tablet mode” (ie. sitting on the couch).
  • I have only used the front-facing camera, and while it isn’t the best quality, it’s more than good enough for video calls. I have heard from others that there’s a bit of audio static when I first join a call, but otherwise the audio hasn’t been problematic either.
  • Disk space has not been an issue, despite what you might have heard. I did get rid of the recovery partition, but that’s the only change I made. Windows currently tells me I have 64.8 GB of free space, and that’s after installing Office and all the stuff I normally install on a new computer, plus a bunch of Metro apps, and having synced my Skydrive and Dropbox folders.
  • I’m really impressed with the performance of the Surface Pro. It resumes from sleep in seconds, and even a cold boot takes just a couple seconds extra. Everything opens quickly and Metro apps are very responsive – noticeably faster than on the RT. Wi-fi performance is also great.

There are still a bunch of things I haven’t tried yet, like hooking the Surface up to an external display. I haven’t tested the Micro SD slot either, though I have used the USB port a few times. I turned Bluetooth off right away, and haven’t tried connecting any of those devices yet either.

I can see how an updated version of the Surface using a Haswell chip would address the battery issues, and I briefly considered holding out when news first broke about the poorer-than-expected battery life. I’m glad I didn’t wait though. For me, the Surface Pro has been great!

I’ll write more in a future post or two, but for now I’d encourage you to get out to the Microsoft Store to see a Surface in action. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

  • Awesys

    Cool review! I just set up a 64GB one tonight, and connecting an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard (yes, I know…) was seamless! Recognized it right away and installed without issue, unlike when I tried the exact same keyboard on Windows 7 on a Boot Camped iMac.

  • Stuart Kehrig

    I have had a Surface Pro for work for about 2 weeke now also. It is a more than a great tablet – its a great computer. It blows my experience on Ipad’s and my previous favorite, Google Nexus (ASUS) out of the water.

    One thing to consider before purchase:
    Test out both of the keyboard options if you can. I much prefer the Type Cover as opposed to the Touch Cover. Only about 80% of keystrokes for me were being recognized on the Touch Cover. I think more likely because of my typing style rather than a design flaw. Mack how do you find your touch cover?

    • http://blog.mastermaq.ca Mack D. Male

      Like I said, it takes some getting used to! I had some trouble getting keystrokes to register initially as well, but I realized I was just trying to be too delicate. If I type like I mean it, it seems to work much better. But I agree with you, test out both keyboards before you make a choice. And remember you can use ANY keyboard with the Surface, it’s just nice that the Touch and Type attach.

  • Benmartin1974

    Id been deciding on getting a windows surface for ages. I read plenty of reviews and this one was very useful http://search4reviews.net/ , I got my delivery last month and am very happy. I Would highly recommend to anyone still unsure.