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First month with a Surface Pro

October 13, 2018/0/0
Home / Blog / Blog / First month with a Surface Pro

So, this is my first monthwith a Surface Pro, and I wanted to write something about how it has been.

Before I start, I’d like to clarify a few things. This isn’t my first time with a 2-in-1, and this isn’t my daily driver.

My previous system was a Lenovo Miix 700, a rather nice system powered by a Core-M. There were a few things I liked about it, one of them being that it was silent, no ventilators whatsoever. I also liked the tablet format, and the possibility from switching from one mode to another. The Miix 700 came with a keyboard and a stylus, something the Surface Pro didn’t. At the time, I had considered the Surface Pro, but that was before the 2017 model. The Core-M model had 4Gb of RAM, and 128Gb of SSD, while the Miix 700 had twice that, at 8Gb and 256Gb. I used it mainly for writing, with a little bit of very light gaming here and there. While I hadn’t planned on using applications that were power hungry, I did think that 4Gb of RAM was the absolute limit, and that 8Gb would be more comfortable. The hard drive is what ultimately won me over, 256Gb being far more comfortable.

After a while, I got fed up. I spent lots of time on a train, and I couldn’t actually write with the folio keyboard on my lap (I couldn’t stabilize the system) so in the end, I gave it to my girlfriend. Writing was complicated, and now that I have something else, I can tell that the trackpad wasn’t that great. My girlfriend, on the other hand, had other needs, and it was perfect for her.

I used two other laptops that we had (yes, we have lots of computers). I ended up using an i7 “gaming” laptop, with a 2Tb SSD, and 16Gb of RAM. It even replaced my desktop computer for a while, and my plans were to buy an i9 Dell XPS15. In the end, I changed everything, and went for the Surface Pro, and to use the rest to upgrade my desktop. I then tried the second laptop, a Sony Vaio Pro 11, and stopped using it even before I finished installing Windows. I really do not like laptop ventilators.

I don’t know what my problem is with ventilators. I have a desktop system with lots of fans that turn all the time, but that doesn’t bother me. However, if I bring out a laptop and the ventilator starts to whine, I only concentrate on the noise, and I basically stop working. Which is absurd, since the noise from someone else’s laptop doesn’t generally bother me. I suppose I consider that in today’s world, with the number of advances that we’ve made, there is no need for a laptop to try and imitate a helicopter every time you try and write an email.

So, one month has passed, and what do I think of this laptop? I’m keeping it, that’s for sure.

The Surface Pro arrived with all the accessories that I ordered (stylus, keyboard and mouse), and it booted up fine. The installation was painless. I had even planned on reinstalling everything since it would be in French, and I wanted everything in English, but in the end, there was no need. The Windows updates, on the other hand, took up most of the day (mainly due to a slow Internet connection, and to a lack of time). So, the first use was only the next day. However, I did come across a problem, one that almost made me want to RMA it.

Laptops are horrendously complex devices, but there are a few use cases that are simple. Plug in the charger, and it charges. Unplug the charger, and it discharges. When I plugged in the power adapter (which is awesome, by the way) it would charge for a few minutes, and then stop. There is a light on the charger that tells you if everything is going well or not, and that light was always on, but the laptop said it was plugged in, but not charging. This problem was mainly fixed after the first full charge; however, it did crop up again later. A while ago, Microsoft released a UEFI patch that addressed “battery stability”, and I haven’t seen it since.

Let’s talk about the accessories. My Miix 700 was actually RMAd since I had keyboard problems. From time to time, the keyboard would stop accepting input, and then a second later start up again. Typing documents would result in horrendous spelling mistakes where letters were missing, or even words glued together. Not nice. The computer was sent off, and the returned with the tag “Everything working as expected”. I was extremely annoyed, where clearly it wasn’t working normally, but the keyboard was repaired a few weeks later with a firmware update. From then, it worked normally. For the Surface, I got the “standard” keyboard, simply because that was the only black model available at the time. No alcantara, and no finger print sensor. Still, it is backlit (which the Miix 700 wasn’t), and I like that feature. Typing is comfortable, and precise. The trackpad is a joy, it’s large and precise, and I really can use it instead of a mouse for some occasions.

The stylus. Same this, the Miix 700 had a stylus that came with the computer, and the Surface doesn’t. However, it isn’t the same thing. The Surface stylus is thicker, and it did take me a bit of time to get used to it. However, it does have a major advantage. The Lenovo active pen comes with a bit of plastic that fixes it to the USB port of your choice (the Miix has 2, but one of them is for charging). The Surface only has one USB port, but it remains available while your pen is attached magnetically to the Surface. The fix is rock solid, if you pull the pen slowly, there is a very good chance of you dragging the Surface with it. The pen feels comfortable, but it does feel more comfortable now that I’ve added a screen protection. There is a kit of nibs that is sold separately, maybe one of these days I’ll have a look.

The Surface Arc Mouse. With the Miix, I had a Logitech mouse, but it required its own dongle. This wasn’t practical, since it used up the USB port (and meant I couldn’t fix the stylus), but that was my fault, I could have gone with a Bluetooth mouse. For the Surface, I bought the Surface Arc Mouse. I chose this for two reasons. Number one, Bluetooth. No more dongles. Number two, when unfolded, it is completely flat, less than a centimetre thick, and fits easily into a carrying case. It isn’t the most comfortable mouse, but I’ll take comfort when I’m at my home office, and practical when I’m out and about.

Video adapters. The Miix has a micro-HDMI, and the Surface has a mini-DisplayPort. There isn’t much to say here, they work well, and DisplayPort has a power pin to power adapters, so no more VGA adapter with external USB (to be fair, I never needed the external power, but I have heard stories from friends who did need it on their setup).

The Microsoft Wireless Display. Now this is fun. It’s an HDMI device, powered by USB, that goes into my TV. I can then connect wirelessly, and display to the TV. I already had a Chromecast, but this isn’t the same. I can connect from my Surface, and then either duplicate my desktop, or extend. It works well with Minecraft, and being the version 2 of the adapter, has a pretty low latency. Videos work great, but for some reason, PowerPoint crashes my connection using my favourite template. I’ve posted something on the Microsoft forums, but I’m still waiting for an answer.

The power adapter. Now this is something that I wasn’t a huge fan of on the Miix. It’s a USB port, but not like USB type C. It’s a USB port, but with a little extrusion that means it can only be put into a specific port. When charging, you use up a USB port, but it means that if you need two ports, you do have them (you just need to stop charging). It also means that it is fairly difficult to get hold of a second charger, and forget about external batteries. I wasn’t a fan of the Surface Pro charger either, but the magnetic lock is actually pretty awesome. It’s saved me once already. I can put it in either position, and now I’m looking at the dock for a desk in another place.

So, one month on, I love this machine. I had doubts at some points, either wondering if I made the right decision to not get a Dell XPS, or even if I should have bought an i7 model straight away, but they never last for long. I love the fact that this device doesn’t have a ventilator, and I can still run high powered programs (hey, even World of Warcraft remains vaguely playable!). For work, it is almost perfect, and let’s me run development tasks easily. It is also great to take the keyboard off and to give it to clients, they like the tablet interface. I would have loved to make wireless presentations, but that is slightly more complicated… I need to figure out what is wrong with my presentations first.

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