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Just bought a Surface Pro

August 18, 2018/0/0
Home / Blog / Blog / Just bought a Surface Pro

I’ve been planning to change my computer setup for quite some time now. I used to have a large desktop computer, but I replaced it with a semi-gaming laptop I’ve had for a while. It’s heavy at 4Kg, and I don’t like lugging it around, but it can be done. It has all my development tools on it, and is powered by an i7, with 16Gb of RAM, and a 2Tb SSD. Put it in a bag, and you are ready to go. Bring it home, connect a few cables, and I now have a system with 3 screens, close to what I had before. That’s great, but I need something more professional. I was looking at the Dell XPS15, and on paper, it does look great. The model I was looking for was an i9 with 32Gb of RAM and a 1Tb SSD, but the “low end” Full-HD screen, not the 4K version. About a month ago, I was all set, but then I stalled. After a few weeks of thinking, I’ve just ordered a new laptop. A Surface Pro 4.

This model is the mid-range one, a core i5, 8Gb of RAM, and 256Gb of SSD. Quite a difference from my original plans. There are a few reasons to this, and the main one is that I simply can’t function well without a desktop computer. I unlisted the sale, took iot out of the box, and set it back up in my office. I’m writing on it now. Here are a few reasons:

  • It has a backup drive. It actually has 3 drives, one system SSD (the 2 terabyte one that is going to come out of my “dev/game” laptop), one fast mechanical drive, and one slow mechanical drive. The fast drive was originally intended for VM drives, and the slow mechanical drive is for backups. I can now backup everything I’m doing almost in real time. I know I can do that with a NAS, and indeed I did, but this just makes things easier and faster. After a while without having access to the network, my backups get difficult to handle, and sometimes fail. This just makes things simpler.
  • Upgradable. The i9 is a pretty awesome processor, and it would have lasted me for a few years, but what if? What if my workload changes, and I need something else? My desktop as a 4 core 8 thread CPU, the Dell XPS15 would have had a 6 core/12 thread CPU, but I’m seriously looking at a 10 core/20 thread device. The XPS15 also came with an NVIDIA GTX1050, which is a step up from my desktop 970, or a huge step up from the 850M in the current laptop, but again, what if I change? If I continue to do more and more parallel calculations, I’m probably going to start looking at an NVIDIA Titan of some sort. Luckily for my budget, I’m not there yet, but who knows what will happen in a year or two.
  • Noise! The desktop runs silently(ish), and my gaming/dev laptop doesn’t. I hate those shrill ventilator noises, or the fact that my laptop tries to take off like a helicopter as soon as I start to read an email. Which is interesting, why did I go for a Surface Pro with an i5? Well, the new version doesn’t have a ventilator at all. The i7 does, but in hybrid mode, it tries passive cooling first.
  • Nostalgia. I’ve always had a desktop system. I just like them. My current system has a glass window, but it isn’t to look at the components inside (although I could).

Of course, there are now a few problems:

  • Synchronization. Work files are on both the laptop and desktop, and I need a good way of synchronizing between the two systems. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, but I mainly use something like Dropbox and symbolic links.
  • Software licences. Some of my development tools require specific licences, and I can’t install them to two computers. Now I need to choose where I install them, but the logical choice would be to keep everything on the desktop, and to show clients/students the results on the Surface.
  • Games! A laptop with Intel video won’t run the latest games particularly well, but at the same time, I don’t play the latest games, so this might not be a problem.

So, after a lot of thought, I went for the Surface Pro. There were a few reasons for this, one of them being the fact that I have a discount for being a lecturer. I had a Lenovo Miix 700, and I will admit that I liked the tablet format, and I loved the fact that it didn’t have a ventilator, so why did I go with the i5? Well, because the 2017 edition of the Surface Pro doesn’t have a ventilator on the Core M, and the Core i5 series. The Core i7 apparently does, but it relies on passive cooling before turning on the ventilator only when really needed. I hesitated for a little bit (my work load could probably benefit from the i7) but I went with the i5. I want something that is absolutely silent. My desktop has nice big fans (big = quiet), so I’ll do heavy loads on that, and keep the Surface Pro for something a little lighter, like writing and a bit of development here and there.

So there we go, I’m now like a kid who is waiting for Santa to come. UPS tells me that my parcel is at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, I guess I shouldn’t have ordered it on a Thursday, now I have to wait for the entire weekend.

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