After the death of my Lenovo I decided to get myself a new development machine. Pretty soon after ordering, I realised that the X1 is still under warranty (oops). It takes a while for them to fix it, so I don’t regret my decision, and my other half is now the lucky owner or a slightly worn X1. I’m not sure how much use she will get out of it; as she is a mac using Graphic Designer, but as long as it doesn’t sit in cupboard I’m happy.
So my new machine; I decided to go for a Surface, I knew ever since the unveiling that I wanted one. It looked pretty perfect for what I needed. I knew I wanted a touch screen (mainly to see what all the fuss was about with windows 8). I looked at the Lenovo Yoga and even the X1 carbon touch, but they just didn’t seem to have the same style as the Surface.
I went for the i7, 8GB RAM and 256 hard drive. I contemplated going for a large hard drive. I decided against it as most of what I have is floating around in the cloud and anything extra I can put on a 128GB micro SD card that has a neat hiding place under the kick stand.
The unboxing….. There was going to be some cheesy pictures of me unboxing it, however I took delivery of the Surface on Friday evening and had plans to go meet my brother at the pub, obviously these blurry dark pictures where pretty awful and after the first 2 snaps I was very aware of the attention I was getting in the pub, I quickly took what I needed from the boxes and jammed them in my bag.
The packaging was pretty nice, nothing over the top, but then I have never been one to get excited about a box, no matter how small/ minimal they make it. I’ve noticed on other peoples reviews that no one has really spoke about the charge, this was probably one of the nicest things for me, it’s tiny!
My main problem with laptops is the size of the charger, I don’t mind a bad battery life, as long as I can fit the charge in my bag without losing half my space, the surface charger is about half of my Lenovo. I realise that in comparison to something like a Galaxy Tab or iPad this seems silly, but this really isn’t a tablet, it has so much more power than a traditional tablet, it’s a touchscreen laptop with a detachable keyboard. The charger also comes with a useful USB port as the device only has the 1, this was a welcome addition.
I purchased a portfolio case for lablet, it was by no means an ugly case but as soon as I put it on I felt like I lost most of the style, it added a load of weight and restricted myself to only 1 position for the kickstand, this came of pretty soon and was replaced by a standard sleeve.
The keyboard: This was the bit I was most worried about, as I am a developer I spend most my time typing, a bad keyboard would mean I couldn’t work, and this table would be a complete waste of money. I was very pleasantly surprised by the keyboard, the keys don’t go as deep as I would want, but then I would complain about the added depth it gave the machine. They keys are spaced nicely apart and being able to raise the keyboard by using the magnetic strip really makes it very comfortable. I do miss my backlit keys, I tend to browse the web and answer emails in low-lit rooms in the evening. It’s not a massive issue, just something to adjust back to again.
I’ve heard that the track pad is much better than the its predecessors, I am still not convinced it is very good, going from a massive glass trackpad to a tiny plastic one of a pretty big change. I find sometimes the track pad missing clicks and just isn’t big enough for my needs. I rectified this problem by getting the Arc mouse.
Microsoft offer a special Surface edition (£60), that uses Bluetooth, therefore does not need a dongle, however it was sold out on the stores I checked. I managed to save £20 by getting the normal edition, and just have to use a dongle (Slight pain, but means I can use the mouse with my desktop also. The mouse is actually really good (even if a little expensive). The device is switched off by flattening it (My new sleeve has a perfect slot for the mouse), it hardly takes up any space at all in my bag, to turn it on you simply bend it and it snaps into position and syncs straight away. There is an area of the mouse that is magnetic, this is used to store the dongle when not in use, very clever. The mouse has a nice comfortable curve and is really light with minimal resistance. The mouse also has a touch sensitive middle button where the wheel would usually go, you can use it as a button or to scroll and provides haptic feedback (It actually feels like a wheel!)
The pen: It’s a nice touch, I like the double tap to take a screen shot, but I can’t help but think it was a big of an afterthought. I would never have purchased it as an accessory, I don’t really have the need. Maybe the intended purpose is to show off instantGo. Anyway, who knows, I may start using it all the time.
Finally onto the computer:
The design: Well it’s beautiful, isn’t it? Microsoft have done an amazing job of making it look good. It’s a light, yet sturdy design and relatively simple. I don’t really have anything negative to say about it, except it would be nice to be a little thinner (I’m sure that will come with time) and the air vents worry me. When it comes to rain/ spills, I feel like I am going to have to be much more careful than using an iPad or similar. I also noticed after a few days of using it, how high gloss the screen is, the high gloss finish makes the Surface look lovely when it is off, but when you use it in high light areas you get an awful lot of glare. It also attracts finger prints very easily, as it is a touchscreen laptop, I will constantly have oily finger marks all over my lovely new Surface. These are really small annoyances, and a screen protector and water proof case would fix these pretty easily.
The screen: It’s amazing! It is one of the clearest screens I have ever used, It was another part I was worried about, moving from a 14 inch screen down to a 12, my worries where blown away by the screen, It is so clear and crisp, it is definitely an upgrade from my old laptop. Along with how responsive and accurate the touch screen is. I can now understand the UX choices Microsoft made when creating Windows8, it’s a pleasure to use.
The power: My old development machine was the X1, it was an i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB, so you can imagine this wasn’t the biggest jump in the world. Saying that, it is slightly snappier. I’m usually jumping between projects, so you can expect me to have 3 instances of VS open, SQL Management studio, chrome (with at least 10 tabs), Remote Desktop and an email client all running (the machine gets hammered), and it is still silky smooth.
The battery: This is something that confuses me about other people’s reviews; I’ve read that it is below expectation, but I think it’s great, my X1 used to get just less than 3 hours, my Sony Z used to get just over 4, this tablet gets around 6-7. It means I can leave the charger at home and not worry (even with it being small, I would rather not carry it, it’s just added weight). My day usually starts with a 45 minute train journey, where I can finish any small bits of code, write or read blogs, I then work on my tablet for 20 minutes or so when I get to the office (checking work in, pull changes, etc). I switch to a desktop until the end of the working day. I then use my tablet to take notes at meet ups for a couple hours and a train journey home after that. It lasts all of this without running low, with enough battery when I get home at night. I used to have chargers in the office and at home and have to grab charge before I left to go anywhere, now I can just forget about it and get on with work.
The kickstand: Its nice, but I do feel that it is what it should always of been, I don’t see why it was so difficult to make and why this wasn’t on the original Surface, or even the Surface2. It comes in very useful when switching between a desk, using it on my lap, or lying down. It feels sturdy and well made, just like the rest of the machine, but that’s all I really have to say about it.
I really wanted the dock to go with this, I feel like it would be a true replacement for my machines. Unfortunately it was out of stock when I tried to order it, so I guess I will have to wait. The dock expands the Surfaces 1 USB to 5 (3 USB 3s and 2 USB 2s), gives another display port, and looks pretty sleek. It means I could also leave a mouse and keyboard connected to the dock and use them when I am at home, which would make this device perfect.
The Surface Pro 3 is exactly what I wanted from a laptop, there are a few tweaks that would have been nice, a matte or just less glossy finish of the screen being my main announce. Saying that, it is a very capable laptop with lots of added extra bits, like the touchscreen, battery life, pen, etc. It has definitely replaced my development laptop, however until I get the dock to go with it, I don’t think it will replace my development desktop.
Surface Po 3
A few snaps of my new gadget, taken with a crappy camera...