Microsoft Surface Pro: First Impressions

It all started a week ago when my laptop bag was stolen. My iPad and Macbook Air, gone. I’m going on vacation in a week and I was going to need to replace it but I didn’t want to spend the fortune that replacing those devices individually would cost (about $3500).

I thought about just getting a tablet and ditching the concept of the laptop altogether however that would preclude me from writing code on the road, something that I frequently do. It occurred to me that I might just buy another Macbook and ditch the tablet, but I really do read on my iPad quite a bit. Enter Microsoft Surface.

Microsoft Surface Pro

My Microsoft Surface Pro in Action

The specifications of the top of the line Surface Pro were almost exactly equivalent to that of my Macbook. The only thing I’d have to live with would be the smaller screen, lack of osx (that I admittedly rarely used), and perhaps a sacrifice in the battery life department. I figured that if I didn’t like it as a computer, I could always get another macbook and I’d just be stuck with an overpriced tablet. After reading this article about developing software on the Surface, my mind was made up. I went to a Best Buy and after suffering through their horrible customer service, the 128 gig Surface Pro was mine.

After a week of using the Surface, I must say that I’m overall disappointed.

The Good:

  • Powerful! I’ve yet to throw anything at it that Surface can’t handle. It compiles Gatekeeper 3 without breaking a sweat, and it honestly FEELS a lot faster than my macbook.
  • Windows 8 works as a tablet OS so much better than I’d thought, though it still lacks the polish of iOS

The Bad:

  • Atrocious Battery Life. I’d read that it was bad, though nothing could prepare me for battery life THIS bad.
  • The power connector seems to be a magsafe ripoff, but it doesn’t work very well. I find that I have twice as much fumbling to do than I did with my magsafe adapter on the macbook.
  • The pen attachment uses the same port as the power adapter, meaning hat I have no place to put it when I’m charging, and may very well lose it.
  • Overall Polish. Coming from an Apple environment, I’ve come to expect a high degree of polish from the products that I use. Things like switching from portrait to landscape mode, fullscreen “apps,” and their “multitasking” seem to kludgy at best
  • Keyboard often doesn’t connect to the tablet seamlessly. I have disconnect and reconnect it a few times.
  • Weight. I know that some compromises need to be made. For its size, the Surface Pro is incredibly powerful, but it just feels too heavy when I’m reading with the virtually unusable kindle app

Summary:

In all I was hoping to combine the best that a tablet and a laptop have to offer into one device. I think that what I ended up with was a very powerful computer whose design compromises to facilitate such power came at too high a cost. I think that what I’ll end up doing in the near future is buying an ipad mini whenever it supports retina display, and spring for a macbook pro with retina display.

 

Update 8/7/2013: The pen is gone. The little magnet that keeps it in its place isn’t very strong and it fell as I was getting out of an elevator, falling into┬áthe crack between the elevator and the ground and going into the elevator shaft.