More Than A Week With The Surface Pro - Very Happy
Valentine's morning I gave myself a gift I had been wanting for quite some time, a 128GB Surface Pro. Acquiring my Surface may have been the most cumbersome task I have ever done to purchase a product, and I got a dozen Furby's when they were first released. I think many others understand based on the overwhelming demand. After more than a week with my Surface Pro being my primary machine I am very happy, but as with any technology there are things that I wish would be corrected.
First let me send some love to the staff at the Christiana Delaware Microsoft Store for being so nice and helpful. In fact let me say the experiences I have had at various Microsoft Stores (Times Square, Atlanta Perimeter Mall, Orange County CA, Columbus Circle and Bellevue Center) over the past year have been great. The Christina staff really went out of their way to make me feel welcomed and took great care of me. Even said I could come back and work there if I needed too in the future. So my hats off to Mike, Z and the rest of the staff.
Now for my Surface Pro experience. Like any machine the first day or three is setup time. So the first day I spent mostly installing software like Visual Studio, WebMatrix, GitHub, Tortoise Source Control and various other productivity tools. I was extremely pleased with the time to install Visual Studio, maybe 10 minutes and Office around 20. This says a lot about the device performance.
Other standard things like transitions, animations etc are all snappy. I was already a Metro fan, which I have stated on numerous occasions, so the start screen and modern apps are already part of my lifestyle.
I mostly develop, so I spend most of my time in the desktop. Adding touch to that experience is interesting. I am glad the Surface Pro comes with a pen pointing device because it serves well when dealing with legacy applications and web pages. I do wish there were more applications that took advantage of the pen though. For example I like to write in Evernote and I would love to 'draw' annotations on my notes.
Some of the common snarks I have read in the technology press are about the weight and noise. Neither of these have been a problem for me. I know it weighs more than my iPad, but it does a heck of a lot more then my Flipboard reader :). As for the fan noise I have not heard it once, even with my ear next to the device trying to hear it. If one of the complainers wants to hear CPU fan noise I have a Dell XPS Studio that rivals a Drowning Pool concert (they are I saw them last night FYI).
Another complaint you often hear is battery life. The complaint is they need to actually plug in to make it through and entire day. Again, it not just a tablet, it is PC generation next. My Dell XPS gets about 2.5 hours on a good day with the brightness almost completely dim. Last week I was in Bellevue and Redmond for the MVP Summit, which meant I had two cross country flights. Going out I changed flights in Chicago Midway and Phoenix on the way back. Each time the Surface Pro lasted the entire duration of the long legs. I had a full charge from Chicago to Seattle and about 90% from Phoenix to Philadelphia. Each leg the 10% warning popped up just before they told me to shut it off anyway. Granted I would not have made it on a 6 hour trip, but still pretty darn good in my opinion. And for the record I write code, or write about writing code every second I can when I am flying. I even played several rounds of pinball on the flight back.
The last major complaint is disk space. How spoiled we have become, and I feel what everyone is saying. A few years ago I envisioned 2TB drives as standard for ultrabooks in the near future. Today not so much. First how much data do you really keep locally? I can see guys doing SharePoint or BizTalk development, you need big fat virtual machines, but are they more than 64GB in size?
I bought a 64GB MicroSSD to use as my 'data' drive. This means it contains my files, not my applications. I still have not removed the recovery partition and have installed quite a bit of software so far and have over 50GB free on the C drive and almost all of my MicroSSD. A total of 110GB is free combining both drives. I have 28GB of Skydrive and about 20 GB scattered amongst several other cloud drive services and only use about half of it. Some I have replicated on my C drive. My point here is you probably do not need the space you think you need. If you do there are some great cloud storage solutions available. Heck the new ChromeOS Pixel comes with 1TB of GDrive storage and 32GB locally, think about how things are changing.
Now what do I not like? The TypeCover.. It is the only thing I have considered replacing. It can't keep up with my typing most of the time. I also need to have it on a perfectly flat surface to work within reasonable expectations. The tracpad is just unusable, and I downloaded the TracPad app and turned off gestures, it still sucks. I use my Arc Mouse now. I considered getting the wedge keyboard last week and may still do that. I am giving it a full month before I pull the trigger.
I know as a general consumer the charms and media keys maybe more desirable at the top, but for me as a developer the Function keys are used all the time. I find myself having to remember to also add the Fn key to my keystrokes all day long. This is very annoying.
I was afraid the screen size would be the worst thing, but that has not been an issue either. My Dell XPS is a 17" screen, so this is a drastic change. But honestly the only thing I miss is an extra column in MetroTwit, so it is an acceptable tradeoff.
I love the portability and flexibility the Surface Pro affords me. I can quickly pack it up and go, like when I realized they were boarding my flight in Phoenix without an audible announcement! Fliping the TypeCover behind the device to achieve the tablet experience is great. Shedding over 6 pounds from my backpack is awesome, although I kept thinking I forgot something on my trip last week.
As for missing my 17", 3 year old Dell XPS, not one bit. The only reason I have taken it out is to use some software I have not installed on the Surface yet. I have not written one line of code on the XPS since Valentine's morning, including the last a decent chunk of deeptissuejs. In fact the Surface helped flesh out some issues before the initial release of my gesture library. So if you are on the fence about the Surface Pro I encourage you to give it a chance and even pick one up. It truly is a baseline for the PC experience's future.