My New Surface

Yes, I know this isn’t a woodworking or shooting post but I’m excited about my new toy. This is a first impressions review. I’m a “gadget guy” but I’m not a full expert.  I decided on the Surface because I got a good deal on a refurb, I wanted something I could do work on, and I wanted a new toy.  I’m typing this using the on-screen keyboard.

Side Note:  I recently upgraded to a Surface 2 It has a better screen, better camera, etc.  It is also noticeably faster than the Surface RT

Surface 2 – 32GB Desktop Tablet, by Microsoft 10.6″

HERE’S WHAT I LIKE

The unit is quality piece of hardware. It’s got a nice solid feel, good weight, and it looks good.  I put it in a ProCase Premium Folio Case ‘leather’ case that makes  the built-in stand pointless, but it offers the protection I need while still giving a professional look.

The screen isn’t a retina display (one where you can’t see pixels) but still very nice and crisp. Touches are as quick and responsive as any phone or tablet I’ve used. The controls are also very intuitive, despite a learning curve.

The on-screen keyboard offers a split design that takes time to learn but is very nice to use. It’s something you have to decide to learn because it’s different, but I’m getting faster as I write this post.  The predictive text continues to improve the more I type.

The touch internet browser makes up for most of the missing apps that are available on other systems. It’s very good.  In fact, I can simply “create” and app if it’s missing from the app store.  WordPress.com, for example.  I can just ‘pin’ the website to my start screen and there it functions just like an app.  IE for RT is the most powerful browser I’ve seen on a Tablet/Phone.  Try going to Hulu’s website to watch your favorite show on your Ipad.  It will say you must use their ‘Hulu Plus’ app and pay $8/month.  Not so on the Surface.  Hulu free works perfectly.  After pinning the link to my start screen I have the equivalent of an App, but with full website functionality.

I’ll get to the negatives shortly, but I want the “Lack of apps” folks to realize something.  All an “App” is for the most part is a website with a custom interface.  My Facebook app on RT uses Internet Explorer as it’s engine.  It’s just skinned over (think the annoying toolbars that get installed that you have no idea where they came from, but useful in this instance.)  That’s what your Pinterest app is, your Google Docs app is, your Amazon app is, etc.  It’s a little more complicated than that but that’s about it (in layman’s terms).

Once I buy the keyboard cover this will pretty much replace my current laptop. However, I am concerned about how my leather case will interfere with being able to fold the keyboard behind.

While the onscreen keyboard is very good.  It gets old for serious writing, such as this post.  The real USB port is nice because I just grabbed an extra keyboard I had.  I plugged in the wireless USB thing and now I’m typing away just like on a desktop.  You can’t do that on your Ipad.  (Of course there are Bluetooth options, etc, but you can’t  just grab a random keyboard and plug it in.

Add onto that the ability to use thumb drives, USB optical drives, external hard-drives , or basically anything that uses a standard USB port and you’ve got a powerful system.  Also, if your Ipad or phone’s battery is dead, my Surface can charge it.

HERE’S WHAT I DON’T LIKE

Some things that should work don’t. Such as my printer. That’s kind of a big deal for my work, as I do a lot of writing.   I finally got it to work but only after going through a list of drivers, installing each one until it worked.  That should have been plug and play, just like my Windows 8 laptop.

Google and Microsoft are apparently in some kind of pissing match.  I’m heavily invested in the Google ecosystem. However, Google apps aren’t available on Windows RT. That’s almost a deal breaker.  I’ve managed to find effective work-arounds for all but Google Drive.  I’m having to change over to Microsoft’s ‘OneDrive’. It does the same job (synching my data across all my devices, and auto back up), but I shouldn’t be forced to change.

IMG_20140626_191416_448

65. That’s how many updates I had to bear before I could update to Windows 8.1. That took the better part of the day.  [As I finish this post up on Saturday I’ve had a total of 90 updates, including 8.1.]  Annoying, because I couldn’t use my surface for about 4hrs during all the updates.   I will say there have been noticeable improvements after each update cycle.

ALL SAID AND DONE

The more I use the Surface, the more I like it.  I have the Surface 1, I’m sure the Surface 2 is even better.  If Google and Microsoft would get over themselves, and give me the ability to use Google Drive. It would be perfect for me.  I’ve found apps that work with my Calendar, Gmail, and contacts but it’s been more difficult than necessary.

For my purposes the Surface RT 32gb for $220 is excellent.  For $400 the Surface 2 is worth it.  It does what I wanted it to.  Give me an almost full power PC in a tablet form.  I would have loved it during my college days.  I’ll be sticking with the Surface line for the future.  Eventually I’ll probably move to the Surface Pro line.

I debated for weeks between the Nexus 7 and the Surface.  I’m glad I got the Surface. It’s more of a tool than a toy, which is what I needed.

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