Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Surface Pro 3

I'm typing this on the Surface Pro 3, so it's a good time for a review.

First, though, a couple of caveats. For now, this is a "light productivity" machine: blog posts, checking e-mail, etc. This is quite a powerful machine, but I'm barely scratching the surface of its power. Second, I use this to test Gridiron Solitaire, because I can easily convert to the tablet form factor, and Windows 8 supports touch automatically, so GS is fully playable.

Given those usage limitations, let me tell you what I've found so far.

I had a rocky start, at first. After a day or so of very pleasant use, I couldn't get it to wake up. Given that this is Microsoft, they don't get the benefit of the doubt on hardware issues, so I thought I had a dud. DQ XAML Advisor Scott Ray, though, told me there was a firmware update available that fixed the problem, and he was right.

Other than that, I've had no issues at all.

The primary appeal of the Surface, for me, is that I can go from desktop productivity to a tablet (and vice versa) in less than five seconds. The keyboard attachment is an example of the design polish evident everywhere--it attaches with the help of a magnet, so when it's close to the base, it latches on with a satisfying and decisive "thunk" (that may not be the right sound effect, but you know what I mean). That may not seem like much, but it's one of fiddly bits that would drive me crazy if it wasn't done correctly.

The power connector has a magnetic component as well. It's incredibly convenient and easy to use.

The pen is another example of polish, as it feels great in my hand and works flawlessly. Having said that, I don't even use it much, because simple touch also works flawlessly, and for my current purposes, I don't need the pen.

The keyboard attachment, and the keyboard itself, are not as satisfying. The keyboard's tactile response would fall into the "adequate" category--it works fine, but it's not anything you would fall in love with. Compared to other detachable keyboards, though, I would rate it highly. And the detachable nature of the keyboard is essential to the tremendous flexibility of the base.

The upside of this keyboard is that it's incredibly light, and the entire device feels like a relative feather. Plus, because of how the Surface is classified as a tablet by the government, you don't need to take it out of your bag when going through airport security. Another little thing, but a nice benefit.

In case you're wondering how the keyboard and base "combine" into a laptop, it's with the assistance of a very versatile tilt stand built into the base.  It can be adjusted in almost infinite ways, and it's also very helpful when using the base as a tablet.

The display is 3x2, not 16x9, and it "feels" big. It's also razor sharp and a real pleasure to use. The downside of a 3x2 display is that you won't be playing some games in fullscreen (like GS) because the graphics would look a little odd. I'm still able to play GS in a window that's plenty big, though. I could also download Steam and play games from my Steam library (I think that takes a little thingamajiggery, potentially, but it's entirely doable).

Here's an example of the convenient versatility of the Surface: I'm typing this post now. When I'm done, I'll detach the keyboard and be playing GS in the tablet form factor in about five seconds.

So it's beautiful, it's flexible, and it's versatile. It may not be the best device if you want the productivity of a dedicated notebook, but if you want a tablet with the bonus of Windows desktop functionality, it can't be beat.

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