Microsoft Surface

An update:

It came a day early!

It's a Windows 8.1 machine, so there was the usual first time Windows stuff, but I was up a running within 15 minutes.

I've installed Steam and am downloading XCOM and Civ V. The good news is that once the download has started, I can log back in to another machine with Steam and as long as I don't respond to the pop-up box on the tablet, the downloads continue. So I'll be able to give both of these a go later today. I need to scour my Steam and GOG libraries to see if there are any good candidates to load...

As for reading, I'll be using the Amazon Kindle app - I'll try both the desktop and Metro versions. I also have a few .mobi books that I want to read, so if the Kindle app isn't any good for reading those, I'll use Calibre or something else if Calibre doesn't like being used in tablet mode.

I've also been busy ripping a bunch of my DVDs and Bluerays, so I'll be giving video watching a go as well.

Browsing seems to be a no brainer - Chrome works well with the touchpad (as expected) and the touch screen.

Moggy wrote:

An update:

It came a day early!

It's a Windows 8.1 machine, so there was the usual first time Windows stuff, but I was up a running within 15 minutes.

I've installed Steam and am downloading XCOM and Civ V. The good news is that once the download has started, I can log back in to another machine with Steam and as long as I don't respond to the pop-up box on the tablet, the downloads continue. So I'll be able to give both of these a go later today. I need to scour my Steam and GOG libraries to see if there are any good candidates to load...

As for reading, I'll be using the Amazon Kindle app - I'll try both the desktop and Metro versions. I also have a few .mobi books that I want to read, so if the Kindle app isn't any good for reading those, I'll use Calibre or something else if Calibre doesn't like being used in tablet mode.

I've also been busy ripping a bunch of my DVDs and Bluerays, so I'll be giving video watching a go as well.

Browsing seems to be a no brainer - Chrome works well with the touchpad (as expected) and the touch screen.

CivV is supposed to be great on a touch interface.

Do have any old point-and-click adventure games on GOG? I'd be real interested in how any of those work on Win8 if you do.

Chrome also has a fantastic implementation of Pocket if you use that service.

After 4 days I'm going to give it a thumbs up. The good outweighs the not-so-good significantly. Not really experienced any bad - just one lock up.

I'll try to break it down a little. All comparisons are to my Asus Transformer Prime:

Basic usage:

Good. It's a little heavier and larger than the Asus. While not too heavy for all the ways I use it, I wouldn't want to have to use it without a surface (table, lap, belly) to rest it on. 1920 x 1080 resolution is a little small on a 12" screen. Changing Windows and Chrome to use larger icons and font size helped my old eyes.

Flipping the screen is a snap (hur, hur!) and I find I use it in all modes quite interchangeably. The touch screen is responsive as any tablet I've used. Windows 8.1 in touch mode is surprisingly good. Even the non-Metro desktop screen works very well. I rarely use Metro, so this was a nice surprise. On those occasions when I need a mouse, I use the touchpad. I'm not a big fan of touchpads, so if I find there are times when I really need to mouse a lot - probably for some game or other - I'll get a Logitech cordless thumb-ball.

Battery life has been excellent. I've never run low during normal daily usage and it charges up easily. One nice advantage over the Asus is the power and headphone sockets are on different sides. With the Asus, I'd get headphone hum when I plugged it in. Not so with the Dell.

Booting from hibernate is a little slower than the Asus, taking 15 seconds or so. Coming back from sleep is only a few seconds. I've set up Windows to go into sleep mode when I flick the power switch or close the top, but it does go into hibernate mode after some time (which I've yet to determine - or see where it can be changed. Probably a Dell Power Management option).

It does have a fan, which is a little weird when it kicks in during tablet mode. Not obtrusive, but weird. It ejects out of the base, just in front of the rear bump. When I'm in bed, with my knees up, resting the tablet on my legs the blanket tends to block this outlet and the device can heat up. Probably the biggest negative I can find so far.

Browsing:

Very little difference between the two. I use Chrome and all bookmarks and cookies and remembered sign-ons transferred over. Nice! The few websites that didn't behave on Android Chrome work great on the Windows Chrome. I did have to "relaunch desktop version" to get the full Chrome experience rather than the abridged Metro app. Once again, the higher resolution on the small screen required making the view one notch larger than the default. Damn you, old-eyes!

Videos:

Great. There's a slight improvement with my 1080 rips, but nothing worth upgrading for. No lag noticeable in playback. Screen brightness is plenty adjustable for day and night.

Reading:

Amazon's Metro version of the Kindle app was a bit of a wash. It can't load local files. The Windows 7 desktop app, on the other hand, works great and has a really nice full screen mode with full touch capability. Much better display than the Android app - Moon Reader - I was using. So I've a unified reading experience again. Very nice!

Games: So far, so awesome! Currently playing Civ V, XCOM and a GOG download of World of Xeen. Dosbox works great! This was why I made the switch and so far, I'm really happy.

I've a few more activities to get going - sketching being the main one. I have the full Adobe Creative Suite, but I really want something lighter weight. Suggestions, anyone?

Amazon's Metro version of the Kindle app was a bit of a wash. It can't load local files. The Windows 7 desktop app, on the other hand, works great and has a really nice full screen mode with full touch capability.

Which is why you should never use Metro and never spend money on Metro apps.... it is a deliberately crippled environment, one where Amazon literally cannot do sensible things because Microsoft says they can't.

And, note, says that you can't, either. With hardware you bought and paid for.

Unfortunately, iOS has already shown that people are happy to do that.

True, and people were happy to buy DRMed MP3s, too. Doesn't mean it was a good idea.

Get a room, you two.

The Android version of the Kindle app lets you load local files. I do it all the time.

You know, I'm kind of seeing why they added a second angle to the kickstand in the newer models.

Edwin wrote:

The Android version of the Kindle app lets you load local files. I do it all the time.

The Kindle metro version is kind of half-assed. There's nothing prohibiting Metro apps from loading local files - the Amazon developers just need to implement that feature. It's also got a few performance issues I've ran into - sometimes stalls on loading a page. Win8 Kindle's gotten better, but still has a ways to go. I usually use Overdrive though, connect into the library.

Refurb 32GB Surface RT's are $170 on ebay. That's actually kind of interesting for a minimal device. The wife kind of likes the Surface, and really only uses our laptops to browse and do an occasional thing in Office.

MannishBoy wrote:

Refurb 32GB Surface RT's are $170 on ebay. That's actually kind of interesting for a minimal device. The wife kind of likes the Surface, and really only uses our laptops to browse and do an occasional thing in Office.

I bought mine on Black Friday for $199 and I'd have to say it's totally worth it at that price point.

That's the locked version, meaning that to actually use it, you'll probably have to spend more money on it. You can't just install whatever you want from your desktop software collection.

Malor wrote:

That's the locked version, meaning that to actually use it, you'll probably have to spend more money on it. You can't just install whatever you want from your desktop software collection.

No, you're kidding. I never knew that the cheap RT version was totally different than 8 and ran on ARM processors.

We all know you don't like any version of 8 or RT by this point, and most of us in this thread understand the specifics of both versions of the OS.

I saw those Surface tablets and started considering one until I saw it was RT. Ugh. Stupid RT.

garion333 wrote:

I saw those Surface tablets and started considering one until I saw it was RT. Ugh. Stupid RT.

Other than coding and gaming, and how I'd miss Chrome, RT would do most of what I care about in that form factor.

In a bit of good Microsoft investor news.. seems like Surface managed a bit of a turnaround sales wise (probably due to aggressive pricing)

Those sentiments translated into sales. Microsoft sold 7.4 million Xbox consoles, including the Xbox One and the older Xbox 360, up from 5.9 million a year ago. And revenue from the Surface tablet more than doubled to $893 million from the previous quarter. In the last quarter, which was Microsoft’s second fiscal quarter and ended Dec. 31, revenue from devices and consumer hardware rose 68 percent, to $4.73 billion, growing far faster than any other part of the company.
Kurrelgyre wrote:
garion333 wrote:

I saw those Surface tablets and started considering one until I saw it was RT. Ugh. Stupid RT.

Other than coding and gaming, and how I'd miss Chrome, RT would do most of what I care about in that form factor.

Mobile IE is a surprisingly quick browser. Occasionally I'll run into a site that doesn't use touch events correctly and I have to use the crappy touchpad on the fabric keyboard, but other than that it does everything I want it to do. My only complaint is the poor magnetic power connector, it just doesn't have the same solid feeling that the Apple MagSafe connector does, for instance.

I knew going in I'd be purchasing a device with limited capabilities. If expectations are set correctly there's no reason to get upset over it.

As someone with a Windows 8 phone, RT would more or less be replicating that experience and I'd like a bit more for my money. I've already got an iPad and two Kindles, so ...

My only complaint is the poor magnetic power connector, it just doesn't have the same solid feeling that the Apple MagSafe connector does, for instance.

Agreed..its awful.. takes way to long to connect properly compared to Apple's

I have had my Surface Pro 2 for the past 2 weeks. I use it as my primary work computer. I hook it into a large screen at home and work with a full mouse and keyboard to get work done. Microsoft office, R, Igor Pro, Gimp, and Inkscape are my most used applications. It is really nice.

Just took it on a trip for the first time, and was able to do work in an economy seat for the first time in a while. only had to break out the keyboard and mouse once on the whole 4 day trip.

The Surface gives me what I originally wanted from the iPad, a productivity tablet. It actually gives me more, a portable workstation.

I haven't been as pleased with a piece of technology since the iPhone.

Hey all I'm a Surface Pro 2 user also. I've been using it the past 2 months. Overall I'm happy with it. I'm still frustrated with not having an app switching method between using it as a desktop/laptop and using it as a tablet. I am no longer carrying my iPad either. I still find the MS store a bit limiting, but able to find enough apps to keep me busy on commutes. Battery life is great--I'm really enjoying that. I have it connected to a full key, mouse, 24" screen at work in a domain environment. I'm frustrated that the docking stations aren't available! So everyday I connect/disconnect four cables. Runs Adobe CS fine. I don't do anything intense in Adobe, business cards, image scrubbing, etc. I have an i7 desktop and I don't find the i5 in the Surface that limiting--hardly notice. Office 2013+Office365 is snappy and everything works smoothly. The touch screen is responsive, not much different in my opinion from the iPad. My bigger issues are with Windows 8.1 than anything else. Wish there was a way to sign into Windows as a "tablet" vs "dekstop" user to change file associations between Windows 8 programs and desktop programs.

Bingo on the file association issue. It would be killer to flip a switch between the two.

Original Surface Pros are on sale for 500: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/...

Other than Ivy Bridge battery life, that's a good deal.

MannishBoy wrote:

Refurb 32GB Surface RT's are $170 on ebay. That's actually kind of interesting for a minimal device. The wife kind of likes the Surface, and really only uses our laptops to browse and do an occasional thing in Office.

Can I just say how weird it feels to load MetroPuTTY onto one of these and connect to a VPS running my IRC client? Now if I could just find a decent analogue to VLC with smooth playback...

Kurrelgyre wrote:

Now if I could just find a decent analogue to VLC with smooth playback...

Actually you may not have to wait for long...

I hope you guys are right about the Surface Pro 2, I got my wife one for her birthday.

Edit: The conclusion of this post was not as funny written as it was in my head.

Can anyone speak to how the second generation keyboard covers compare with each other?

Much improved, in particular the type keyboard. Has a better feel and responsiveness. The backlighting is nice too. Trackpad is still of questionable quality (I use an arc mouse when at a desk).

Although the touch is better than the first generation, neither my wife nor I like it very much on our respective devices and both switched to the type.

I availed myself of Best Buy's return policy and came to the same conclusion. The Touch Cover 2's noticeably thinner than the Type Cover 2, but at best it only feels as good as typing on the screen (if the screen weren't somewhat slippery glass), and suffers from tiny, tiny, arrow keys.