On Monday I worked from home as I didn’t want there to be any problems with the planned delivery of my Surface. The good natured teasing of my colleagues, talking about wrong deliveries and such did nothing to dampen my positivity. The only thing that did was that DHL was reporting 2 items out for delivery and not the third. Once again, the actual Surface was lagging behind.
Working in the study I can hear whenever our front gate opens and with the windows open for the breeze, even the few vehicles passing are easily heard.
I was deep in the middle of painting some Battletech minis when I heard the distinctive sound of a diesel engine idling along and a glance out the window confirmed a DHL van rolling along the street, clearly looking at house numbers. I went out and watched from the gate. There was no chance I was going to let them just “fake deliver” and just drop a card.
I felt a lot happier as he drew THREE boxes from the van and walked towards my gate.
And then it was here.
So I contained my excitement as I carefully packed away the minis and paints. I didn’t want any chance of spilling Waargh Flesh Green on the new Surface!
I ended up with the i7 16GB 256GB, along with the MS Pen, the Signature Pro Type Cover (not with alca… that cloth finish), an Arc Mouse and they threw in a free STM branded case (not a brand I’ve heard of). This case turned out to be more like a small laptop bag, rather than a snug sleeve that I was expecting. It was free, but it’s likely to sit unused in the cupboard.
First impressions. It’s a lot heavier than I expected, especially when compared to the iPad Pro 9.7 (it’s nearly double at 770g vs 440g). Larger, clearly (at 12.9″), but the aspect ratio seems nice for laptop (in landscape) and table style reading, note taking (in portrait). The weight and the lack of protection (I did already have a glass screen protector waiting to install) has meant that I’ve ordered a folio style cover for it. This will let me relax a little, carrying it about in class or at school. I’m also trying to find a nice vinyl overlay as that might look pretty cool.
A collection of software updates followed and a few installs and copying data around occurred for the next couple of hours. However, with most of my data in the cloud (in this case – OneDrive) that’s not so much of an issue these days.
I fluffed about putting a bunch of documents on the cloud and having them available offline on the Surface. This is quite smoothly done and so far space on the Surface has not been an issue, though on the smaller 128GB I had planned it might have been. I’ve added a few games, though being Tomb Raider: Guardian of Light and Trine 2, they aren’t asking for much. I will likely put a more recent TR on it as well, just to see.
And it compares very favourably to my PC performance wise, but then that’s a 2009 vintage i7 1st gen, so not hard. It worked fine on everything I threw at it. Sometimes the screen seems to need a firmer press than my iPad, but I think the screen protector may be a factor there as well.
But how does it go for my work? Well it was tested in real life today. I wouldn’t say this one YouTube video I had to show a class meant that the Surface paid for itself, but it’s put in its first payment. So again, this school has the teachers using their own (some were school issued, but you could BYOD as well) and so I arrived in the class with the teacher walking out with the laptop. She had passed me a lesson plan that used a YouTube video…
As luck would have it, she had a Surface Pro as well. So, a USB-C dongle was waiting that was already connected to the class display AND she had a Surface charger there as well. Sweet. Plugged in and connected to the screen without any button presses from me. Nice.
I did have some hiccups connecting to the network, but that was around my unfamiliarity with the school’s setup and not to do with the Surface or Windows. In the end, I hot spotted off my phone. The video was played and the lesson continued.
Some specific details below before my final thoughts.
Pen – The writing seems a bit clunkier than the Apple Pencil. In OneNote, it will take more practice to get smooth with it. Additionally, like iPadOS, prior to v14, using the Pen outside of a drawing function, that is, as a way to “write” text is awkward to say the least. On the plus side, in OneNote at least, you can convert Ink to Text. I am going to have to practice with this. But the Pencil was the same when I first got it…. it took more consistent use of it before it became “normal”.
Arc Mouse – I really think this is cool. Flat and slim, you “bend” it and it switches on (it’s Bluetooth). This also puts it in a shape that replicates the curve of a mouse. It has a smooth touch sensitive panel that acts as the left/right button and scroll wheel. I think this works very well. The only gripe is that I will need to learn a slightly different grip as the “sides” of the mouse are just air, so it feels like there is nowhere to rest your thumb. Overall, I like it.
Surface Pro Type Cover – Easily attached, nice feel keyboard. Happy with it. Make a good cover when folded closed.
OVERALL – I think it will work well as intended. My current teaching (mostly session by session in different classes) means that I am not writing day or unit plans and taking notes about things, so that side hasn’t been tested. The pen will take some more practice (just as the Pencil did).
Its a very nice laptop and a good tablet. Sure the Windows interface is a little less tablet than iPadOS but the tablet side has been built over the top of the many versions of desktop OS before it and it shows up all over the place. But a few clicks with the pen if your finger is too fat and it’s fine.
I am being positive about it meeting my needs, but I will say that after using iPad since the first one in 2010 I am a little set in my ways. It is going to take a little more than I thought to get used to Windows as a tablet/pen combination (as opposed to a desktop/keyboard/mouse).