Time with a Surface Pro
I have had the opportunity to play with a MicroSoft Surface Pro tablet device. I am not benefitting from writing this (other than you reading this post and from ad revenue generated by this post); MS has not loaned nor given me the device; I am not paid to write this and if you buy one (or not) I will not receive any remuneration.
I have played with the SurfacePro for about three weeks. I will give you some opinion and results of some qualitative tests.
First I tested the computing power: I installed VisualStudio 2010, git extensions, cmake and my IT guys installed a bunch of virus checking and firwall stuff. Once I got my ~6 GB of source code onto the Surface, I ran cmake and started VisualStudio compiling. For comparison, I also use an HP EliteBook, with an i7-2860QM @ 2.50GHz and 16GB RAM which is also running Win8 and VisualStudio 2010, to compile the same code. On that HP machine it takes about an hour to compile. On the SurfacePro it took about 1 hour and 50 minutes. I believe it was actually memory limited and could have compiled a little faster if the SurfacePro had more RAM. My reasoning is that linking is the longest portion of the compiling. However, the compile time is not unreasonable. During compiling, I decided to open a 10MB Excel spreadsheet while also browsing the web with the app version of IE containing 5 tabs. I was impressed that there was only a small amount of slowing. I didn't make changes to numbers in the spreasheet to cause recalculation of all the formulas but i switched tabs and highlighted cells with only minor lag. There was a little lag, not much though, while switching between tabs in IE.
I previously reviewed Win8 and stated that I did not find a use for the app version of IE. That review was done with the above mentioned non-touch enabled laptop. With the touch capable SurfacePro, the IE app is actually really easy and I like it. I was able to view flash video content without any trouble. In addition to the IE app, I actually used the charms to great extent. They made things like connecting to a wireless router, switching between apps, changing settings, etc easy.
The stylus is a hit. It works great, feels good in my hand. Best of all, it is pressure sensitive. I only testing drawing/writing with it in OneNote. I did use it to surf, to select files, etc. I like that it sticks magnetically to the side of the SurfacePro, however it does come off too easily when bumped. I would also like a place to put it when the Surface is plugged in.
Speaking of the plug and power. I like the power adapter. It has a built in USB so you can plug in and charge devices such as a phone. The power plug is small and magnetically attaches to the SurfacePro. I only wish that the actual plug had a grip so it is easier to pull out of tight outlets.
I was not impressed with the sound quality of the SurfacePro, but I have been severely underwhelmed by the sound from other tablet devices. I would rate sound quality better than peer tablets and on par with the average laptop.
The keyboard: I used both the onscreen keyboard and the "touch cover" keyboard not the "type cover" version. I like the soft, felt-like material on the back of the keyboard, it prevented the Surface from slipping more than once. It took me a few minutes to adjust to the touch keyboard. However, once I unmuted the SurfacePro volume I could hear the key clicks (once I got some haptic feedback) it was easier to use but my wife found the sound of me typing to be annoying. The onscreen keyboard was easy to use, but did not have something that was swype-like. It was awkward to type in a standard manner on the screen, I found myself using two fingers from each hand to type quickly. An option to use a gesture-based interface to the onscreen keyboard would improve the ability to input text without the keyboard. Someone with finger nails would have a terrible time typing using the on screen keyboard, but this is not unique to Surface as they would have that trouble with any tablet device.
I used a USB to ethernet adapter to connect to a wired internet. That was easy and I am greatful for the USB three connector. I am sure I could find a USB3 capable hub and plug in a printer, keyboard, mouse, ethernet adapter without much trouble.
Since I have a domain login, each time the screen turned off and I wanted to log back in, I had to enter my full 92 character password. So it is not really 92 characters but it was tiresome to repeatedly use my credentials. A finger print scanner would be an excellent addition.
The kick stand was a great angle for using at a desk but not for my lap. I think a second or adjsutable position would be a feature that would be liked by many.
I also would have liked an inch or two wider screen. This is just my preference. As it is, the SurfacePro is a very usable size (easy to read) and is easy to haul and move to and fro.
To explain... there is too much, I'll sum up: I would buy this for home usage if I needed a new computer or wanted a tablet. For office use, I would buy this if there was a dock that would enable me to use two monitors, a regular keyboard and mouse. This is a stallion among the donkeys that are the slate of currently available tablets. I am sure other manufactures will attempt to match this both in power and interface in the coming months.