First Impressions of the Microsoft Surface Pro

A couple of days ago I left my iPad unattended in a public place for a few minutes and that was all it took – it vanished. I felt violated in having it stolen and thinking about all my personal stuff in the hands of a thief and a stranger… and then I started worrying about how I would survive without my tablet, that thing was like a third arm for me.

I stressed about what I was going to replace it with and I finally ended up deciding to go with a Microsoft Surface Pro.

Surface Pro

Surface Pro

The unboxing experience was actually much more pleasant than I expected. The packaging is purposefully designed, like you would expect from Apple. There are obvious little stickers that you peel off in sequence to get to the inside of the box, like peeling back layers of wrapping paper on a Christmas present. When you finally get into the chewy center of your tech candy, you are greeted with a sleek, minimalist setup containing your surface, the charger, and the pen. It all felt very intentional and you could just feel how much thought had gone into every detail – not something I normally associate with Microsoft.

Next was the initial setup. I turned the device on and it showed me a couple of nice illustrative videos while everything set up. It felt a little like the videos you see when you first turn on a Mac running a new version of OS X where you see pictures of a hand using the magic touchpad, etc. Again, impressed here – except for the delay. It just felt like it took a little while to get started … but this is also relative – it takes a while to set up a new iPad too but it’s been so long I’d forgotten.

Once I had my Surface up and running I started installing software, including the following apps that I consider essential on any tablet I own, regardless of who makes it:

  • Dropbox
  • Hulu Plus
  • Netflix
  • I <3 Radio
  • EverNote

Because I am a writer, I also needed to make sure that I had ample writing tools installed. OneNote is a free install from the Windows RT app store, which is fantastic for both touch screens and using the included pen (which actually has WaCom internals, for those who care about such things).

I installed a couple games to make sure the device had something to keep my stepdaughter occupied if we got bored somewhere and those all work very nicely (though watch your battery power on the Pro … this is not a long-life tablet!)

I got the Type Cover (the clicky keys) instead of the Touch Cover (the no-movey keys) because, as mentioned, I do a lot of writing and typing and there’s no way I’m going to achieve the kind of speed I’m used to on a flat piece of unresponsive plastic. Remarkably, my typing speed is well over 90% of my full-sized keyboard typing speed while using the type cover. I fly through these keys and I make FAR less typos on this one than I did on my iPad’s Brookstone-supplied wireless keyboard.

The Surface Pro does weigh a bit more than my iPad did, but when you include the keyboards, the Pro comes in underweight – the keyboard + case + iPad combination I used to have was over 3 pounds and the Pro comes in at 2 pounds.

The Pro is, while in use, almost in a perpetual state of “warm”. It’s not hot like it’s overheating, but you know there’s more power (and subsequently, heat) inside than on the RT, which is perpetually room temperature.

In conclusion, I’ve only had the Surface Pro for a couple of hours but I absolutely love the “Modern UI” (formerly “Metro”) UX design for the device, I love the fact that the device feels as fun as a tablet should but I know I can do real work on it because I’ve got the Pro and I won’t keep running into the arbitrary sandbox barriers you might hit on the RT.

Finally, I typed this entire blog post on my lap using the Surface Pro unfolded and the type cover. It was supremely comfortable the entire time and, since I’m using WordPress’s web interface, the availability of the trackpad for precision clicking came in super handy.

I will be posting more as I have more time to play with this thing but I highly recommend that anyone considering a new tablet go down to Best Buy or a Microsoft store/kiosk and kick the tires. Make sure you try the pen – the recognition accuracy is outstanding and you can even get better Wacom pens as an upgrade if you’re into digital art or are a stylus-phile.

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