Microsoft Surface - Pleasantly surprised

This last week I started a new job, and on day one they handed me a Surface Pro (Gen 6) with a snap on keyboard, a Surface docking station and a large (I would estimate about 39”) curved monitor plus a sit/stand desk.

I was pleasantly surprised by how good the Surface was in many ways, the only couple of things I’d say about are that it only has 8GB of memory which will be a problem (A few times this week, I’ve been pushing the limit), and that the screen on it’s own seems a little small (especially when operating in a meeting room when compared to the large monitor), but I need to have a play with the resolution.

I didn’t expect to like it as much as I have so far.

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That’s good news in my book. The days of just assuming that Apple has the best ideas and the best hardware are over in my opinion. We’ve had laptops, mobile devices, and desktop computers for quite awhile. Development in some areas has hit a plateau.

The other two companies big in hardware and software (Microsoft and Google) should be achieving parity with Apple by now. A little back and forth at the top is good for Apple and good for us.

P.S. Congrats on the new job and the nice setup you were provided.

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Congratulations! I’m trying to figure out how I can justify a 39" curved monitor to the IT department. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I have owned a couple over the years and really like MS hardware. They compete with Apple in the quality/build. The thing with the Surface is I always end using it as laptop, and they aren’t great for using on a lap with the kickstand and flimsy keyboard. I also don’t think they make great tablets, so if I wanted a tablet I would just use an iPad. Since I am shopping for a Windows laptop, it crossed my mind to get the Surface Studio Laptop, but I think the video card would be a little light for my needs.

Of course, almost every time I say the Surfaces don’t make for a great tablet because of size, weight, heat, lack of apps outside of MS’s own, about 20 people tell me I am wrong, so that might just be me.

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The rest of my team in the office have Surface Pro’s, but I’ve got a Lenovo laptop, as prior to Covid, I had an iPad as my mobile device and Surface’s went out of stock early on when work bought me one. However, they are reasonable machines.

I briefly used one and did have the same issue as @Leeabe51 and find that I can’t use it on my lap or even sat on the couch using my lap desk.

The main issue is that the university primary laptop supplier is Lenovo and the new equipment that IT have fitted desks with are USB-C Lenovo docks (which work fine on mine) but my team mates need to cart around dongles (other than the two that have the latest version with USB-C ports). Not an issue for the actual hardware though.

The battery life also seems a bit poor compared to my Lenovo - but that could equally be that the Surface’s are probably 1-2 years older. I am also jealous of the screen, as the monitor on the Lenovo is also very poor.

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Everyone gets one, it’s such a good setup.

TBH I had 2 x 24” monitors at my last job that was never dissatisfied with, but the ability to make spreadsheets extra wide for working in is really useful (until you try and do it on just the Surface)

That’s good to hear and matches what I had thought to be true. The folks (some in the Apple podcastosphere, although not many on Relay) who bash Microsoft, I think, are bashing a company that doesn’t exist anymore. It could exist again, but the current Microsoft is doing some pretty cool things!

It honestly makes me wish Windows Phone would have survived. I liked some of the things they were doing with that idea, and it would have been nice to have 3 main competitors in the smart phone market. But getting developers to work on three platforms for mobile seemed a bridge too far.

Evernote was on Windows Phone. What more could you need? :joy:

Also, I liked my Elite x3. It had some good things going for it but it was a little to late in the game. The idea your phone could be your only computer always intrigued me, and HP even had a laptop you could connect it to.

We’ve just started replacing our Lenovo estate with Surface devices, the Lenovo keyboards (at least on the Thinkpad models) are good but the screens are awful.

We trialled a lot of devices and ended up steering away from the Surface Pro and going with a mix of Surface Laptop and the surprisingly capable Surface Laptop Go 2. The whole range has a far more premium look and feel than pretty much all other Windows hardware ranges and build quality is right up there. The only real issue is the peripherals, Microsofts own range of docks just doesn’t cut it and interoperability with other USB-C docks needs a lot of testing.

Having said that, and given I run IT, I’ve chosen not to eat my own dog food and am still using my MBP.

What are the problem you saw with the dock compatibility and the USB C connectivity?

Mostly getting a dock to work full stop, we have a few different types of Lenovo docks and some just flat out would not work. More modern ones have been fine. I think we got them all working in the end with some tweak to the InTune ‘builds’.

Microsoft’s own docks just lack ports, we tried to explain this to our account manager recently and all they could think of was to try and sell us the new dock that has a built in speaker.

Dell’s docks are the same. They come with 2 USB on the back and only 1 on the front.

Despite being heavily invested in Mac computers and architecture I have dabbled with the surface line for years owning a SP3, SP8, Surface book 2 and currently own a surface duo 2 as a companion device. To be frank, the surface line of computers are excellent and compelling devices to use. Ultimately what pushed me over towards Mac was the quality of the apple silicon, unbeatable performance in a light package with all day battery life. Also a constant source of annoyance was the “hot bagging” issue where you would pull the surface out of your bag and find that windows connected standby had been running an update/process that had caused the battery to drain. Similar to the battery drain issue, battery life is no where near as good as apple devices.

I think if Apple had remained with intel, I would probably however had fully migrated to Surface’s. Windows 11 is really good, and you can literally do everything with the one device - touch screen/pen and great keyboard etc. However, these constant source’s of minor annoyance make me want to stay with apple devices for the time being.

Similarly, I am fairly invested in Mac only software such as devonthink and omnifocus.

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Congrats on the new job!

Like you, I had to move to a Surface for work about a year ago. one suggestion, from a fellow Mac user. If your PC is not locked-down by your office, download Flow Launcher.

Flow Launcher

it mimics mac’s Spotlight/Alfred functionality. I love it, especially when I’m jumping back and forth between my MacBook Pro and my Surface!

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That’s a new one I hadn’t seen - thanks for the recomendation, I’ll give it a go. I was a Launchy user for years, but was forced to move because it’s failure to support HiDPI monitors. I’d been using Keypiranha, but it has it’s foibles, such as a bit of a pain to configure (multiple different text files) and it’s not so great file search (It prioritises files over folders and most of the time, I’d prefer that the other way round!).

Thanks Rich, it is locked down. I’m trying to swing 1Password’s install to allow secure password usage, but otherwise it browser based apps only.

I used a Surface Book 2 16GB RAM for my three years back in the Windows world.

Some excellent:

  • Touch screen worked and was fun
  • Modern Windows is perfectly good OS
  • Good enough performance for most work

Some not so excellent:

  • Battery life
  • Nothing like Spotlight (search), PathFinder or Alfred - In part is was these that brought me back to the Mac

If I were in Windows land again it either be Surface device or a Lenovo.

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The regular Surface with the kickstand, that’s true. The weight of the tablet is in the wrong place, so it’s tippy. The Surface Book was a decent detachable-tablet option while it lasted, but alas is discontinued.

I think this is why Apple built their original iPad keyboard the way they did, with the magnetic point in the keyboard. It spread the weight out better. Still not ideal, but better.

Personally, I had a Surface for awhile. I contemplated having that instead of an iPad as a “Microsoft device” to run certain Windows stuff natively. It was great - but I just couldn’t cost-justify the expense for something I used that infrequently when I quite literally have a stack of old Windows laptops laying around. :slight_smile:

I had bought a surface pro a while back. I got the core i5 model that didn’t have any active cooling. The idea was to get it more like an iPad, and supposedly all day battery life. That turned out not to be true.

Like someone else commented, too often I would pull it out of my bag, and it had been running the entire time leaving me with about 10% battery life. One time, this is what I was left with on a six hour plane ride, and no way to charge it at my seat on the plane.

With low ram, only a core i5, it wasn’t the best laptop from a multitasking standpoint. On the flipside, I was hoping it would also replace my iPad. But it couldn’t hold a candle to the iPad for consumption of books and media.

I truly wanted to love it. I even gave away my MacBook Pro, and my iPad, so I was fully committed.

I have no doubt they are better these days, and Windows 11 seems to fix a lot of things that were wrong with Windows 10, but I still imagine eventually it will just feel like a compromise in both areas. I hope I’m wrong for your sake.

I now have a MacBook Pro with M1 max that I use primarily as a desktop since I am home most of the time. I got it as a 14 inch for being small and light when I do have to travel with it. I also have a killer windows 11 gaming PC that has the fastest processor you can buy (running steady state at 5.6 GHz), and arguably the best GPU on the market, with ultra fast flash storage like Apple uses today. But I still have two other iPads (11” Pro and a mini), that I use to read books or consume media away from my desk. It would be utopia to have all of this in one device, but I just don’t know if it will ever exist without compromise of some sort.

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Apple has been working on the right problems since the beginning. Microsoft is still working on catching up to Apple.