The Surface Experiment

People who keep reloading my setup page knows that there’s a lot of Apple stuff there. Apple does quality hardware, and decent enough software, for me to lean on them when it comes to my computing needs. But there’s always a different side to the story, and it’s all too easy getting caught up – or plain caught – in what you have and know.

So I’m typing this on a Surface Pro 7. Well, not the actual device, I’m using the Type Cover, but you get the point. The reason for this is twofold. Changes over at Divide & Conquer means that we’ll be without an office in a month or so. This is all fine, but it does mean that I need to lug my whole gadget park with me, to wherever I’ll plant my behind to get some work done. An extra Android phone is one thing, but the old Alienware laptop we’ve been using for Windows testing is twice as heavy as my brand new MacBook Pro, so that’s out of the question. Especially since I always carry an iPad Pro too, of the 12.9″ variety at the moment, as you probably know if you’ve gotten this far. I – we – need a Windows test device, and the Surface line is as good as any. That’s where it all started.

Everywhere’s an office if you carry your tools with you

I’ve had Surface units before. I got the original one, and Surface 2 too – both buggy units with multiple replacements. Surface 3, which I borrowed, worked as intended straight out of the box, and while the Surface RT version was useless to me, I kind of liked it. It was much like the iPad when I figured I could connect a bluetooth keyboard, if you remember those days.

Surface Pro 7 is a different beast altogether. I haven’t used it as much as I thought since I picked it up, but there are a lot of good things to point out. Like the kickstand, which is a bit plasticky, but also really convenient – I like it a lot. It offers me better angles than my iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard, which is pretty obvious since the kickstand isn’t set in any way – there’s a minimum (i.e. the Surface won’t fall over) angle, and there’s a max one, and that’s it.

I like the unit itself as well. It’s a bit on the thick side, with a lot of bezel (the Surface Pro X is a different matter, and I’ll get to that down the line), and doesn’t feel nearly as premium as an Apple device, definitely not an iPad Pro, but that’s okay. It costs less, and it runs regular Intel chips which means that it also runs regular ol’ Windows 10.

And that’s a good thing?

Yeah, that’s a question. I’m not sure yet. Or rather, I’d like to investigate further before talking too much about the software.

I can say that I’m not a big fan of the Type Cover thus far. While there’s decent travel, and the whole thing has a pretty nice flexy feel – yes, the good way – to it, it’s also really slippery and I keep hitting the wrong keys. The latter will sort itself out, but the slippery feel to the keys will continue to be a thing, unless I stop washing my hands which I won’t. This is a known issue, but hey, at least it’s backlit. And no, I don’t love the felt, but that might be in part because of mine being burgundy red or whatever, gray will probably fare better. It’s not pretty, but very functional, and the trackpad is good for its size, but I’d still rather use a mouse.

The Surface Arc mouse

Which I do, the Surface Arc mouse. I love it in every possible way, except the clickyness to every bloody click. And it uses AAA batteries, which feels like a blast from the past, in the bad way. Other than that, it’s great and portable. Apple, take note – this design is clever.

The Surface Pen, well, I don’t know. I hate the way it feels in my hand, but I’ll get back to you. It’s very Wacomy though, make of that what you will.

So yeah, a Surface is in my bag, and my iPad Pro isn’t. I don’t expect that to last, but it will for a month. Part of that is for work – I’m writing a piece for IDG in Sweden on the subject – but the other is that I’m genuinly curious to see if I’ll miss my iPad when the first few obstacles have been defeated. Which they will, because Windows 10 means a lot of freedom in terms of available software.

And maybe it plays Mass Effect. We’ll see.

ℹ️ Small footnote, for transparency’s sake. Microsoft has supplied me with a borrowed unit for my feature article. They’re not (yet) aware of my experiment here.

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