Up until a few months ago, I had had two laptops at work: a Lenovo, that essentially functioned as a desktop, and an HP, which was my running around machine, because it was smaller, and lighter-weight; both were PCs. As the HP was getting a little long in the tooth (6 years old — among other things, it would turn itself into an intense fireball after a few minutes of operation; I would have needed a wagon wheel-sized fan to cool it), I opted for a tablet, that would be easier to transport to and from the office, by commuter train. Having already tried (and liked) the iPad, I went in for the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 — especially as, part of our mission here at LOMAP is to try as many various products and product lines as we can, so that we can advise attorneys more effectively on an array of options.
Now, you may ask yourself: Why didn’t I just buy the Surface Pro 3? Legitimate question. It wasn’t out yet. (I suppose I’ve always had bad timing; my clock management was pretty horrific during the 1972 Olympics, for example.) I suppose I’m kind of behind the eight-ball, as it were, in writing a review of a tablet that’s no longer even the most current model in its own line; however, I’ll be damned if I don’t get at least one product review out of this thing. But, wait, there’s more: I’m comparing my old Surface Pro to a(n even older) first generation iPad. One reason I’m doing that is because those are the only two tablets I own; another reason I’m doing that is because the Surface does not compare favorably to my iPad of the Ancient Mariner. Ruh-roh, Microroft.
Some additional disclaimers before we proceed:
-The iPad and iPod are the only Apple products I’ve ever owned. Never owned a Mac or an iPhone, probably never will.
-I don’t use apps. I don’t see what all the excitement is about. I do take nap(p)s, however.
-I don’t have a keyboard for the iPad; I don’t use it to draft things. I do have a keyboard for the Surface; I do use it to draft things. No idea whether I can type effectively onscreen, or not — I suppose, not.
-I’m not a technophile; this will be, in large part, a non-technical review. Someone get me a good paper book. That’ll do. That’ll do.
Let’s begin on the good foot.
Things I Like About the Microsoft Surface Pro 2
Drafting. Since I do so much drafting, probably my biggest concern in switching to a tablet was that I wouldn’t be able to type/write effectively. Given that I was already in my prime before texting became a thing, my thumbs aren’t strong enough to support on-screen typing; such that, ultimately, my overriding worry was that I would never be able to find a keyboard that would work for me. To my surprise, I adjusted very quickly to the keyboard that came with the Surface. I type just as well as I did on my laptop, and I feel like the keyboard is always appropriately tethered to the device (more on that in a moment). Plus, the keyboard flips up to provide a felty screencover. The mousepad may be a little bit difficult to maneuver; but, the ability to default to the touchscreen means that I can easily (and more effectively) use my finger to work the finer motions. But, as to typing, I’m all fingers.
Magnets. Probably my favorite feature of the Surface Pro 2 is that both the charger and keyboard connections are magnetized. My level of glee as respects this seemingly small upgrade cannot be overstated. No one loves magnets more than me, and that includes Jesse Pinkman. I always know that I’ve correctly connected my keyboard and charger, and because they’re magnetized, they stay connected. The charging connection itself even includes a small light, that shines as the device charges. Another point in favor of the charging cord is that it includes a USB slot, making for two easily-accessible such positions, with the other being on the device itself. My only quarrel in this regard is that I don’t have a lot of slack on the charger code, such that I have to be pretty close to the wall, to plug in.
Kickstander. One thing my Surface has that my iPad lacks is a kickstand, with two settings. I can engage a plastic flap in the back that props up the tablet at two levels. This feature makes the Surface an ideal unit for drafting, or for watching action movies. I should also mention at this time that screen clarity and resolution are excellent.
Native Office Suite. I’ve also got Microsoft Office on the Surface, which I do not have on my iPad. Obviously, this sets me up tremendously well for drafting (Word), and for creating Powerpoints, two things I do most regularly. While I don’t use Outlook on the Surface, certainly I could. The availability of these native applications several years ago, however, would have been a more impressive stroke from Microsoft, since it’s now much easier to access the Office environment on non-Microsoft products, especially with the advent of Office 365.
Things I Don’t Like About the Microsoft Surface Pro 2
Battery Death. The battery life on the Surface Pro 2 suuuuuuucks. Whereas with my iPad, that thing can stay charged for days, because it doesn’t seem to lose power when it’s shut down, the Surface consistently loses battery life, even when not in operation. Traditionally, smart phones and tablets have been viewed as battery hogs due to the consistent use folks put into them, because of the regularity of internet access and the brightness of the screen. I don’t even use the internet all that much on the Surface, and it still treats battery life like a sieve treats water. It remains a not insignificant source of frustration that I can’t get more juice out of each charge.
Why Are Things So Heavy in the Future? I can very easily carry an iPad around with one hand, probably for days, if I had to. But, while the Surface Pro 2 is much lighter than a laptop, it’s still far heavier than my iPad. I attempted to make a presentation with my Surface in June; but, I had to give it up after about ten minutes, because my hand was so sore. This is not a device that you can easily carry around your home or office. Perhaps that’s why the kickstand exists; but, while it does free your hands, it limits your mobility — it would be nice to have the option.
Keyboard Shortcut Lock. Probably the one item that has perturbed me to the greatest degree in using the Surface Pro 2 is that I consistently get locked into keyboard shortcuts. Let me explain: When my keyboard is attached, and I’m typing, if my mouse arrow hits the far portion of the right-hand side of my screen, a start menu bar pops up. As soon as I move my mouse arrow away, the bar disappears; however, by then it’s already too late: I can’t type any longer (whether in Word or in a browser (I use Chrome), because I’m locked into keyboard shortcuts. I looked online several times for a solution; and, while others complained in the same fashion I did, the only legitimate ‘fix’ I came across was disabling certain drivers — though, it was difficult to divine which ones, and some of those drivers seemed to enable additional, valuable functionality. Closing down the browser or document, and opening it back up, cleared the keyboard shortcut defaults; but, that’s just annoying to have to do every . . . single . . . time it happens — and, trust me, it happens a lot, especially as you’re getting used to the device. This was particularly infuriating in Word, the new version of which has a cool feature allowing you to pick up a document where you left off — only, the box you have to click to get to your last position in the document appears . . . you guessed it: on the right-hand side of the screen, where you’re most likely to trip the keyboard shortcut default. The one saving grace amidst all this rabble is that, after about six months of use, this feature inexplicably turned itself off. Perhaps the device had learned my habits, and adjusted, or an update was applied. Now, when I’m in Word, the menu bar no longer pops up; and, in the browser, it pops up, but I’m no longer defaulted to keyboard shortcuts. (Note: I do not know whether this same glitch applies to the onscreen keyboard, since I never use that.) Intelligent design with an unexpedited learning curves? In any event, the birthing process was difficult.
Carded. Although the Surface Pro 3 has (though, maybe it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be), the Surface Pro 2 does not have, a wireless card, such that I had to get an aircard from Verizon. I mean, seriously? My first generation iPad as a built-in wireless device.
Inside the Box. The Surface allows me to toggle back and forth between a traditional Windows view (Windows 7) and a new tablet/tile view (Windows 8); and, I like that, in the sense that I can mix and match between an iPad-style experience, and an old school Windows experience. However, I don’t know that this feature is ultimately necessary, especially as I still maintain touch control in the traditional view; and, at any rate, much of the functionality off of the tile view reverts to a desktop view after the first movement (e.g.–if I open My Documents out of the tile view, when I have been working on a document in the desktop view, the dialog box will appear in the desktop view). Neither do I find myself in the tile view all that often. If this, then, was a move by Microsoft to appease those who were not yet ready to make the leap to Windows 8, this backdoor may only serve to ingrain the sentiments of the intransigent. Of course, this is just another battleline in Microsoft’s continuing war to convince its hardcore users that its version of the Apple suite is better than old, reliable Windows. (It’s not. Windows 8 is lame. The iPad home screen is so much cleaner, and easier to use.) Consider the long con that is Microsoft’s f(l)ailing attempts to try to finally pull support from Windows XP, wherein the finish line is the horizon line viewed from a beach.
Chimera. I admit, that the idea of a tablet for laptop users was intriguing to me. However, as the story of the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 unfolds, it appears that the old saw — that, you can’t be all things, to all people — is once again proven true. I truly don’t know what the hell this device is supposed to be. I use it as a laptop; but, I like my laptop better. I use it as a tablet; but, I like my iPad better. It’s middling, at best. I’m probably leveraging it as a glorified netbook; and, netbooks are so uncool (stills). Maybe the lesson of the Surface Pro 2 is that, at least right now, it still makes sense to carry two devices on your roster (a laptop and a tablet), since science and nature have not yet combined to develop the perfect hybrid option. Chad Burton informs me that he only uses an iPad; but, I believe that he has a secret compartment in his jeans for a laptop. (. . . Wait, that’s NOT a laptop?)
Probably the two most damning themes of this article are as follows: (1) My favorite thing about the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is the charging cord. (2) The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 does not compare favorably to my 6-year-old iPad. Could it be that Microsoft is at least six years behind Apple in terms of tablet building? Certainly seems that way. Womp womp.
Maybe the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 solves for some of these issues? Right now, I don’t know. But, I’ll let you know what I think six years from now.
. . .
So, what’s stuck in my head this week?
It’s Friday night, summer’s almost over. Here’s a good depressing song:
‘Gone for Good‘ by The Shins