Microsoft Surface Pro First Impressions

Because the Microsoft Surface Pro was on sale, I bought one, somewhat for reasons I will explain in a future post, but also because I am a gadget nut and wanted a tablet designed for Windows 8.

My impressions so far are that the Surface Pro is a very solid, speedy machine. The “Type Cover” with the real keyboard is essential and makes typing far superior to an iPad, even an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard (I recently bought the AmazonBasics one and it works quite well with my iPad). The screen is great, and the pen is a nice addition that I’ve missed from the TabletPC days.

Sadly, there are lots of “almosts” too. The power connector is so similar to Apple’s magnetic power connector that I’m surprised Apple’s lawyers aren’t sharpening their knives, but it isn’t nearly as good. The Apple connector is foolproof and seats itself properly with ease. This one takes lots of fiddling to get it to engage, then usually isn’t quite in the slot, so a little sliding is needed. And that power supply brick is about twice the volume of my MacBook Pro’s one.

The Windows 8 interface is quite good, but some of the apps tend to get confused, particularly Internet Explorer. IE tries to touch-enable websites, particularly MSN, but I was trying to show my wife a story with a slideshow and the browser just stopped responding. I had to kill it (drag a finger from the top of the screen until the app detaches, then drag it to the bottom). IE also can’t seem to load my very generic WordPress website well. It stalls after loading the top of the page. If I hit the stop button, then usually the rest of the page draws and I can continue managing of viewing the site. (As a followup,  a little debugging led me to discover that Amazon’s Send to Kindle widget was causing trouble for IE. I’ve disabled it for now.)

Other included apps are often quite finicky about touches of their supposedly touch-enabled buttons. These are minor complaints, but both Android and iOS have better behavior and consistency.

Windows 8 was able to find my printers and configure them without a huge fuss. The Surface Pro works well with my 5GHz WiFi network, which is more than I can say for my Nexus 4 (keeps forgetting to use the 5GHz radio) or my HP laptop which doesn’t even have a 5GHz radio, though it is only 2 years old.

Overall, the Surface Pro is pretty nice, and it should keep improving as Windows 8 is updated. I’m not quite sure I’ll be developing much code on the Surface Pro, but I like having the option to carry an Eclipse development environment around with me.

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