I had so many gripes about Windows 8 that I thought it would be prudent to keep my hardware and software thoughts separate. Here are my impressions on the hardware for Surface Pro. I can boil this down to two words. It’s nice. Every blog imaginable has written about the specs and the performance and by and large I can agree with the consensus that Surface is fast and can run all my Windows software with ease. But, this is expected anyway because this machine has laptop parts. If it didn’t perform as well as the latest generation laptops then that would be news.
Microsoft has done a fantastic job of squeezing laptop hardware into this package. But, my feelings on the hardware are much like my feelings about Windows 8 in that, to me, it feels a couple years behind. I say this even though there is no keyboard like the touch cover, the palm recognition while using the pen is excellent, Surface is relatively thin and light when comparing to a laptop (although NOT thinner and lighter than my Samsung Series 9 11.6″ laptop), the touch screen is extremely responsive, and the materials used are strong and sturdy.
My reasons for saying it feels a couple years behind is that I’ve been using a Nook Color (rooted with stock Android installed) since it was first released (2010), I replaced that with a Nook Tablet ( in 2011, also rooted with stock Android installed), and then last year I was using a Nexus 7. The tablet skin on an OS, as popularized by Apple, is old hat now and is what we expect when using something in a tablet form factor. The Surface is simply too big and too heavy. The device is 12.5″ diagonally and roughly 10.75″ x 6.75″ and weighing in at a whopping 2.5 lbs. I don’t want to carry around something this big anymore.
I think personal computing devices have progressed enough where we should have full Windows compatible computers in a device as small as our phones and that can dock with a full keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Devices as small as an ultrabook are now too big.
I do have some real gripes on the hardware. The pen feels sooooo cheap. It feels like something picked up from the discount bin at the dollar store. I’ve heard nothing but raves about using the pen across all the blogs. But, I still don’t think the video is processing pen input fast enough. When using the pen for handwriting you can see that the ink is trailing the pen by a split second. It’s not much but for someone like me who writes fast in a herky jerky fashion it is not an optimal experience. I’m often starting on the next letter a split second before the last letter is drawn. My handwriting is bad enough and made worse by this lag.
Much has been said about how the pen attaches to the AC adapter port on the Surface. It’s pointless and not strong enough to hold the pen in place when slipping it into a case or bag. I’m repeating and agreeing with this. With Surface being such a tightly built machine I don’t think there is any practical way to carry the pen. It will most likely get left behind.
The AC adapter brick is too big and the cord is too short. The laptop I was using prior to the Surface was a Samsung Series 9 with an 11.6″ screen. The AC adapter is 2/3 to 1/2 the size of the Surface’s adapter and has a single cord where the Surface adapter requires one cord to plug into the outlet on one side of the brick and another cord that connects to the Surface on the other side of the brick. If this is to be a true portable device the AC adapter needs to be smaller. It will take up too much space inside my bag when travelling.
When using Surface as I do my laptop the fan runs constantly. It’s not loud but it’s not imperceptible either. The fan is running because Surface is noticeably warm to the touch. This is because I’m using it as I would my laptop. When I use my laptop with the AC plugged in I prefer to keep the display from turning off unless there is no activity for 30 minutes and the sleep function disabled. I don’t like the inconvenience of having to swipe to unlock or some other gesture in order to use the device. I can put up with that when it’s unplugged as I need to save the battery in order to get sufficient hours of use out of it but I don’t see the sense while it’s plugged in. Perhaps I will need to change the way I use these types of devices as keeping it running is not the inconvenience it use to be with other versions of Windows since waking up from sleep mode is nearly instantaneous.
I mentioned the touch cover earlier and I really like the touch cover over the type cover. Typing on it will take some getting used to but the touch cover makes Surface look more like a finished device. The type cover, however, creates a funky looking gap between keyboard and screen when closed. It doesn’t look nice in my opinion. Typing on the type cover is easier, at first, than typing on the touch cover. I’m getting better and better and typing on the touch cover the more I use it. I haven’t found any problems with it not being sensitive enough. What I don’t like about both the type and touch covers is the cheap felt-like fabric on the back. Why did Microsoft go with this type of material? It’s not protecting anything as it is not facing the screen and it looks plain-Jane (apologies to the non-plain-Janes of the world).
I don’t have as many complaints as I did with the software because in all honesty the Surface is indeed a well built machine.