Kevin Bae

Non-Social in a Socially Networked World

Surface Windows 8 Pro 128 GB: Update – One Month In

I’ve been using the Surface Pro for about a month now and had a chance to take a short trip with it as well. I can tell you that the more I’ve used it the more frustrated I become with Windows 8 as an OS and Surface Pro as a device. The hardware annoyances are nearly as bad as the ones on the software side. How far I’ve fallen from my preconceived notion post.

Here are some positives before I delve into my bitching and moaning. Boot time is fantastic. From power down to the Start screen is less than 10 seconds. Far far better than my Windows 7 machines that take maybe a couple of minutes. Hopefully this won’t change as the machine ages and I install and uninstall software (which is always the culprit to slowing down a Windows machine).

The hardware is solid. And not just in materials either. The processor and RAM are more than powerful enough to run all my Windows software and run them without a hitch. The screen is extremely responsive to touch with no lag that I can detect whatsoever. Surface Pro is a nice laptop replacement.

Now for the bitching and moaning.

The dual nature of Windows 8 is stupid and poorly executed. In my several part review I said that there is no need for the traditional desktop and I stand by that opinion. If the tile interface was just the new desktop the transition to Windows 8 would be much simpler. I think the solution would have been to build in certain functions from the traditional desktop into the tile interface. Things such as the taskbar and the capability to open multiple windows might be all that was needed to move people towards this new interface. Without these two things there is too much unnecessary swiping going on. I don’t want to keep moving from one part of Windows to the other constantly. Just open my applications on top of the tile interface and give me an easy way to switch between them using a taskbar and I’ll be peachy.

The tile interface has tons of empty space. there’s a good 1.5″ at the top and 1″ on the left and bottom that are primarily empty space. Why? And, for what reason is the word “Start” doing in the upper left hand corner? How about give me something I can use up there like a clock? I had to download a stupid clock app from the Windows App Store (if that’s what they’re calling it) and place it in the upper left hand corner of my tiles so I could have a clock to glance at for a quick update on the time. How stupid is that? It would be so nice and useful to see a taskbar at the bottom of my screen.

The tile or “Metro” version of IE sucks. It’s a mobile browser that’s been dumbed down and I would rather not use it. Windows 8 makes this difficult because when you make another browser like Chrome the default you can no longer pin shortcuts to the tile interface. It wouldn’t be so bad if this stupid dumbed down version of IE wasn’t so bad. There are no tabs. Instead if you swipe down from the top you’ll pull down a bar with thumbnails of any “tabs” you might have open or give you an option to open a tab. They’re not really tabs if there are no tabs. It’s more like having several iterations of IE open and you have to swipe and tap to go between each one instead of a simple tap on a tab. The address bar has been moved to the bottom and is only visible after you swipe up. You also have to tap on the address bar in order to bring up any favorites or recent web sites you’ve visited. Again, these are extra swipes and taps for nothing. There is more than enough space on the screen to have some tabs and shortcuts.

Using another browser with Windows 8 stinks too. It’s slightly better when using a mouse and keyboard. But using the Surface, as it was intended, as a touch-centric device the experience is horrible. As I said before, I’m a Chrome user and I have 9 to 10 tabs open at any one time and this is just not convenient on the Surface Pro. Chrome does not respond to touch very well on the desktop. At best it’s intermittent. You don’t know when you can tap on something and when you can’t. You can’t even scroll using the screen. You have to use the dinky track pad on the keyboard. Switching to Windows 8 mode in Chrome only helps a little. It opens up scrolling using the screen and you tap on links and such for the most part  (I say for the most part because it’s still inconsistent for me) but you lose using it on the desktop and you can’t use Google Talk. Google Talk in Gmail only works in desktop mode. Why?

The AC adapter continues to be frustrating. It never fits on the first try. I have to fiddle with it for several seconds before I position it just right so it clicks in. Far too much trouble just so you can plug in your device. The AC adapter cords are too short. I mentioned this before but it has become more of a problem because it limits where I can place the Surface on my desk. I shouldn’t need an extension cord for something like this. For travel, the AC adapter is not well suited. Two cords instead of one creates extra unnecessary bulk. The side that plugs into the Surface Pro comes with a built in rubber clip that is totally useless. Why didn’t it come with a velcro strip like most other laptop AC adapters?

I’ve soured on the Touchcover. It just doesn’t register some letters when typing unless you hit the key in a particular way. I thought I would have no problem because I tend to really type hard. So I thought a keyboard of that nature would be perfect for me but I was wrong. There is also a goofy bug where if I touch the Touchcover just right it triggers the mute button. Even though the mute button is located in the upper left hand corner of the keyboard and my hands are nowhere near it some how an odd swipe of the keyboard triggers the mute. There are no markings for the function keys (F1, F2, F3… and so on). The markings are there on the Typecover but why they were omitted from the Touchcover I’ll never understand. It’s not like they couldn’t have printed the characters on the keys.

I’ve soured on the concept of a keyboard cover in general. While the Typecover is easier and more convenient to use most of the time the Touchcover or the Typecover are just in the way. For the last week I’ve been experimenting with using the Surface Pro sans cover. This works out much better because I have no stupid keyboard cover to lay on my desk when I don’t need it. I use a nifty little program called Mouse Without Borders which was a side project by someone at Microsoft. This little program runs on both my desktop and my Surface Pro and it allows me to use one keyboard and mouse for both. No more extra keyboards sitting on my desk taking up space.

Here’s the bottom line with the Surface Pro and Windows 8. It sucks. The tile interface is useless to me because none of the things I use a tablet for (Google Apps) work. The things that do work, like Twitter, are dumbed down versions. I can do more in the browser. The apps I do use where a shortcut sits on the tile interface open to the desktop. The traditional Windows desktop works like an app made for the tile interface. You don’t really move between the desktop and the tile interface. Instead you open the desktop and have to close the desktop, just like a tile app, when not in use (I suppose you could leave it running).

I was sold on the idea of Surface Pro until I got it in my hands. The execution is so poor that I may grow to hate the device. This wasn’t a melding of the tablet and laptop. Somehow Microsoft managed to put two separate devices in one piece of hardware. This isn’t a vision for the future of computing but a bit of a nightmare where everything is made more difficult for no apparent reason.