I don’t think I can state this enough but Microsoft has beautiful designs in much of what they create. I may not always agree with how the company conducts its’ business or how it may treat certain communities but I love their designs. I owned the original Zune and a Zune HD, I enjoyed playing Xbox games and liked how the Xbox 360 was a design with few compromises. I used Windows 7 from beta and eventually bought a license upgrade, as a regular user I did not hate Vista (although I used it long after it was ever relevant on a powerful enough machine), C# does not look like a bad programming language and Outlook is probably my favorite email client of all time. I would never give up Opera for Internet Explorer or my Android Phone for a Windows Phone but buying a Surface Pro over a Galaxy Note 10.1? Yes, definitely!
I’ve only played around with a Galaxy Note 10.1 at Best Buy and enjoyed it. It was the tablet that I decided I would buy if I ever got a tablet (although I did play around with the idea of using a Nexus 7 as a giant phone for a while). It has a beautiful screen, a smooth interface and that S Pen is a wonderful stylus. It checked every bullet for why I would ever want a tablet and believe me, I’ve wanted one long before the iPad was ever speculated about publicly. I just couldn’t see myself spending a ton of money on a tablet the Samsung Series 7. It looked like a fine device but it was running vanilla Windows 7, I couldn’t help but think that I would spend over $1,000 on something that would have a poor user interface. Windows 7 is great with a keyboard and mouse but I just could not imagine using it with my fingers or stylus effectively. I’m sure it could be done but it would be an acquired taste as opposed to the beauty that is the Galaxy Note 10.1. Unfortunately, the Note only checked off the features that I wanted – the Surface Pro meets and exceeds every feature that I wanted and needed while offering a few I wasn’t sure that I would ever receive.
Touch Focused Interface
Despite what you may have already read about the interface formerly known as Metro, it’s not the devil of user interfaces. I’ve used the Windows 8 Consumer Preview for a few months of 2012, it was excellent. It booted as quickly as Ubuntu 12.04 on the same machine, made my software and network available for use immediately and showed little to no lag. It wasn’t a complete game changer since I did eventually meet lag about 15 tabs earlier than I would have in Ubuntu on the same system but it worked. I could understand immediately how well this interface would work for a touch screen and for the average user. Being a techie for hire, I’ve seen a myriad of different desktops and laptops that mostly shared the same traits – a cluttered desktop. After logging into a users machine the cool or tacky background wall papers would be cluttered with shortcut icons to many programs that the users did not use often or organized poorly.
Even worse, there were many shortcuts off-screen that made them believe that the software was not installed. Many users that I interacted with did not know what the taskbar is or how to minimize/maximize programs. They didn’t know the difference between an address bar and the Google search bar. Windows 8 seems like it caters to this demographic while still being something that a power user could enjoy (at least for as long as it actually remains as an open platform). The Metro user interface would turn that useless jumble of a desktop into a clean, easily scrollable interface that would cause less false claims of “VIRUS!, THERE BE A VIRUS THARRR!” or “Windows is sooooooooo slow and difficult to use”. The interface seems to really “get” that most people don’t care to learn how things really work. It wants to provide some of the simplest, quickest ways to take care of users most basic needs and allow for them to be proficient in their tasks nearly immediately. I don’t love everything about the proposed changes but overall they’re exciting in a sense and are very welcomed.
Very briefly now, say this with me. 1920×1080 in a rectangular object with rounded corners. I don’t actually care for 16:9 resolutions (16:10 like 1920×1200 is boss) but it’s something that I can deal with at this size. It definitely won’t surpass that iPad and Nexus 10 in the ppi department but who cares? The resolution is large enough for the 10″ screen to allow for serious work and workspace management. 1360×768 is the bane of my existence with windows and most computers. I hate it, it’s entirely too small to be comfortable with while working. I’d have to say that 1440×900 would be the minimum resolution to accept anywhere but really Linus Torvalds had it right. Just recently he commended the Nexus 10 on its’ 2560×1600 (drool) resolution and claimed that it should be standard. I agree with him. At the very least, nothing lower than 1920×1080. Computers are devices that work well for entertaining but are also meant for work, every screen on every machine in every store should not be a 16:9 orgy, 16:10 allows for a more comfortable amount of workspace and feels much more natural to work with when compared to 16:9 screens. At least that’s the case for me. Either way, 1920×1080 is excellent for the Surface and should aid its’ software greatly.
Stylus & Appropriate Software
Stylus. Oh, that’s a dirty word to some people but for me it means precision and usefulness. I received my first taste of the stylus life with an original DS and what can now be easily be mocked as a tiny childs stylus. It was effective for gaming and after venturing into homebrew it was excellent in being used for handwriting recognition and for planner usage via DSOrganize.I’ve experienced the high precision offered by true stylii and pads with mature digitizers and higher ppi. I may hate writing like many other techies but that’s a poorly worded statement. I hate writing on paper and other non-digital surfaces because that prose cannot properly interact with my digital life, even with the latest advances in OCR. What a stylus with the proper software can achieve will be amazing. Studies have shown that actually writing versus typing helps in learning and retaining of information. It may be slower in some cases but it can be just quickly enough to aid in true thought collection.
A stylus can allow for software to flourish in ways that have been severely limited or not possible until now since they were just add-ons. How about language learning software that can correct character creation properly in foreign languages like Russian or Japanese? What about drawing/sketching software that can reach a more receptive crowd and can be designed around a single standard input and usage versus many? Image editing software like Photoshop could become the defacto way of digital editing for novices while tearing down more barriers to its’ use. From the outside looking in, a stylus may look like a clumsy mouse but to use it in content creation, note taking and possibly web surfing (Opera Mouse gestures would translate well) would be awesome. Go to your local store and try out a Note 10.1 or the Surface Pro if they’re in stock by the time you’re finally able to go. I’m placing a lot of faith in hands-on impressions and specs but I believe that they can be trusted with this device. The media loves to hate Windows 8, yet they’re not saying devastating things about the Surface, in fact its’ usually the opposite. I wouldn’t need to wait for an ecosystem to build around the new interface since Windows itself has one of the largest and most mature period.
x86 and x64 Architecture
Just to kill the technical portion of this, the Surface Pro will be using the same hardware found in most laptop and desktop computers. That means that those good old games like Sim City can come for the ride on the tablet. Maybe you hate using the ribbon or are deeply accustomed to Office 2003 or Libre Office – you can use them without compromise. The same software that you can buy for your laptop will function on this tablet. Whereas Android tablets and the iPad have to use a limited, appified version of Winamp I could just install the desktop version on the Surface Pro and enter my license to use an infinitely more useful piece of software. Using Android, iOS, even Blackberry requires users to discard their legacy software. Arguably there are very good replacements and even ports of the older software available but why limit yourself? Why not have the best of both worlds? Surface Pro allows for users to have their cake and eat it too.
I have bought sooooo many games for Steam that will never be playable on my phone or non-windows 8 tablet without me having to purchase it again (if it’s even available). I use Opera as my web browser on every platform, almost religiously in a sense. Opera Mini and Mobile are good apps on my phone but the desktop software blows away the mobile experience made available elsewhere. I’m pretty sure that people would love real Chrome with real, visible tabs or Firefox with the latest features enabled and stable. Heck, if you want to try a nightly version then you won’t be stopped. You can even develop on the same device that you use. There is software available on Android for developing but none of it is nearly as mature or preferable as using what’s already available for the Windows desktop. You can use a brilliant app that tries its’ best to be an all encompassing IDE like DeuterIDE for Android or you could use Bluefish, Eclipse, Visual BASIC, etc without compromise on the Surface Pro. You can build and build quickly on the same tablet, test the software and even transfer binaries to any other device before any of them have the chance to finish building the same software. This is really the power of the sun in the palms of your hand… or not.
Portability & Versatility
The Surface Pro is a 10″ tablet. That makes it a giant compared to a paperback book or phone but still small enough to be considered portable (heck, laptops are portables that can have screens up to about 19″” inn size). According to hands-on user accounts, the Surface is fairly light and does not cause hand strain with extended use. The Surface, like the original concept of a tablet, is meant to be used like a newspaper or slab with moving images. It shouldn’t weigh much and should function in fairly obvious ways. Like the keyboard case accessory that can be added to it, it’s a case but it’s also a keyboard of course. It probably will not replace that 300 button monstrosity with touch screens that you use for gaming but it seems like it will get the job done. Of course the Surface can use USB and Bluetooth mice and keyboards since the tablet is essentially a real computer that has just divorced everything that couldn’t fit on the monitor. It could just as easily be a media consumption device like many of the cheaper tablets strive to be as well as being a monstrously powerful laptop in the size factor of a netbook.
If you’re looking for a consumption device or lighter tools and use than most of the Android tablets like the Nexus 7/10, the iPad and even the baseline Surface could fit the bill for you. If you don’t exactly have the need for tons of graphical power but you want the versatility of a tablet with the power of a desktop or laptop than the Surface Pro seems to be made for you. It definitely seems like it was made for me. The most demanding game that I play is Serious Sam 3, even then I probably wouldn’t play that sort of game on a tablet (but could by connecting it to a tv/monitor and using a controller), I’m seeing that this will offer an insane amount of portability and versatility. No, Microsoft has not paid me off but dangit, it’s very rare that I find devices (or people) that don’t ask me to compromise on significant items. I may eventually want to run linux on hardware like the Surface but I’m content now to just buy and use something that works and exceeds my needs in every way.