I recently came into a Microsoft Surface 3 and receiving the device coincided with our office at Martin Luther College considering the purchase of a number of Microsoft Surface Pro devices to deploy to the faculty at our college. So I’ve been testing out this Surface 3 for the past few weeks to see how well it can hold up under some sort of usage along with taking an extended look at what Microsoft has done with Windows 10.
Let’s call it a mixed bag, overall.
Microsoft Surface 3 – Device
- It is a rugged device overall. No bend in the frame, kickstand is solid, never have any fear of damaging it when putting in and pulling out of bags.
- Screen is decent. It is nothing to write home about, but attractive-enough. A Surface Pro 4 is going to get you a significantly better display.
- It doesn’t act like an iPad. It does not wake instantly, I’m not always sure when to use the “power’ button, etc. … which makes it far more annoying than an iPad. I know it is a hybrid device, but that is an annoyance.
- Battery life is fine. Definitely not as nice as on my iPad Air, but not terrible either.
- Ports are limited. Oh well, I try not to use ports as often as I can.
- You charge it through a mini USB cable, which is really annoying. Apple’s iOS devices and the Lightning port have spoiled me. I’m hoping USB-C is better, but for now, the charging is a ton more annoying than on any Apple device. I know the Surface Pro has a better port, but I don’t have one right now.
- The Keyboard Cover is fine as well. I like how it doubles as the cover and the keys are fine, if mushy and extremely loud. Turning it around on the back is fine, but make grain the Surface a little annoying because you are grabbing keys along the way.
- Trackpad is bad. Just bad.
- I haven’t had a lot of time to test the camera (no need), but they are just fine.
- Overall the device is quite slow compared to even an iPad Air. Of course it can do more, but responsiveness can be sluggish and I believe that the Intel Atom x7 processor can be blamed for it. The Surface Pro 4 should provide a lot more oomph in comparison.
Overall, it is a fine device. It is rugged, which is the most important part. It is obviously cheaper, and that makes it quite limited.
Windows 10 – Operating System
- Microsoft has done an admirable job attempting to marry the tablet and laptop.
- Windows 10 is still quite buggy, but each release squashes a few more of those. The Surface 3 still has some problems figuring out when it is waking from sleep/hibernate and that can mean it gets caught in between things and I need to force the login screen again. Annoying.
- While Microsoft’s work is admirable, it is a strange marriage at times. Some things work well with a touch input, and then not as well with a cursor … but then you switch to tablet mode and things are reversed. Actions are not that understandable at first, with some apps hiding their toolbar so that you need to swipe from the top … there are many hidden features like that.
- I had the Threshold II update (1511) fail at first so I needed to download the ISO and upgrade myself. Annoying.
- Windows 10, overall, needs more time to cook to get the kinks worked out. Edge needs some more work as well.
The Surface 3 with Windows 10 is an interesting device combination. It works relatively well, but there are still some issues that need to be worked out.
One huge pain source is just the software available for Windows 10. The catalog of software cannot hold a candle to what is available on OS X and iOS as far as integration across devices and quality. Part of that is my affinity for Apple-like software, and part of it is the difference in the ecosystems between Microsoft and Apple.
The Surface 3 is a decent hybrid device. It is a lousy tablet in comparison to the iPad but an okay small laptop (compared to the MacBook Air, perhaps).
Windows 10 is along the same lines. It is a good hybrid operating system (and one of the only ones). However, it isn’t as good on a tablet as iOS or as good on a desktop machine as OS X is.
I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a Surface Pro 4 soon to see how it fares as well. Watching Microsoft continue to move forward with Windows 10 will be something to watch as well. The Surface 3 is not something I would run out to get, but it has been an interesting experiment to see how another computing ecosystem works.
I will continue to carry it with me for now and see if I can find a way to use it more as time goes on.
4 responses to “Testing a Surface”
I agree for the most part Bob. I want to believe Microsoft will address some of the issues in Surface 3 with Surface 4. Win10 1511 has worked fine in 9 of 10 updates in our environment. Wonder if MS servers are getting high use, but that should not be an issue. 😉
I think they can and will address some of the issues in time, and I am curious to see how the Windows Update for Business side of things works (plus the Windows Store for Business as well). The computing environments right now are all so different and convoluted that it makes easy things hard and hard things almost impossible to a great extent.
The key might be this: simplify. Cut down on the number of tools, generalize the toolset as much as possible, lock down things as little as possible, etc. Any time you get into customizing AT ALL you end up in a world of pain.
The Surface has been a pretty good laptop replacement in my experience. It’s closer to what an ultrabook should be like at a more palatable price. Not perfect but good enough. The original Pro was awesome but heavy and certainly first generation. The Pro 4 is much nicer.
Having just seen what HP is coming out with on the Win 10 tablet front, though,I’m thinking Microsoft hardware may not be the best route in the near future. Their Elite tablets are mega sweet. When they get refreshed in December I’ll be looking into those more closely for sure.
Have any links to share?