A Terrible Choice - 2017 Microsoft Surface Pro Review
PCs and their inner workings are nothing new to me. Many a time, I've assembled my own machines, overclocked them, and maintained them. However, I've been using Mac computers for quite some time now, and enjoy using them too. Microsoft's newest iteration of their Surface Pro line successfully lured me into switching from a late 2016 15" MacBook Pro to a new i7 Surface Pro.
Why would I switch? The promise of portability, pressure sensitive photo editing (like my Wacom Intous), and top notch performance. With regards to the 2016 15" MacBook Pro, it performed well enough, but it was big, the keyboard was mushy and stuck intermittently (since day one), and the touchbar was a gimmicky nuisance. Also, I've enjoyed using an iPad - especially with Lightroom Mobile, and thought the Surface Pro could give me all of the benefits of both the MacBook and iPad in one package. So, I sold my MacBook on Craigslist, and bought a shiny new Surface Pro with the keyboard cover and a rubberized case for protection. Also, I purchased the newest iteration of the Microsoft Pen.
The model of Surface Pro that I purchased was as follows (specs cut and pasted from B&H):
- Microsoft Surface Pro 12.3" 512GB Multi-Touch Tablet (2017, Silver)
- 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7-7660U (Dual-Core)
- 16GB of RAM | 512GB SSD
- 12.3" PixelSense 10-Point Touch Display
- 2736 x 1824 Screen Resolution (267 ppi)
- Integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi | Bluetooth 4.0
- 5MP Front Camera | 8MP Rear Camera
- USB 3.0 Type-A | Mini DisplayPort
- microSD Card Slot
- Windows 10 Pro
Surface Pro as a tablet:
- Starts fast, is fairly light, and has a decent display.
- Runs the full blown Windows OS and can do more tasks than an iPad can and run much more powerful software like a full blown version of Photoshop.
- Kickstand is neat
- Gets quite warm and makes it uncomfortable to hold due to the temperature.
- The display could be better, it's not as bright as I would like in bright sunlight.
- Touch keyboard is a nightmare. Not all apps support predictive text (specifically Chrome). Also, the predictive / auto-correction features are abysmal. Honestly, I'd rather type on my iPhone or iPad.
- Battery life drains fast! Maybe 2-3 hours on a full charge unless you went into a dim screen / low power mode.
- Kickstand moves too easily and has a tendency to not hold it's position.
- Multi-touch gestures, dragging objects, highlighting, cutting and pasting, etc. don't work as well as an iPad or iPhone.
Windows 10 integrated features:
- The built in video player is nice as well as the image viewer.
- Microsoft Edge is a nice browser and has a lot of potential.
- The image viewer constantly scans the hard drive and adds images all on it's own. It makes an otherwise lovely app a pain to use.
- The amount of ads for Microsoft Office as well as other apps show up in your start menu tiles, in the start bar, in popups, etc. - and this is just right out of the box!
- App store is lacking compared to iOS apps or even the Mac App Store.
Laptop mode with the smart cover keyboard
- You can type with a keyboard.
- It has a trackpad.
- It provides protection for the screen when closed.
- Trackpad is terrible for multi-touch click and dragging or gestures. An Apple trackpad from six years ago has better functionality.
- Terribly inconvenient to use on your lap. The hinge on the back of the Surface Pro plus the keyboard cover only work well when on a flat surface like a desktop. Honestly, a real laptop is way more convenient.
The Microsoft Pen
- It has some pressure sensitivity.
- It's nice for Photoshop and Lightroom.
- Magnetic so it sticks to the side of the machine when not in use.
- My Wacom Intuos Pro from a few years ago works better.
- Chrome crashes constantly using the pen. I was forced to used Microsoft Edge which isn't 100% compatible with sites.
- Awkward button placement on the pen - Microsoft could really learn from Wacom here.
- If you apply too much pressure with the pen, the kickstand moves.
- OK for internet browsing.
- OK for light photo editing.
- OK for video playback.
- Crashing and hanging.
- Overheating and turning off. It was so bad after a couple of weeks that I couldn't use the machine.
- Video editing applications are too tiny for the screen. Also, the machine is too underpowered to edit video.
Total Experience and Conclusion:
From the moment I started using the Surface Pro, I felt underwhelmed and wondered if I had made a mistake. Since I had already sold off my MacBook Pro and had jumped into the world of Microsoft with two feet, I figured I just had to get used to the system. It was awkward to use. The machine was slow and performed underwhelmingly. Battery life was awful. Thankfully, the machine developed a problem of overheating. Because of this fortunate development, I was able to return the machine for a full refund. Since then, I had to go out and purchase a 2017 Macbook Pro 15" to replace the one I had sold. So far, so good! I'll talk about the 2017 Macbook Pro in a follow up blog entry later on.
Interestingly enough, a day after I started writing this article, there is now similar news out there from Consumer Reports about poor reliability of Microsoft products - https://www.reuters.com/article/us-microsoft-surface-idUSKBN1AQ1EP. It's nice to know it wasn't just me.