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Surface Pro 3: Two weeks later

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Are there problems with it?  Yes.

Do I absolutely love it? I love my kids and my dogs… but I suppose I do like it as much as I have ever liked a laptop or tablet… and I have had quite a few of them over the years!

What are the problems? There is really only one that you should be aware of if you are thinking of going out to buy one.  It’s the patches and the battery.

How, you may ask, do patches and batteries wind their way into a single problem?  Simple… as you probably know, everything in computers is managed by software drivers… and that includes the battery to some extent.  When you buy the device (or any device) you are prompted to apply patches, and at this point a couple of them for the Surface Pro 3 are firmware updates.  You apply the first one, and then you have a problem…

…Windows tells you there is no battery detected.  Worse, if you unplug the device it shuts off immediately.  The firmware update actually tells the computer that there is no battery installed.

BUT THERE IS! Wait a minute!  I was using it unplugged just a few minutes ago!  Where did it go?  Oh… I get it!  The pesky firmware is what screwed me up.  Let’s check to see if there is ANOTHER firmware update.  Plug it in, connect to the Internet, run Windows Update… By Jove, there it is!  Install it, and presto changeo, there’s my battery!

…and what a battery it is!  My original Surface Pro probably gave me 3 hours of battery (with Hyper-V and a bunch of other things draining it).  The Surface Pro 2 was probably closer to 5.  The Pro 3? I haven’t had it run dry on me yet… for the first time in my laptop-owning life I am not afraid to leave the house in the morning without the charger.

THE SCREEN BOSS, THE SCREEN!
(Imagine the voice of Hervé Villechaize if you would…)

Yes, there are a lot of improvements over the Surface Pro 2, but wow I never would have imaginged that the 1.4″ difference in screen size (12″ over 10.6″) would make that much of a difference.  As I told you recently I have an external 16″ screen that I keep in the trunk of my car so that I can have the dual screen experience on the go.  I don’t know that I have pulled it out once since I got the Pro 3… the combination of the slightly bigger screen and the much improved screen resolution make the extra screen redundant… at least when I am on the go.

Don’t get me wrong… the day the Pro 3 docking station is available I am buying it – I have pre-ordered it from the Microsoft Store, and I have the voucher for it (from something else I returned).  All I need is the e-mail saying it is in… and I expect that to be around the same time the remaining Surface Pro 3 models (with the Intel i3 and i7 CPUs) are released, sometime in August.  When I am at home (or an office) I will still want the multi-screen experience.  On the go?  Not necessary anymore.

A lot of people are saying I should have waited for the Intel i7 version, but the reality is I have not found myself lacking.  The Surface Pro 3 runs everything I need it to with 8GB of RAM and the Intel Core i5 CPU, and frankly I don’t want to spend the extra money (the i7 version will come in two models – 256GB storage for $1,599, and the 512GB model for $1,999.  Too rich for my blood, but thanks!

Conclusion

I am asked pretty often (including 3 minutes ago, as I sit at the Microsoft Store in Square One Mall blogging) whether the Surface Pro 3 is really a laptop replacement.  The answer, as with everything, is that it depends.  I would think that for the vast majority of people the answer is yes.  If you are a true hard-core gamer? Maybe not; there are some gamers who need more than 8gb of RAM.  If you are a coder? I have a friend who is a programmer who needs to run virtual machines running more than 8gb of RAM at all times.  (Did I mention that I LOVE the fact that it runs Hyper-V?  Well I do…). Aside from them?  I don’t know too many users – even power users – who need more than 8gb of RAM ever, not even occasionally.  For them (like myself) I would say that this is the device for you.

If you are in the Greater Toronto Area come down to the Microsoft Store at Square One or Yorkdale Malls to check it out! 🙂

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5 Comments

  1. You don’t really an i7 for Surface anyway. As an Intel Pro I can tell you it’s not really any faster than an i5 in normal use, it just multitasks better. Even with multiple VMs, I don’t suppose you have all of them actually running apps at the same time, so an i5 is perfect. The coder you mentioned probably does have them running in parallel, with Compiles and whatnot, and yes, he can’t get around a need for large RAM in each VM. But I will mention that Windows 8 is capable of twice the memory efficiency of Win 7, so a VM can work in 1GB, and normally runs just fine in 2GB.

    I have a select few users who are true multitaskers. Usually there’s only one in any office. You know them, the ones they call AMAZING. They’re juggling work for 3 execs, 5 managers, and 2 colleagues at once, all the while covering two phone lines, a chat and a Video Conference, and usually eating lunch too. They’ll have 10-20 browser windows, every App in Office Pro, Adobe Acrobat Pro, video chat, Outlook, Cloud storage, and QuickBooks Pro all open at the same time, and be flashing between them at light speed (They’re gonna love Windows 10!). So those users get an i7 with16 or 32GB of RAM and never have a complaint. Everyone else is i5, even for desktop machines, and usually 8GB (well, sometimes 16 but only because the RAM comes in 8GB units, and I want to balance the two slots)

    So save your money for sure, and stick with what you’ve got. None of us can be that Amazing office worker on a laptop in a hotel room or on a plane, anyway. If you simply focus on one thing at a time, your i5 will do just as well.

    David Pike, P.Eng., MCITP
    Institute for Small Business IT, ISBIT Canada

    • Mitch Garvis says:

      For the record David I want to thank you: there are a lot of people who offer ‘authoritative’ opinions. Your response was clear, and you back it up by letting people know exactly who you are and what your expertise is. You are always welcome to comment, and I will always approve them! -MDG

  2. Alex Ber says:

    whoah this blog is magnificent i really like reading your posts. Stay up the great work! You recognize, lots of persons are searching round for this information, you can aid them greatly.

  3. Bart Fogel says:

    Hi Mitch,
    I was wondering if it would be possible to use the microsd card on the Surface 3 to load and run programs.

    • Mitch Garvis says:

      Hi Bart,
      While it is possible to install your applications on any drive (most application installers ask you what folder to install them to, they just default to “c:\Program Files” if you don’t change it) the truth is I have always preferred to install my apps on actual local storage. The reality is your Program Files will never fill up a modern hard drive, rather it is your data that is most likely to do so. Additionally you are more likely to want the portability of external storage for your data – if you do get a new computer you will have to re-install your applications anyways, but extracting your data from a potentially corrupted storage device can get expensive. My advice? Install on C:, save on your SD Card. That’s what I do, and it has served me well since buying my first Surface Pro two years ago. In fact, the 64 GB Micro-SD card I have in my Surface Pro 3 has made its way from my original Surface Pro to the Surface Pro 2 and now into its new home, and the transfer has taken less than a minute each time. Thanks for reading! -MDG

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