Rewind Avenue: The original Surface Pro

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After the Microsoft surprise everyone with their first ever tablet, with the horsepower equivalent to a laptop. A new design for a tablet with a fashionable kick stand, it seems all right with the world. But how is it holding up over time, especially in this time, when the Surface Pro 3 is coming out. With the massive price cut on one of Microsoft’s partners Bestbuy, is it still worth it to go on a Microsoft store website and order one for yourself? Let’s find out as we are rolling down Another look Avenue, and today, we are stopping at the original Surface Pro.

Spec

For the processor, you have the options of either an Intel Core i3 or Intel Core i5 chip, with memory options for either 64GB, 124 or in the case of Bestbuy availability, 256GB; the Surface Pro only has only one RAM option, 4GB. The 10.6 display has the resolution of 1920×1080 with the pixel density of 208ppi and wide IPS viewing angle. The tablet also includes dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, but no cellular radio built-in like Samsung galaxy Tab or iPad. The two cameras front and back shoots 720p for Skyping, but beside that, it takes decent picture and video, but it is a tablet, and if you are those kind of people who actually take pictures with their tablet, quality is not really a problem anyway.

Hardware & Design

Hardware wise, the tablet has the dimension of 10.81×6.81×0.52 inches and weigh less than 2 lbs. Now, is that a bit thick and heavy? Maybe…, After all, the tablet has a processor of a laptop. But that would be where the Surface Pro 3 came in, right? Let’s talk about the display, that panel is a 1080p panel with the aspect ratio of 16:9. With the recent Windows 8.1 update, it works well with Snap feature, which allows 3 split-screens for multitasking, the experience might vary, and the problem allied with the Windows 8 and 8.1 platform that we will talk about in a bit.

 

What about in portrait? Well, with the reverse 9:16 ratio, you can really feel the weirdness while holding it this way, most likely because of the weight and the extra height that caused by the huge bezels on both sides. Back to the topic, although there are some apps problems, the apps that are in the Windows App Store usually present work well in portrait, Facebook or Twitter work as expected most of the time. And although you can get away with sending an email or type a quick document, it is not the best experience. Also, Snap does not work in portrait mode, a move in which I would never understand why.

 

Where you’re most likely to be enjoyed this tablet, must be in landscape mode, as there are more advantageous with using the tablet this way. First of all, Snap works incredibly well in the landscape mode. Even know I just complained about the wide bezels, in landscape mode, they create spaces to hold the thing quite well. Capacitive button works fine, as long as you don’t have your type/touch cover for this tablet (which I suggests you to get it, more on that in a bit), as the button become uncomfortable to press, and as you use Windows 8 overtime, you will find yourself sliding from the side to get the home button rather than press the capacitive button. At least that’s what happens to me.

Moving on, one of the best things Microsoft has put into this tablet, must be the kick stand. Not just because it makes for some dancing commercial, but it is one of the most useful things. Watch a movie on a bed or doing work on a table, the kick stand can do it all. Now, why did I say “almost,” because even know Microsoft want you to use this like a laptop, the weight distribution and the wobbly while using on your lap is just a pain in the neck. Another problem would be that the angle of the first generation is not adjustable, but that is a minor thing if you count for the fact that the utilities it gives is way overcome the shortcoming. Now, of course, with iPad other tablets, you can buy the accessories that would allow you to do this, but built-in seems like a more elegant way to do it, as it takes away the cumbersome of putting the accessories on and add more bulk to the device. Using this for awhile, you will wonder why kickstand does not exist on more devices.

 

Let’s talk about the keyboard, because as I said, it is one of the vital things in your experience of the Surface Pro. This is the tablet that is designed to get work done, and after all, you don’t spend $600+ on something that you can only read news and play small flash game on it. Now, there are two, Type Cover (pun-intended) and Touch Cover. Let’s touch on the Touch cover a little bit, while it is beautifully designed, typing on it is almost as frustrating as playing Flappy Bird. If you are a long time laptop user, even the littlest thing like the lack of the click sound you hear every time you stroke your keyboard can annoy the hell out of you. Don’t get me wrong, the other Type Cover doesn’t give you the best typing experience, but at least it’s familiar. The touch pad, however, is a spoil for both keyboards. The un-clicky created a weird-unresponsive mouse. On the bright side, this small keyboard is still quite comfortable when you line your fingers up with the keyboard, but then again, neither won’t impress you with typing experience.

Let’s talk about some of the little things that are quite important. The volume rockers are quite responsive, the magnetic charging port charge very fast, and hardly ever fall out. And it is always nice to have a micro SD slot that as far as I know, can read up to 64 GB. While we are talking about extra storage, USB 3.0 port helps you transfer files and data rapidly. Extra storage are always welcome, and you would wonder why USB port and Micro SD slot is not a standard on all mobile devices, at least on tablets.

One accessory that include in the box is the Surface Pro Stylus. Its interaction with the screen built on Walcom technology, meaning that you can use it as a an active mouse, with tap as left click and the side hardware button as right-click. Depend on your job and how you often you use a stylus, it can be a mouse replacement. Some down side, would ne the parallax effects while using apps like Fresh Paint and OneNote. Unfortunately, there is no place inside the tablet for the stylus to live in, so it stay on the side, stick into the magnetic charger of the tablet, which can be annoying from time to time, as it fall out if you hit something while you carry it or in your bag with loads of gadgets and devices.

User Experience

Now, the your using experiences relied on how you accept Windows 8, and the Windows 8 stop at Rewind Avenue will be when full Windows 8.1 drops in the fall, with an overall enhancement. As of right now, I’ll put “good/bad, however.”

The apps that are existing in the Windows Store are decent, however, their aren’t a lot of them. Although we’ve seen a great growth of apps in the Windows Store (Windows Phone Store has a tremendous strike as well), mostly are just some official apps that should be on there a long time ago. Third party apps and games are still limited.

As I said above, most apps perform acceptable in multi screen, however, some apps like Twitter, fell short in optimizing their apps in different multi-screen sizes.

Snap works well, however, falls short when changing apps, as everything stoped and minimized. This never makes sense to me, as Microsoft has done such a good job with Snap, but can’t integrate its start screen with Snap so that its users can have access to their start screen while doing other things.

Apps that are essential to have the ability to run in the background, like music apps, Rdio, Spotify, or even Pandora stop their music when you switched apps, resulted in you going to the desktop and to get them to run background, as the desktop always in the background.

Windows 8 works well when you don’t need to change anything, however, when you need to change something in the setting, it gets confusing. Two setting apps, Control Panel and Setting. When you want to change something that you probably change every 3 months like your One Drive setting is quite easy, but to change something that you frequently do like brightness of the screen, from the Start screen, you have to get out to the desktop, and click on the tiny battery icon, and until then, you can change the brightness on your screen make us wonder why Microsoft makes 2 setting apps available on ONE OS. Microsoft doesn’t know it, but little things like this annoy the hell out of, well, everyone.

Performance & battery life

With the Intel Core i5, and $600+, its performance is above average. Editing video or other heavy task, like desktop gaming is average, with medium setting. Benchmark shows scores you would expect a Core i5 processor to have.

 

Battery life on the Surface Pro is comparable to other tablets, but it’s all depend on how you use and what you use it for, With moderate use, it last about 5 hours, which mean if you move quite a lot in a day, you will definitely need a charger with you.

Conclusion

So, should you still consider buying this 2 years after the release date? Well, it’s up to you. If you are on a budget of around $600 or less, this can be the device, with the horsepower and tools you need to accommodate your daily life. If money is not a problem, however, and you’re looking for a Windows experience in the right hardware, Surface Pro 2 or Pro 3 would be the better choice, as it is a newer hardware, faster speed wise, and in the case of the Pro 3, more screen real estate.

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