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Author Topic: Surface Pro 2 / Win 8.1 - user report  (Read 1974 times)
OldRoy
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« on: December 26, 2013, 07:30:07 AM »
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I previously posted a brief rant in reaction to my first experience of the above. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I began to feel more comfortable with the interface. A couple of weeks on from that I no longer know what to think. Anyway, this is a long way short of a review and in any case some of my reservations and problems may well be a consequence of my own misunderstanding.

I have the 128 Gb (SSD) Surface Pro 2 (and how that "Pro" which pops up  everywhere p!sses me off.) I bought this in preference to a 13" UltraBook on the assumption that by now Microsoft had had enough time to sort out the initial problems (not least by consigning "RT" to the dustbin of technology history.) Given the importance of the entire move to an integrated set of touch-enabled devices I figured that MS would make the SP series class-leading products. Hmm.

Like most people buying one of these hybrid devices I thought that it would cover two requirements. Firstly a replacement for my 8 year old Vaio/XP and secondly as a tablet: I mean, everyone else's got one, haven't they? I have no real need to run full-fat applications on this device although it's capable of doing so, unlike tablets. Unfortunately I don't get to do much recreational travel and fortunately I don't need to spend a couple of hours a day commuting on the Tube so there's no compelling need for a tablet. I like text on paper anyway.

It's small. That said it's surprisingly heavy. Several friends who have picked it up said "too heavy"... A woman friend rejected it completely for travel use on and bought a Galaxy 8" tablet: I couldn't argue with her choice on this basis. The little screen pen has nowhere to dock apart from the slot used for the magnetic charger lead and is eminently lose-able. To my mind it's not very nice to use anyway. I hate trackpads. I'm mostly using a wireless mouse... should have bought a Bluetooth version... which uses up the single USB (3) port. 4Gb of RAM isn't exactly generous for such a premium device either. Not upgradeable as far as I know.

I bought the "Type" keyboard. Nicely made and the magnetic docking function is excellent - far better than I had expected. But there's one bizzarre (to me) design feature. The left-hand shift key is about 2/3 the size of the regular alphanumeric keys whereas the right-hand shift key is about three times the size of them. Now this reproduces, sort of, the conventional key layout of full-size keyboards. Except that these usually allocate about 25% MORE space to the LH shift key. When typing (badly) on the Surface keyboard I'm constantly accidentally typing a "|" when using the LH shift key. Now I guess I should use the RH shift key but this is almost hard wired into my brain. It's absolutely infuriating.

The default text settings are tiny. This has been widely covered although I imagine as time passes that most applications will begin to accommodate the device and scale the text appropriately. In many contexts you can simply zoom up and down anyway. When running Chrome (by habit and a loathing of the IE interface) the selected default font size settings are cached for each URL - which minimises the problem.

Not having another Win 8n device I can only comment on its implementation on the Surface. I have Win 7 and XP desktop boxes too. People complained a lot about the "Metro" interface (name since abolished) but I can see why it's there if you're going to run the same OS on touch devices. I bought a Win phone on which it works very well. However there seem to be some really odd changes to the OS which drive me nuts. I don't have the time or inclination to describe them systematically but I'll mention  them in no particular order.

Skydrive,(you get 200 Gb "free" for 2 years with the Surface) is implemented as a separate tile. Login to the SP2 with a MS account and mail (outlook.com), Skydrive etc are available without launching a browser. However you cannot share a gallery of pix from the native SD application! You can use it to attach dozens of huge files to an email but not simply send a link to an email address. To do this you have to launch an additional  version of Skydrive in a browser. Astonishing. Useless.

Skype too suffers from a modified interface compared to previous OS versions. On the SP2 it seems to eliminate many of the functions (simultaneous texting and file transfer for example.) Maybe I'm missing something.

There's been a lot of buggering about with administrative tools and the control panel too. Why functions like system restore (see below)have to be relocated beats me.

The biggest p!ssoff in the last couple of weeks has been the MS update function. Now you'd think if everything else was flakey, they'd have at least got this right. But no... A week ago I had an update loop itself. I had to force a shutdown. And try again. Same result and worse. Whilst I can't recall the exact sequence of events (mercifully) I do know I spent many hours trying to back out of the consequent mess using, with difficulty, system restore. At one point I thought it was a return to supplier situation.

Subsequent investigations reveal that I'm not alone. The most commonly reported problem is that the firmware update mid-Dec. - assuming that it installed at all - caused the battery life to drop by at least 50%. Not good, that. But it seems to me that the reversal patch also crashed  my machine; not that it's clear what's what in the update process these days - see below. Currently I'm sitting here waiting to hear reports before I install the Dec 24th firmware update. Assuming that's what it is.

In the Good Old Days you could click on the name of the patch and go to the KnowledgeBase entry for that patch to see what it's about. No longer, it seems. Now you can only see what the patch is AFTER you've installed it (update history). Assuming your Surface isn't bricked at that stage.

I've tried clicking on the support link below the patch name but that just takes you to the MS generic support site ("how to use your mouse" etc...) All attempts to find out the current status of the Surface firmware on the MS site have defeated me. There is, of course, information out there where public-spirited users blog about this stuff.

There are a few other minor niggles. One is that the integrated news aggregator has a set of pre-installed sites plus a "+" function where you can add the URL of a site you want to include in the set. This hasn't worked for any additional news site I've tried so far and the application just reports an "unable.." without any additional information. This is p!ss-poor. Doesn't anyone test this stuff at all?

Overall I just don't know how to judge this product. It has a well engineered and solid feel to it. Weight = quality (subconsciously, anyway.) The screen is very nice (207 ppi as far as I recall). But it's NOT a laptop/UltraBook and it's NOT a tablet. In truth for the same money you could probably buy a mid-price example of each for the same price as the SP2 spec which I have.

Anyway I hope there's some useful information in the above.

Roy




















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narikin
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« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2013, 01:16:54 PM »
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I use a Surface Pro 1 for my MF digital tethered work, and love it. I can run full version of Capture One Pro software, (free in DB edition) tethered to my IQ series digital back via USB3, and work on location, to see 100% accurate focus check, DOF, etc.  

Yes its a little bit heavier than ideal, but right now there is literally *nothing* else with Pro processors in the tablet form.  Until Apple release an iPad Pro (possibly never) this is as good as it gets for full power tablet form.  I appreciate there are 'convertibles', but a locked on keyboard is just a nuisance in situations where this shines.

Many of your complaints are about Windows 8 changeover in general, which you cannot blame on the Surface machines. The changes from Windows 7 to 8 takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do, seems a useful OS change, especially in touchscreens, like this.


« Last Edit: December 26, 2013, 07:32:59 PM by narikin » Logged
OldRoy
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« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2013, 05:25:51 AM »
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Check the MS Surface forums for a perspective on the current chaos deriving from the grotesquely faulty December firmware updates. I managed to squirm out of the damage caused to my own with great difficulty.

Currently I'm awaiting developments before installing any further patches. This is a first as far as I can recall in decades of using numerous versions of Windows since NT 3.5. For this mess to follow on from the debacle of the original releases on the previous  processor is amazing considering the flagship nature of the product.

As for Win 8.1, the interface is a bit Tonka Toy but it's the behind the scenes changes that I just don't get. Why can't I investigate the updates in the KB before installing them, as always in the past - just for a single example.

Roy
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john beardsworth
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« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2013, 09:58:55 AM »
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What kinds of programs have you been running on it? Anything like Photoshop or Lightroom?
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jerryrock
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2013, 05:44:44 PM »
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I use a Surface Pro 1 for my MF digital tethered work, and love it. I can run full version of Capture One Pro software, (free in DB edition) tethered to my IQ series digital back via USB3, and work on location, to see 100% accurate focus check, DOF, etc.  

Yes its a little bit heavier than ideal, but right now there is literally *nothing* else with Pro processors in the tablet form.  Until Apple release an iPad Pro (possibly never) this is as good as it gets for full power tablet form.  I appreciate there are 'convertibles', but a locked on keyboard is just a nuisance in situations where this shines.

Many of your complaints are about Windows 8 changeover in general, which you cannot blame on the Surface machines. The changes from Windows 7 to 8 takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do, seems a useful OS change, especially in touchscreens, like this.


IMHO, the Surface Pro's screen is much too small to do Photoshop work. There is a better slate tablet on the market. It is the Wacom Cintiq Companion that runs Windows 8.1 Pro.

It has a 13.3" HD (1920 x 1080) IPS screen that is touch and stylus sensitive with 2048 levels of pressure and pen tilt recognition. It has an Intel i7 processor,Intel HD 4000 graphics, 8GB ram, 512 GB SSD, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, two USB 3.0 ports and a mini display port.

I have been using mine for about a month now and it breezes through any Photoshop or Lightroom job with ease. Coming from a Mac OS, the Windows 8.1 OS takes some getting used to.

http://cintiqcompanion.wacom.com/CintiqCompanion/en/
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Gerald J Skrocki
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OldRoy
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« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2013, 03:03:59 PM »
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Up to now I haven't installed anything apart from utilities. At some point I'll probably load LR but at present I have no real need to run it on a transportable device. In any case by the time the Surface has a firewall, A-V software, browser, mail etc running all the time 4Gb of ram is a bit thin. However in the undemanding use I currently have for it it's very quick. Never having had an OS on an SSD before it's quite a revelation. Startup is almost instant.
If I've given the impression that I'm completely unhappy with The Surface Pro 2 that's not the case. However the dreadful balls-up with the updates has been extremely off-putting.
Roy
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kdphotography
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« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2013, 07:09:26 PM »
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.... There is a better slate tablet on the market. It is the Wacom Cintiq Companion that runs Windows 8.1 Pro.

It has a 13.3" HD (1920 x 1080) IPS screen that is touch and stylus sensitive with 2048 levels of pressure and pen tilt recognition. It has an Intel i7 processor,Intel HD 4000 graphics, 8GB ram, 512 GB SSD, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, two USB 3.0 ports and a mini display port.
....

I like the specs better on the Cintiq, but it also seems to weigh a lot more than the Surface Pro 2.

ken
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