My Love-Hate (Mostly Love) Relationship With the Microsoft Surface Pro

It’s a tablet, it’s a PC, it’s one of the most underrated pieces of collaborative tech out there. I wholeheartedly love my Microsoft Surface Pro. That’s not in spite of being an artist and a geek, but BECAUSE I am these things. The Surface Pro – a new more powerful version was announced by Microsoft last week – has been a fabulous machine for me.

Yet, some things about my Surface Pro make we want to pull my hair out. Why, you ask?

5. It’s Been Horribly Advertised

Some of you may have never seen a Microsoft Surface in real life. Never fear: if you’ve seen a weird commercial in the past year where a bunch of dancers run around throwing some tablet looking thing in the air while kind of using it, you’ve seen it.

There’s a lot going on in that ad, apart from – you know – actual product use. Microsoft wanted the Surface to be this amazing innovation that blended tablet and PC together into the ultimate product. Shockingly, flexible and hip dancers tossing Surfaces around like softballs while occasionally tapping the screens fail to convey any of that.

Now these ads did fairly well in terms of looking cool and capturing peoples’ attentions. However, did they actually sell Surfaces? Not exactly. The word abysmal comes to mind when you see the numbers.

4. Consumers Are Too Into Weight

I’m not talking about your body image, I’m talking about the weight of portable devices. We’re so into the thinnest, lightest tablet, that when something comes along with some meatier guts we tend to dismiss them.

In a category filled with anorexic models, the Surface Pro is certifiably chunky. It comes in at 2 lbs, which to a lot of people sounds incredibly heavy (the iPad mini is less than a pound.) It’s also noticeably thicker at a little over half an inch. In a world of super-light, ultra-thin tablets, it’s huge. But that’s only because it houses impressive guts that allow a full operating system (Windows 8) to run within it’s 10.8” x 6.8” dimensions. It’s a full-blown computer packed in that cool magnesium case. You can run anything from Office Suite to Photoshop with relative ease. Thinner isn’t always better with tech.

3. Artists Are A Niche Market (That Aren’t Being Tapped)

Pressure sensitivity on a touchscreen is an important need for artists and designers. For ages, artists, some of Apple’s staunchest loyalists, have cried out for some type of sensitivity on the iPad screen that they wouldn’t have to buy from a third party.

The fact that Microsoft felt it should include pressure-sensitivity on the Surface was flattering to us. With the free Wacom driver available for the Surface Pro, the sensitivity is akin to a Wacom Intuos 3, giving you a professional drawing tool to work with. After playing around with one for a few hours either in Photoshop or Sketchbook Pro, you’ll probably agree that everyone should have a Surface Pro for industry work. They’re just that good.

However, not many artists are scrambling for a Surface Pro, mostly because it’s not being marketed to them. Granted, there are people like Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik who were given the Pro to review from an artist/designer point of view (Mike gave it his approval). That angle hasn’t been pursued as effectively as it could be by the Surface Pro marketing team.

There are artists I know who have heard vaguely about the Surface Pro’s capabilities, but aren’t fully aware of them. Yet when the Wacom Companion debuted, they all instantly fawned over it. That’s despite the Wacom Companion, IMHO, lacking features and portability, while also being ludicrously overpriced.

2. It’s Impossible To Tear Down (and Upgrade)

I’m not a huge hardware geek, but I like to be able to open up my gear and swap memory and RAM as well as perform basic maintenance when necessary. A quick upgrade (or even a blast of canned air into the dusty guts) can really extend the life of your aging gadget. If you’re at all handy with a screwdriver, you can usually keep yourself from losing a wad of cash over “installation fees”.

The Pro is a beast to open up. It’s held together by a ton of glue and screws. How many screws? More than 90. It is horrible, near impossible to tear down, with one of the worst tear down ratings. There is no way to easily open it up and swap out the most basic of hardware.

1. The Surface Pro 2 Was Just Unveiled, & I Want One

You guys, they just unveiled the Surface Pro 2, and it looks pretty amazing. Let’s start with the add-ons, which work with both versions of the Surface Pro. There’s a desktop dock that turns the Pro into a proper desk workhorse, a fancy new keyboard cover that extends the Pro’s battery life, and the Web-based Office 365, which allows you to share and co-edit Office documents with co-workers and business partners.

Back to the Surface Pro 2: they’ve doubled the RAM on the base models from 2 GB  to 4 GB, with the higher-end models now sporting 8 GB of RAM. The priciest Pro 2s will have 512 GB of Solid State Drive storage. All Surface Pro 2s will come with an upgraded 4th-generation Intel® Core™ i5 Processor for longer run time.

My problem? I bought a Generation One Surface Pro just four months ago.

Yeah, the First Generation Surface Pro was put out on the market February 9th of this year. Meaning it’s only been 9 months between hardware generations. Frustrated much? I know Microsoft is eager to improve upon its first generation Pro, but not giving early adopters like me the time to appreciate their purchase is aggravating. I hope the Surface Pro 2 will stick around longer than it’s predecessor.

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