MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., December 12, 2014 – We stand in awe as every day, it seems, we witness more and more impressive technological advances. Many of them are associated with the magical machine that we use for almost everything in our lives. The Dream Machine as it was labeled in the old PBS series about the development and use of the personal computer.
But with the good comes the bad. As we test the limits of the hardware and software we discover flaws. This is especially for most of us that have adopted and continue using the PC system as developed by IBM and as hijacked by Microsoft.
Every one of us has at one time or another has criticized Microsoft. Faulty operating systems like Vista and buggy Internet browsers like Explorer made us want to pull out our hair in more than one occasion.
Not that MS has had some real winners in the past. The Media Center concept was phenomenal and many of us are still using it. Decades before the Roku, Chromecast, Apple Play, Logitech Revue the Microsoft Windows Media Edition gave us complete integration between television and the personal computer. With the cost of purchasing a computer and a decent monitor, one could forgo the cost of buying a television. Maybe it was ahead of its time and it didn’t help that Microsoft never appeared to promote it properly. It may go the way of the Zip drive, the DVD and other passing fads, and that is really too bad.
At least MS appears to have learned from this and is promoting the “tablet that will replace your laptop” heavily. We all are attracted to portable computing. It is sexy. We have gotten accustomed to seeing cool people on TV and movies, with a portable computer of some kind. Desktops don’t have the cache.
Portable computers are not that portable and even less lap-top friendly. Trying to do serious computing with a heavy, very hot object on one’s lap is not a lot of fun. Carrying a clumsy charger is also not that conducive to being comfortable. We all wonder how long it would take for someone to look at the human aspect of the design of the portable and offer something better.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 may be what we have been waiting for.
The tablet is about 3/8” thick, wide enough to attach a full size keyboard (sans numeric pad) and tall enough to satisfy even the old tired eyes of boomers. Its protective cover, sold separately, is also a full size Querty keyboard complete with a VERY sensitive touch pad (this is one beef I have against the Surface). It runs Windows 8.x and is in all aspects equivalent to a laptop or desktop that we are used to.
It has a hard drive in which you can keep your software, games, kitty videos and photographs. It also comes with a decent amount of memory (RAM), a mini SD port and a USB 3 one. Included with the tablet is an electronic pen that I am not sure is very useful (or maybe I just don’t know how to make it useful). The ads shows a person drawing and writing on the screen with it.
One can install any software that is compatible with Windows 8.x like Office 365 and VLC Media Player. It has a kick stand that can be angled to satisfy the user and minimize glare. It is a lot lighter than regular laptops and very attractive.
But what makes the Surface good?
For storage it has a Solid State Drive that makes any disc read/writes extremely fast. For the mid-price Surface (Core i5, 128 g storage and 4 gigs RAM), execution is lightning fast. On and off times are the fastest I have experienced. A Core i5 has two processors and four threads. When viewed in the Device Manager it shows as having four processors.
Do you really need the top of the line Surface?
While the fastest four core i7 (four cores, eight threads) processor is great, the additional cost is not really worth it. The Core i5 is fast enough for humans.
Storage today is cheap. A 128 gig flash drive can be purchased for less than $50 and a USB 3, 2 tera external hard drive for less than $100. So the additional cost of a 512 gig SSD is not really worth it for most. My experience with Solid State drives is that as they have higher capacity, their speed decreases, probably because being random access, searches may take longer. This is just my personal experience.
The biggest consideration when deciding whether to buy the Surface is price. It ranges from around $700 for the core i3 $2,000 + for the top of the line. You also have to pay extra for the protective cover/keyboard, around $130. Probably more importantly, if you need a new battery, Microsoft will replace your Surface for a mere $499! I guess there is always a catch.
While not having an optical drive (CD/DVD) may be a drawback for some, the USB 3 port allows you to connect to just about anything, including an optical drive.
The Surface keyboard is slightly different. It doesn’t have a PrntScr key (you use Fn-Space for screen shots). The Pause option is gone so to see the computer information page, you have to right click My Computer –> Properties and to see the Device Manager you find it on the left side of the info screen.
Biggest beef about the Surface? The darn touch-pad that is too sensitive and can’t be turned off temporarily.
Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is continually searching for the perfect computing solution and having a lot fun in the quest. He is in Twitter (@chibcharus), Google+ and Facebook (Mario Salazar).