Me and my SP3, a User’s Experience

Discussion in 'Microsoft Surface Pro 3' started by mothermapper, Sep 9, 2014.

  1. mothermapper

    mothermapper New Member

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    I ordered my Surface Pro 3 from the Microsoft store on 7-7 of this year as a package deal. Mine is the i5/8GB/256GB model and I have found it is just what I needed. The package included keyboard, Office 365 Home, a case, and the extended support. As others have mentioned this is a fairly expensive device but my past experience has been that you generally get what you pay for. I figured since it is the third iteration of the Surface it should have had the kinks worked out. I watched the Microsoft event and found many aspects to like.

    It probably will help to understand my perspective if you know a little about my background. I am retired having spent 30 years in Information Technology. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX-80. I have worked with PCs since the days of the Intel 8088. All the versions of Windows and most of the versions of DOS. The first Microsoft product I purchased was a memory expansion card for an Apple II. I still have it, the card and the Apple II. I progressed to a Macintosh Plus. It was a revolutionary device if there ever was one. But it was expensive, especially for that time frame. I remember the first hard drive I purchased. It was $900, it had a walloping 45 Megabytes, and at the time, I thought it was a bargain. The majority of my experience was in developing state of the art custom solutions for medium to large business. I have a MCSE and was a long participator in MSDN. I worked with Windows Servers since version 3.5 and actually “won” a copy of Windows Server 4.0 at a Microsoft Event. Today there are still 8 Windows Servers running on my home network, 9 Windows 7 desktops, 3 Windows XP desktops (hey they work just fine), a couple of Linux servers, 4 Windows 7 laptops, several XP laptops, a Mac mini server, a 27” iMac, a MacBook Pro and a couple of MacBook Airs. I don’t like to get rid of things especially if they are still serving a purpose. I spent a lot of time with the Palm hand held devices, a couple of Windows CE devices and so many different MP3 players I can’t remember them all. Music and digital books have long been a quest for me. Over the last forty years or so my collection has gotten fairly large. One of the first things I use the Palm for was to read eBooks.

    When I retired I revisited the Apple environment and found the whole echo system compelling. I didn’t look to Apple just to have a nice computer. What I found compelling was how the devices inter operate. Other environments are “getting there” but for me, Apple was the first one to get it right. I still feel that way but others are beginning to make headway. Android has a huge market share but it is just too disjointed as an echo system. Most of the devices are not able to be updated to the later versions of the OS. I have a few Android tablets and while they each have their strengths, they also have their share of warts.

    I have had the gambit of iPods since their emergence. One is in my wife’s car and the other is a part of my bedroom radio. They still work and can be accessed wirelessly from iTunes for content update. When the first iPad was released, I found the answer to my eBook problem. I had an extensive collection of books in Palm format. Simple converters let me change them to ePub format which the iPad uses. Apple is generally considered a pretty closed environment but for me, I have found the way it handled eBooks a real pleasure. I have had pretty much every version except iPad4. I read every day using an iPad mini retina. For me it is the “gold standard” to read the books I own.

    Now that you have seen a bit of my perspective, let’s take a look at the SP3 through my eyes. When the SP3 was first presented, Microsoft immediately compared it to the MacBook. This forum has seen several intense and I would suggest sometimes combative discussions about Microsoft vs Apple. I live in both worlds and for me it is really not the issue. I would submit that the better comparison that Microsoft could have made was Surface Pro 3 vs all other Windows computers. Having worked in the computer industry for 30 years , I understand that marketing has to be tempered with at least some reality. It would not serve Microsoft or the Microsoft Community well to alienate all of the manufacturers of hardware that run Windows. So I understand that they could not publicly say this but I really believe that is what the SP3 represents. It is the most portable, full functioning Windows environment available today. It does a brilliant job of that.

    That being said, I was initially disappointed with a few things. The first thing was that it only had a single USB port. This will never be addressed with the SP3 because it is in the design. After studying the components and the design, I see no reason that this device should not have two ports. One is just not enough. I know you can have hubs but they bring their own issues. Try running a 2TB portable external hard drive and a USB Ethernet dongle at the same time. Doesn’t work unless you have a powered hub. Two USB ports would make it an easy replacement for a laptop. Maybe in SP4. The other issue I encountered was the speed of the Wi-Fi. It was atrocious often as low a 10Mbps. Thankfully, at least for me, Microsoft has fixed this. I have a couple of wireless routers on my network. One is a Linksys and the other is an Apple AirPort. Both are 802.11n. Thanks to those on this forum, I learned that it is preferable to not broadcast both 5 and 2.4 GHz on the same SSID. I split mine and now connect at 300 Mbps with no real issues. I have not been plagued with the wake up issues that many have described. The addition of the docking station has addressed the connectivity issues and I am overall pleased with the SP3. It has become my current “go to” desktop.

    It’s hard to separate the SP3 from Windows 8 in the satisfaction equation. I participated in the Windows 8 beta program and like many had grave concerns about what Microsoft was planning. At the time it seemed like those in charge just didn’t want to listen to the user community. I won’t get into a debate here but it is safe to say the Windows 8 was/is one of Microsoft’s biggest blunders. If Microsoft had only given the users a choice when setting up their computer to have a more traditional look and feel like Windows 7 or experience the new touch interface (I still like to call it Metro), I think it would have been pretty widely accepted. The market place reacted with a few utilities to add a Start Menu and other familiar aspects of Windows. To me it is unfortunate the Microsoft chose to name their next OS Windows 8.1. This product, especially with Update 1 is a fine OS. It could have been called Windows 9 and I expect what we will find under the covers of Threshold is an awful lot of 8.1 without some of the gimmicky stuff.

    Having spent a lot of time in the App stores of Apple and the Android echo systems, I find Microsoft’s App store lacking. Many of the Apps are not compelling and I find myself seeking the web sites instead. I see some improvement but it seems really slow in making progress. This needs to become a major action item for Microsoft.

    Now I would like to address one of the most unexpected pleasures with my SP3 bundle purchase. Office 365 Home. I didn’t initially focus on it and in fact didn’t install it for almost two weeks. Since I retired most of my email has been handled via one or more of the Mac’s. All my contacts were in the Apple echo system. My wife and I share contacts, calendars, notes, and reminders. I was wondering how I could blend the SP3 into these tasks without creating new separate contact lists, etc. The ability to share contacts and calendars across all of the iPads, iPods, iPhones, and Macs is one of the most compelling features. I didn’t realize just how useful Office 365 would become in accomplishing these tasks. I installed the Office Suite including Outlook on the SP3. I also installed iTunes and iCloud during this process. iCloud asked if I would like to share my contacts, calendars, and notes with Outlook. I answered in the affirmative and wala, Magic occurred. Also included were my shared internet favorites. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to integrate both the Apple and Microsoft environments. Thank you Microsoft and Apple for making this possible.

    Much has been made of and said about being able to run legacy applications. SP3 and Windows 8.1 fulfill this very well. However when we add a touch screen to the mix, things are not always pleasant. I also have a Windows 8.1 touch screen laptop so I was already versed on this aspect of a touch interface. It doesn’t really matter whether it is a touch screen laptop, SP3, or any other tablet. Old and new don’t always mix well. Most of the previous applications are much happier with a keyboard and a mouse. The best touch experience regardless of the platform is with applications designed from the outset as a touch application. You really can’t fault the SP3 for this alone.

    Almost all of the computing devices we have today are personal in nature. Each of us use them differently and what will please me may not be as useful to you. My wife loves her iPad Air and I don’t think she will willingly change to another device any time soon. I find that the iPad mini retina is my first choice. I probably spend 2-4 hours a day reading books or surfing the internet. Light emails and messages are the things I do with it. FaceTime with the grand kids or my parents are wonderful. As a tablet, I don’t find the SP3 as compelling as I do my iPad mini. I really tried using it for eBooks but it is just too large and cumbersome for me. I do find that it is an excellent environment for reading magazines and I would rather use the SP3 for this task than the IPad mini. The SP3 display really shines for two page displays of magazines.

    OneNote and the Pen are differentiators and have proven quite useful to capture portions of web pages and sharing with others.

    Is the Surface Pro 3 perfect? Well no it isn’t but neither is anything else. All devices have inherent compromises. What works for one will be a disappointment for another. The SP3 does an excellent job of defining a direction for computing devices. Will the SP4 be better? For sure as will the SP5. That is the way with technology. To me, Microsoft has set a pretty high standard for the industry to model. I hope other manufactures continue to innovate like Microsoft has with the SP3.

    Thanks for taking the time to take a look at my experiences with the Surface Pro 3. Click On or should that be Touch On?
     
    VickiFL, RémiM, Moonsurface and 3 others like this.
  2. raqball

    raqball Active Member

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    Very nice, detailed and unbiased write up..
     
  3. malberttoo

    malberttoo Super Moderator Staff Member

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    This has got to be one of the most balanced and unbiased reviews I've read of the SP3, when specifically comparing it to an Apple product.

    Thanks for taking the time to write it!
     
  4. DeltaXray

    DeltaXray Member

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    Great unbiased review here. I agree with pretty much everything in it, I have not tried office 365 yet (normally just use the free web apps) but might give it a go having read this.
     
  5. Telstar1948

    Telstar1948 Active Member

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    I use Office 365 and it is really nice... not to mention the TB of OneDrive at no additional cost!
     
  6. Moonsurface

    Moonsurface Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I love my office 365, Shame I haven't found a way to sync my calendar across all my devices. I'm a google user, google calendar syncs with my windows phone but since I use desktop outlook calendars on the surface and PC they don't seem to sync, might be google not playing nice with windows or perhaps I haven't set it up right.
     
  7. kiwigirl

    kiwigirl Member

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    Thanks for the feedback.

    As much as I love the SP3 so far (I have to remember its only been 2 days), but I only have 12 days left as Best buy only gives 14 days to decide.

    Im pretty much sold on it from a computer standpoint and it replacing my MBP.

    Im still a bit iffy on it as a tablet. Mind you, on my ipad im not really one for using apps (theres only a few I use), so whether or not I will miss having access to the ios store Im not sure. Im assuming probably not since i pretty much only use my ipad for web browsing.

    I will admit, Apples onscreen keyboard is bar none the best designed keyboard ever. I could type on it with 4 fingers like nothing. The SP3 on screen keyboard feels very very different.

    But what I really love about the SP3 is the form and asthetics. Just how it looks and with the type cover on, it pretty much looks like a bigger ipad with a smart cover on. I love the kickstand and how its metal (very sturdy, no Apple smart cover BS), and its built in! Dont have to pay extra for it.
     

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