Personal Assessment of Surface 2

Discussion in 'Microsoft Surface 2' started by kristalsoldier, Oct 31, 2013.

  1. kristalsoldier

    kristalsoldier Well-Known Member

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    Hi all...

    The following is what I refer to as 'my personal assessment' of the Surface 2. Why 'personal assessment' and not a 'review'? Because there are much better reviewers and I have no benchmarks to share as formal reviews do. All I have to share with you is (1) my motivations in getting the Surface 2; (2) my perception of its aesthetics; (3) how it handles in my daily work; (4) my perception of its strengths and weaknesses. A word of caution: Some of you who may have read (and responded to) my previous posts will be, it is likely, more than familiar with quite a bit of what I have to say here. So, my apologies!

    Motivations:

    When I joined my current job, I was given the right to purchase any equipment that would help me in my work. While my colleagues opted for the iPad - regular and mini - I had seen ads for the Surface and had read up a little about it. I thought it would be exciting to try a brand new platform and experiment with how I could work with it. That is how I came to buy the original Surface RT. I should also mention that I was not disappointed. Perhaps I was a bit dismayed at the sluggishness of the platform, but the updates did help and I found - just before I updated to 8.1, the original RT had become quite responsive.

    What does my job entail? Simply put, it is doing research and writing. And, as you can imagine, the tools of my trade are (1) a full featured Office application (I use MS Office - most recently Office 365); (2) the Internet (I have access to wireless networks pretty much wherever I go); (3) and increasingly a cloud service which is where I store quite a few of my 'working' documents.

    As you can imagine, the Surface RT fulfilled needs quite well. But not everything was good. Thus, for example, I found the kickstand (though a blessing) a pain in the neck - literally. I have already referred to the sluggishness of the platform. And, to tell you the truth, while I do like the darkish colour of the VaporMg shell, it was a fingerprint magnet. I do have a comment about thickness and weight, but I'll come to that later.

    Now, some of you know that I have been agonizing for a while on whether or not to buy the Surface2. My deliberations were, essentially, grounded on two points: (1) knowing that the Surface 2 would have an adjustable kickstand, I knew that I would be able to alleviate the discomfort that I experienced when using the original RT; (2) The prospect of a Tegra4 chip which promised a snappier user experience was also alluring.

    Eventually, I decided that I would get the Surface 2, My reasoning was if I did not like it, I could always return it. But I did have one condition - I wanted to handle the Surface 2 in real life. Watching YouTube videos, reading assessments (like this one!) is all well and good, but nothing beats the hands-on experience. So, I went to the nearest B&M store.

    I would like to draw attention to the fact that there was no change in the fundamental motivations in my buying the Surface 2 - at least in terms of what I expected to do with it.

    Aesthetics:

    Recall at this point my earlier reference to the weight and thickness of the Surface RT. On handling the Surface 2, I found it to be slimmer. Not only that, I also found it to be lighter. Now, here is the strange thing. In terms of thickness, the difference between the two iterations of the device, while present, is not significant. The same is the case on the weight issue. But for some strange reason, the Surface 2 felt significantly lighter and slimmer. And then there is the silver colour. Normally, I do not like the silver colour. However, I have had to adjust to it when I bought myself an iPad. In the case of the Surface 2, I found that I did not mind the silver colour at all. In fact, it was quite refreshing!

    And so, I bought it hoping to god that what I was carrying home would not have problems as I have read some have experienced when they received their new units. On unboxing the device and starting it up, I found that it was in pristine condition. I had previously bought the purple Type Cover 2 for use with the Surface RT. I now attached it to the new unit and I was set.

    In this connection, I should mention that once when I was working on the Surface 2 at a café, someone remarked to me that the purple Type Cover looked 'girlish'! I don't agree with that assessment. In fact, I think that the purple Type Cover goes extremely well with the silver casing of the device.

    In short then, the aesthetics of the Surface 2 appeals to me. While I would have preferred that MS continued with their logo on the kickstand, having the word 'Surface' on it doesn't really bother me.

    Using the Surface 2:

    To be completely honest, I use the Surface 2 (as I did the Surface RT) mostly in what I refer to as 'laptop mode'. In other words, I spend most of my time in the desktop environment. But again, that is not strictly accurate because I flit between the desktop environment and the Modern UI space. In the former space, I am using the Office suite; in the latter, I am either using IE and/ or using some news app.

    On an average, I use the Surface 2 for about 8 hours - usually with WiFi on and BT off (I have been forced to use my fingers since my Wedge mouse broke recently, but I quite enjoy the experience). This means I have to charge the device every night before I go to bed. I find this to be acceptable. But these are yet early days and I suspect a little more can be coaxed out of the battery with further calibrations (I have only done this once).

    In terms of responsiveness, the Surface 2 has been brilliant. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it has exceeded my expectations. When earlier I would experience a bit of lag as Word or Powerpoint of Excel opened on the Surface RT, on the Surface 2, the apps open near-instantly! The same applies for the small set of apps that I have on the Modern UI space.

    As of now the Surface 2 has never heated up on me, but then again, I don't do anything that would warrant that such as playing intensive games etc.

    Browsing experience started off being so-so, but as Mary Jo in a recent post on ZDNet pointed out, an update to IE11 has improved its performance considerably.

    I like the screen. It is noticeably brighter (at least to me) as compared to the Surface RT (which should not suggest that the RT was not good) and the text appears crisp. However, to get the best experience, I found that I had to briefly adjust the zoom level.

    Some may argue that comments about the kickstand should be under the heading for aesthetics and they would not be wrong. But given my primary needs, I thought it best to put it under the work heading. Simply put, using the 2-step kickstand has improved my productivity - a lot. I usually have the Surface 2 in the lower position and it is perfect when I am working on long and intense documents and/ or doing my online research. I use the other position mainly when watching videos.

    A word about videos. Excellent. Regardless of whether I am streaming them from YouTube (or some other such source) or playing them off the internal storage, the playback is excellent. Not really happy about using the Xbox app, but I am waiting for VLC and if that take too long, then I may just get one of the paid apps from the store. I have noticed that some have very good ratings (and they play MKV files).

    Thus far I have not experienced any problems connecting to wireless networks - either at work, or at home or at random public places. However, I have noted that it has become difficult to connect to the primary wireless network at my workplace. I attribute that to the network rather than to the Surface 2 per se because others too (using different devices) have complained about the same thing.

    I do appreciate the work that has gone into rejigging the Mail app, but I still find it lacking. Despite this, however, I have not yet fired up Outlook. I have yet to find out how and where Outlook will store its files on the device. If it can store it on the MicroSD card, then it will not be a problem. But if it stores the files on the internal storage, that's one scenario that I really would like to avoid.

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    The Surface RT (and this applies more to the concept than either of the two iterations of the device), I think, is a bold concept. I know that it is common wisdom to think of the Surface as a tablet, but I think that misses the point. Others have observed that the Surface is a 'hybrid' device. Again, I think, that formulation is also not wholly accurate. Notice something going on here? It is difficult to categorize the Surface (which probably accounts for why some people remain bewildered with the device). To me the Surface is a hint (and only a hint) of the direction in which personal computing devices will move hereon out into the future. You can see this with the way SkyDrive has been baked into the OS (you get 200GB free for 2 years and then you have to pay....we'll see how that works out in due course). Of course, such a vision presumes ubiquitous and immersive connectivity, which is not as common globally as we might expect.

    For me, therefore, the Surface is a 'pure' personal mobile device. Just think about it for a moment. Though I have not tried it, paired with a BT earphone, I should theoretically be able to make calls using the free Skype minutes (it comes in the box!); I can tether the Surface to my phone for connectivity (in this connection, I should add that there is no GPS on the Surface 2, but it is not important for me as long as I have my phone, which has GPS).

    In other words, I can use the Surface for communications (video and telephony), robust work (using the Office app suite AND the backlit KB), access the internet, get and respond to mail, and get dedicated news updates. All this in a package that weights less than, say, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (Pluhar Edition!).

    There is little that I can point to in terms of weaknesses of the hardware itself. It is sturdily built; it is elegant; excellent screen; handles well; has good expansion capabilities (particularly happy about the USB 3.0).

    The weaknesses, however, lie on the software front. Granted 8.1RT is very good (as compared to what we experienced with Win 8.0). But it still has miles to go. I suspect the OS can be further optimized to exploit the hardware and I expect to see such optimization in the coming months.

    The presence of the desktop environment is understandable, but it needs to go. FOr that to happen, MS needs to port their Office Suite entirely to the Modern UI space. And, while I do like the Modern UI version of OneNote, I'd rather they just don't mess around with what the other parts of the Office suite currently do. If they skimp on features in their porting efforts, then that would be a BIG problem!

    Apps: This is supposedly the big question. Not being a big app user, I can't really empathize with the concerns that people have in this regard. But I understand that given the 'app culture' that we have seemingly segued into, it is a necessary hook to draw in users. I expect developments in this sphere over the next 12 months.

    Bottomline

    I am glad I bought the Surface 2 and I am looking forward to putting it through its paces over the next couple of weeks when I am traveling overseas (where connectivity as I experience it on an everyday basis is NOT a given!). Would I recommend the Surface 2? Yes, I would.

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
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  2. jnjroach

    jnjroach Administrator Staff Member

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    Excellent write up Krystal!!!!
     
  3. oion

    oion Well-Known Member

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    Good detailed use case write-up.

    Need more pics. ;)

    When is that Metro-version Office coming, anyway?
     
  4. jnjroach

    jnjroach Administrator Staff Member

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    Office Gemini is rumored for a Spring 2014 release....
     
  5. beman39

    beman39 New Member

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    hahaha I just bought my wife the Type 2 cover "purple" cuzz it's girly and she likes purple :tongue: JK..........no not kidding I really bought her a purple KB. LOL

    good write up by the way :big smile:
     
  6. kristalsoldier

    kristalsoldier Well-Known Member

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    Thanks all!

    @oion: No pics, sorry. As I said, this is not a review...:)

    @Beman39: Yeah! I don't this stereotyping! I like the purple colour! And, I love the Type2 KB.

    @Jeff: I really hope MS does not neuter the Office suite!!! Any news on that?
     
  7. oion

    oion Well-Known Member

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    Pfft, semantics!

    And yes, I wonder how the "metro-ization" of Office will be. Office has a ton of options in each application, which is why the whole suite is so dang powerful, but how are they going to stuff that into a touch-friendly interface? If they do strip stuff--more than even the Office RT--that would be supremely disappointing.
     
  8. kristalsoldier

    kristalsoldier Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely! That is indeed my biggest worry - more so because MS is not very stable in its outlook in these terms. Just look at the difference between 8.1 and 8.0. Arguably, they should have launched their new efforts organized around the devices and services motto with 8.1. No...they simply rushed to the market with 8.0. And, in my darker moments, I think Surface 2 should have been the original Surface RT.
     
  9. jnjroach

    jnjroach Administrator Staff Member

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    From what I hear, Office Gemini is a fully functional port to the Modern UI and that is why it is taking so long, it will undoubtedly build on OneNote MX and the Lync Mobile Client (Heck, even Skype), the Jog Dial in the OneNote MX App was first introduced in a MS R&D Project Called InkSciene.

    The Surface RT and Pro Projects were created originally out of the botched HP Slate 500 launch and which both HP and Intel shared blame in its poor showing from a hardware perspective, I actually used one for around 6 months, my Libretto replaced until the original SB Samsung Series 7 Slate came out in August of 2011 (I loaded the Dev Preview on it in September).
     
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  10. kristalsoldier

    kristalsoldier Well-Known Member

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    This is really good to know! Need the whole (or the largest part) of the function set in the Suite! Don't really care how much time it takes as long as MS gets it right!
     
  11. kristalsoldier

    kristalsoldier Well-Known Member

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    @Jeff...I have been meaning to ask you this:

    When MS does release MUI versions of Office, what happens to the currently installed desktop versions of office on the Surface RT machines and to the desktop machines that are running O365?

    It would seem pointless to have 2 versions of Office run, particularly on the Surface RT devices, no?

    Any news/ insights/ guesses etc. on this?
     
  12. jnjroach

    jnjroach Administrator Staff Member

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    I think in the near term they will run in parallel maybe with an option to migrate. I think eventually the Modern UI Version will be Office, say Office 2014 or Office 2013 R2
     

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