Surface 2 – Fact vs Fiction

Discussion in 'Microsoft Surface General Discussion' started by hypokondriak, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. hypokondriak

    hypokondriak New Member

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    Someone in another thread had asked for a Surface review from actual users instead of Journalists. Instead, I thought I go through the “Cons” from the various news agencies and try to provide some real world perspective. I am only covering the “Cons” because I think there is a little ninja fiction there that these journalists either purposely or lazily continue to spread.

    Disclaimer: I am not a homer. I currently owned a Pro 1, Surface 2, Surface Pro 2, iPad Mini, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Macbook, and a private ESXi environment. I’m also in the process of building a new Haswell Nuc. In the recent past I’ve owned 4 different iPhones, 2 Chomebooks, iPad 1, Macbook Air, and an HTC One. I like a lot about Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Anyway, that’s my disclaimer….now here is my best stab at the Cons.

    1. Performance is hit or miss

    This is accurate and inaccurate, but more Fiction than Fact. There are certainly some applications where I’ve had performance problems or some crashes, but we are talking less than 1% and it’s not evident if this is the fault of the app or the device. Additionally one reviewer claims there isn’t a consistent Flash experience in which I absolutely disagree. In fact I have yet to have a problem with flash, and this includes watching the Thursday night game tonight via NFL’s 4.5 mbit stream in IE11. I do not know of an Android or iOS tablet that has anywhere near the Flash performance of the Surface 2. I did have stuttering problems trying to stream a fully uncompressed BluRay MkV natively, but the same plays fine via the Plex App.

    2. Weak Ecosystem

    Fact. The Windows Store ecosystem is still weak, the apps clearly aren’t always getting the best developers, and it still has a ways to catch up with Google/Apple. However, it improved significantly over the last year and if it continues at the same rate this will likely be the last generation we ever hear about this complaint. Additionally, the weak ecosystem is offset by how easily the keyboard and desktop browser makes it to access online content. I would describe it like this – we’ve all had that moment where we want to do X on our tablet but the notion of having to use an onscreen keyboard to navigate multiple screens is enough to talk you out of doing X. You rarely have this situation play out on a Surface. The Keyboard is flipped behind for consumption, and flipped back for instant creation cycles. What these reviews always fail to acknowledge is the stuff we all do that isn’t quite consumption or creation – the stuff in the middle. The Surface can tackle all of these, and excels in the middle grey area.

    3. Buggy Software

    Fact. Microsoft still can’t release a completely stable product decades later. The trackpad still disappears, the swipe to go back in IE is still awful/buggy, the Mail app has problems, Outlook has scaling problems, rumors of battery drain problem has been reintroduced, the trackpad app isn’t compatible with the new Type & Touch keyboards, and I believe I’ve had 12 different updates applied to my S2 since arriving on Tuesday. Quite simply, defects have slipped or been re-introduced from the first generation to the second generation and this is symptomatic of sloppy / disorganized QA, poor risk assessment, or leadership that is more worried about bottom line than customer experience. I’m not sure which. Now all of this being said, the overall experience is quite usable, but you will get annoyed from time to time. It is not bad enough to ruin the experience. However, I also wouldn’t call this Panos’ glorious achievement.

    4. Doesn’t Live Up to the Hybrid Promise

    Fiction. I can’t believe they even wrote this. The improvements made from a hardware tier here most certainly set the stage for a quite nice hybrid experience. The multiple angles, the great screen, the touch options, the backlit keyboard, the multi touch trackpad, and a Type 2 keyboard that is excellent. It took some getting used to, but I really like the Type 2 keyboard – I wasn’t patient. Whenever someone tells me that “X device can just use Bluetooth keyboard” I always ask “which Bluetooth keyboard / tablet combo is better than Surface / Type 1.” Now it is even BETTER. Beyond this the Surface experience lets you have a mouse when you need it, touch when you need it, USB when you need it, external monitor when you need it, a big boy Office suite, and most importantly a UI that is great to use as a tablet OR computer. I think this is something a lot of people gloss over. Hating on Microsoft and Windows is so en-vogue that people who have never even used 8 / 8.1 on a touch capable device already hate it. Yes, Windows 8.1 is a bit harder to use with a mouse, but with a Surface it’s a breeze. I think another problem is people immediately hate it so they are looking for reasons to hate rather than looking for reasons to learn. Now that I’ve learned the UI the process of navigating Windows 8.1 with a mouse is a breeze. Enter touch and it gets even better.

    5. Expensive Compared to iPad Air, Google Nexus 10, Samsung Note 10, etc.

    Fiction. Apple Air is $499 for 16GB, Nexus 10 is $399 for 16GB, Note 10 is $450 for 16GB, and the Surface 2 is $449 for 32GB. These reviewers all seem to drink some of the same dope juice, because they present numbers like this and then go on to belly ache about how you have to buy a “$120 or $130” keyboard. So now they pull a nifty little trick and tell us all the Surface 2 is $575ish while failing to mention A) how much a similar caliber bluetooth keyboard would cost for above tablets, and B) how the Surface 2’s battery life ranks against these when they are running a Bluetooth keyboard all day. They also fail to mention that for the money the Type 2 also includes an additional hardware component that does add to the BOM – a trackpad (Note 10 does have digitizer / stylus). However I do think if you compare the price relative to the number of overall apps the value of the Surface 2 does go down. However (again) if you compare the price relative to the number of staple apps (think 80/20 rule) + internet browser options the value also goes back up a bit. Since none of these can really do what the Surface does, it’s a really tough value proposition. However, once thing is for certain the Surface 2 is not horrendously overpriced and Microsoft’s $129 on the Type 2 is worth every penny in my book. I’m typing this essay on it.

    6. Sleek buy Clumsy Software

    Faction. Yeah as mentioned earlier there’s a lot of bad software and big apps are missing, but there’s also quite a bit of the apps people use every day. I go back to the 80/20 rule. How much of the 80% is there or are we really complaining about lower value add 20% that’s missing. Probably a bit of both, but off the top of my head there is Netflix, Amazon, eBay, Abc, CBS, Plex, Twitter, Cnet, CNN, NFL, Redbox, Best Buy, Kayak, Onenote, Open Table, Flight Aware, and a lot of great games. It’s not the graveyard everyone makes it out to be, and Facebook just joined the party too. However the true fiction is calling it clumsy. Meh maybe the headlines sells papers, but accurate I don’t think so. In fact I think Microsoft’s decision for live tiles and flat 2d design is quite brilliant. Apps tend to scale great (maybe the best of all OS’s) to different size monitors, multi task windows, and screen orientation/rotation. If you want to see clumsy software, take the Android ecosystem for a spin and check out the apps in landscape vs. portrait. Much worse. Apple is still probably the best here, and that’s certainly because the apps are getting the best UI/UX people, it’s the most mature, and because the tablets can’t run dual apps.

    (As a side note, the author of the “Clumsy Software” article states that you pull down on live tiles to right click. I guess his Surface 2 came with Windows 8 instead of 8.1….only point that out since he played the clumsy card)


    Anyway that’s probably good enough for now. That’s at least the major gripes and one guy’s retort that tries to be fair. To close here are some things I’d like to see the Surface team add moving forward in no particular order:

    A) The Blank Slate. Microsoft should release blank slates that the open source community can then turn into their own creations like the DJ slate they created. Give the developers some room to run here. Bonus points if you can still have the touch keyboard function on the other side.

    B) Larger Screen + better pixel density. The width/height is perfect (especially with slates), but the black bezel is enormous by today’s standards. Surface 3 should be the same size with a larger screen with “retina” pixel density.

    C) Interactive Live Tiles. Bridge the gap between Widgets and Live Tiles a bit further. Provide the ability to interact with specific data on a live tile vs pure consumption.

    D) Quality Quality Quality. At some point here you have to stop being content with buggy and shoddy software releases. 900 billion write offs could hire a lot of premier IT talent. Are you certain you have the right people on this project?

    E) Trackpad Gold Standard. Take the trackpad on the type from good to great. The gold standard is still glass and look for ways to move the keyboard up, expand the trackpad, different materials, etc.

    F) Consolation prizes go to: More kickstand angle options, better speakers, and a stylus + internal stylus holder.

    Congratulations if you actually read all of this. I'm sure you are the minority. :)
     
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  2. oion

    oion Well-Known Member

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    I only skimmed. :p

    You forgot to add the $100 minimum to competitor pricing given the bundled Office with WinRT. :(

    Hm, to be honest, I think this sort of editorialization is best done when overlaid on those "professional" reviews to pick apart the actual inconsistencies they portray or opinions they present.

    Side note--I really wonder if most people realize why certain official apps aren't in the store. For example... Youtube. It's owned by Google, maker of Android. Hello? That's not to say those competitor apps definitely won't appear eventually, but by gum, you can't expect the competition to jump on this.
     
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  3. John Abraham

    John Abraham New Member

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    hmmm...! I agree with you...!
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  4. kristalsoldier

    kristalsoldier Well-Known Member

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    Thanks. I did read the post in its entirety.

    I completely agree with you on this software issue. I am not sure why MS is rushing stuff out. They could have waited for another month or so to have ironed out the kinks in the OS. Not having done so throws a poor light on an otherwise excellent platform (i.e., the Surface). I empathize with the Mail app issue. In many ways, I guess I would have preferred handling the less feature-filled Mail app in 8.0 rather than dealing with the Mail app in 8.1, which is broken. I share the same opinion about the Trackpad App. This is ridiculous. If, as Panos said during the launch, the new Type and Touch covers are compatible with ALL generations of the Surface, ten should they not have tested the accompanying app? And, this leads to a larger question: If MS is apparently so cavalier about their in-house apps, then how can they be stringent about 3rd party apps? As things stand, I think MS while proving the point that they can build good hardware, needs to up the ante in their core competency, i.e., software design, development and deployment.

    How long has it been since 8.1 (all variants) have been released? And, why has MS not issue successive updates to address the kinks? In comparison, whatever be the issues with iOS7 (and there are many), but within 7 days of the launch of the update, Apple was patching up things and either stabilizing and/ or adding stuff (primarily small stuff, but noticeable stuff) - not that it makes iOS7 any better design-wise, but it has certainly made the OS more stable. For example, I noticed that immediately after updating my iPad4 to iOS7, there was a noticeable drop in battery-life. Within 2 or 3 days, Apple released iOS 7.0.1 and yesterday or the day before it released 7.0.3, which has addressed the battery drain issue. And, in comparative terms, what has MS done? It has issued a host of firmware updates, a few updates to the Office suite and to IE11, but nothing that addresses the glaring issues with the Mail app, the battery-drain problem (at least with the 1st Gen devices), the Trackpad App and perhaps a lot of other things that I am not even aware of.

    Seriously!!!!!
     
  5. kayzee

    kayzee Well-Known Member

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    Exactly why we still need the desktop for the foreseeable future :)
     
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  6. The White Falcon

    The White Falcon New Member

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    Given the problems with the Youtube app on WP8, I don't expect to ever see an RT app. Honestly, though, I prefer watching it in Metro IE.

    The only app that crashes on me is Xbox Music. It seems like after the first time I used it, now when I load it (it's been closed), it'll crash, so I load it again and it's fine. But I don't use it that much, so I'm fine.


    Honestly, I'm more willing to put up with issues on this thing for a number of reasons:
    1. This 'mobile OS' feels to me like it's seriously pushing the envelope. It's much closer to a full-blown Windows environment than Android is to Linux or iOS is to OS X. I don't see the limitations (yet), I see the possibilities opened up by RT. The first day I took it to class, I downloaded a ZIP file, extracted it, and looked at the Word, PDF, and PowerPoint documents. That alone put a smile on my face.

    2. It's Windows, it's Windows for RISC processors, and it's only the second revision. iOS wasn't the worlds most stable thing back in 2.x and 3.x (heck, it still has crashes) and it doesn't attempt to do as much as RT does.

    3. It has a real update process, and it's easy to do a lot of things on this that you couldn't on the other mobile OS's. Being able to get the MAC address through the CLI was very nice, because I didn't have to say "Gee, where did Interface Designer X hide this", I knew where to go.

    That being said...the covers are expensive! :D
     
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  7. Rallicat

    Rallicat New Member

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    I mostly agree with all of this.

    Most of the online reviews of both the Surface, and other Windows 8(.1) tablets all tend to follow the same pattern - pick apart Windows 8 on perceived weaknesses, fail to highlight the strengths.

    Take the criticism over the ecosystem. When Windows 8 launched, this was immediately hit on for Windows 8 tablets as a major weakness, despite the fact the thing had only just launched! Whilst this title has now been snatched away, I believe at the time Windows 8 launched, the store had the largest number of apps of any 'at launch' store. This fact was conveniently overlooked.

    It's also true that apps don't feel as much of a big deal on a 10" tablet compared to on -say- a smartphone. I just tend to naturally go to websites for most of the stuff I want to do. Was the lack of a facebook app (now rectified) really that big a deal when you could easily go to the website? I appreciate some people will bemoan the lack of apps like Spotify or the lack of games, but I don't use those services, and I'm not a big gamer - it's not a deal breaker for me. Nevertheless, the lack of /some/ apps, is often called out as a reason why Windows 8 tablets are no good for anyone! This of course is the weakness of reviews - reviewers often fail to take into account different products may be suitable for different types of people!

    I agree that the problem of buggy software is a disappointing one, but it's something that plagues all platforms. Back in the distant past, I used to own an iPhone, which at launch, felt buggy, but improved over time with updates. Despite those updates however, issues like security flaws to get past the lock screen seem to keep cropping up on iOS, and Android has had it's fair share of bugs too.

    Those bugs extend to performance, hopefully with software and firmware updates the performance of Surface 2 will improve, and am seeing slightly higher battery drain than I would really like. Is that because I imported settings from my Surface RT? Who knows ... maybe!

    Windows has it's strengths though, and I've always felt it's biggest one is this: It's still a general purpose OS. With both iOS and Android, the makers took a full, general purpose OS, stripped it down to it's core, and then built a mobile OS on top, with a mobile UI, and mobile application support. Microsoft didn't do that. Instead they kept Windows as it was (streamlined it of course) and added the mobile stuff to it. Some might say that means you get all the baggage of a full fat Windows Operating System thrown in - but much of it isn't baggage - it's useful stuff. It's enabled multiuser support from day 1, file browsing and management that is pervasive throughout the experience as opposed to 'tagged on' through apps. Network support and browsing that is also 'just there', device support that is unmatched even in Windows RT. This stuff isn't baggage, it's a major advantage that comes from Microsoft keeping the operating system intact rather than taking a sledgehammer to it.

    Metro is the new bit that ties Windows as a general purpose OS to a modern, fresh future where everything 'just works' and all those 'general purpose' bits underneath that in previous versions of Windows might have been hard to use now become a lot simpler, allowing Microsoft to slowly move more and more general Windows functionality into the brave new tablet world. Looked at in this context, it's hard to escape the conclusion that Windows 8 is not a messy broken compromise that doesn't work well for either desktop or tablet users, but is actually an attempt to build something better, and whilst Windows 8 may be a product to which the label 'transitional' can easily apply, I for one feel that embracing that transition brings significantly more advantages today than one can find by embracing the 'start from scratch' approach of iOS or Android.
     
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  8. hypokondriak

    hypokondriak New Member

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    Yes, I absolutely agree. I think this is some of the stuff I tend to group in that "grey area" if you will. I think getting a feel for the advantages here don't come until you've put some time in with the product. The dependency or need for apps often is symptomatic of something more - the fact that the mobile browser experience on other tablets stinks, is limited, requires flash, etc.

    This is a great addition thanks for typing this up. A lot of these things people are getting excited about coming other OS's existed from day 1. This is something I neglected in my post. Great stuff.
     
  9. oion

    oion Well-Known Member

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    About the software stuff. I wonder how closely MS is working with external hardware people over drivers and such, because traditionally that development is up to the OEM manufacturer (between component makers and the OEM) and not MS, yes/no? People need to keep in mind that even though we're in the 2nd generation, this is still the first year that MS has been working on such complex software and hardware in tandem. That's no small feat.
     
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  10. WillysJeepMan

    WillysJeepMan Member

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    Thank you for a very thorough and very well considered report. I think it was quite fair.

    The only area of (mild) disagreement would be with #4. I generally agree with those who say that the Surface doesn't live up to the hybrid promise... but NOT in the way that they think. I believe that the Surface RT/2 completely fulfills the netbook side of the hybrid equation. I've got a Surface RT with a newly purchased TypeCover2. As a netbook... AMAZING, simply AMAZING! In my opinion where the "RT/2 falls short is on the tablet side of the equation. 16:9 AR and low resolution capacitive touch sensor are the two areas where it falls a bit short. When I say falls a bit short, I'm not claiming that it is unusable but that it is a detraction. Well, maybe the capacitive touch issue (using a rubber/foam tip capacitive stylus) is a show stopper of sorts.

    Right now, I'm simply hoping for MS to resolve the battery drain issue with 8.1. If I have to bite the bullet and buy an Adonit Jot Pro stylus to get reliable stylus input, so be it, but this battery thing is quite annoying.
     
  11. kristalsoldier

    kristalsoldier Well-Known Member

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    Yeah...absolutely! That and a recurring problem with the Mail app! At least, that is for starters!
     

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