Mintcode

Mintcode is a one-man design & development studio,
focused on crafting elegant web experiences.

Learn More

I bought a Surface Pro 3

Posted on by Jono Cooper

Six months ago, a kid threw a pen at my MacBook Air. This created a bunch of dead pixels, but the computer was still usable. However, over the next three months the screen gained more and more dead pixels until half the screen didn’t work. I was considering getting a MacBook Pro, but when the Surface Pro 3 was announced, I put in my preorder.

My Surface Pro 3

Three months later, my Surface finally arrived. I think it’s pretty great.

I’ve been using it at school for the past two weeks, and it works pretty well. It’s a good replacement for paper and I write notes with the stylus in portrait mode. The most valuable thing is not the fact that you’re writing on a screen, but the organization that it offers. There’s no more loose bits of crunched up paper in the bottom of my bag. However, the magnesium body does scratch pretty easily as I use it on desks without the kickstand. The battery has also been able to get me through the day and while I don’t get the advertised 9 hours, I don’t worry about leaving the charger at home.

The keyboard is okay. It offers less travel than my old MacBook, but it’s certainly usable. I do wish that there were volume up/down keys, media controls and screen brightness – the “charm” keys for Windows 8 aren’t particularly useful. The MacBook is better for usage on the lap, but the Surface isn’t bad. It’s reasonably stable and the detachable keyboard does come in handy, especially when presenting things to others. The trackpad, while not as good as the MacBook, is still the best I’ve ever used on a Windows PC.

Performance is good. It’s not as fast as a MacBook Pro, but it can do anything I throw at it (I bought the 256GB i5 version). I read things about people complaining about throttling, but it’s only noticeable when doing really intensive things – a video will encode at 400FPS in Handbrake, but it starts to throttle down to 300FPS after a few minutes. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be.

Windows 8 is okay. I do miss the Unix features of OS X, but it’s reasonably remediable by installing Cygwin (although things don’t work quite right). Windows 8 is the only OS that combines the touch, pen, and mouse input together, and I think Microsoft did a pretty good job - it’s really nice that I can do proper multitasking on a tablet. Some desktop apps don’t support touch well (ugh, Spotify), and the trackpad doesn’t work in some (ugh, Sublime Text 3). But it’s not bad. It’s only mildly annoying.

The most annoying thing about Windows 8 is the multi-monitor support. It’s just doesn’t work if you use the traditional desktop with two screens at different DPI settings. Microsoft needs to fix that. That said, the High DPI support is generally pretty good. Most apps will scale nicely to 150%, but there’s a couple of weird ones (ugh, Spotify, Adobe Acrobat, Steam). The 3:2 aspect ratio is great because it just gives you a lot of vertical space, which is nice when coding, but some games don’t support this, leaving black bars around the window (I’ve been told that installing the official Intel Driver fixes this). Overall, the screen is very nice but will distort a bit when pressing hard with the pen.

I’m pretty happy with my purchase. The Surface Pro 3 is the coolest device I’ve ever owned, and I feel like it was designed with students in mind. Buy a Surface Pro 3 if you want touch, pen input and a removable keyboard in a super thin and light package. If you don’t need any of that and you want something more powerful and better on your lap, get a Retina MacBook Pro.