June 18, 2016

I’ve only scratched the Surface…

If you’ve not read the previous installment of “what laptop did I finally decide to buy” then please take a look here as to why a Macbook Pro just wasn’t for me.

So, the Macbook went back, and I was convinced I was going to wait until the Apple announcement before I looked at anything else, however, that wasn’t the case. There was this hole where a Macbook had once been, and I wanted to fill it. This was partly because I spent effort tidying my desktop computer away and making my desk tidy, and I didn’t really want to dig that all out again.

One of the reasons I didn’t like the Macbook was that when plugging in all my existing peripherals, keyboard, mouse etc it became apparent that they just didn’t quite work right. Not that they failed to work, just that the keys on the keyboard were incorrect for example. This indicated to me the upcoming slippery slope into having to buy everything Apple, and since most of the time Apple charge a premium for their devices and peripherals, I really didn’t want to start that game, not when I already had perfectly usable peripherals at home.

What was starting to make sense was that I liked Windows 10, having recently reinstalled my wifes laptop with Windows 10, it just felt more sensible when comparing it to Mac OSX. I know, over time I could get used to it (OSX) but having come from a Linux and Windows background, and hearing that even some diehard Mac fans were starting to fall out of love with the OS, I didn’t see much point in trying to learn it’s little quirks now. Something that really pissed me off was the lack of tooltips, or at least apparent lack of tooltips. I’d hover over this icon, not knowing what it does and not get any indication from a tooltip. Crazy.

Anyway, back to the point because the last installment was about the Macbook, this is about what I bought next.

The short answer, is a Surface Pro 4, the long answer, well here we go.

After managing to get Microsoft to recognise my wife’s school as an educational institution I was then able to buy the laptop at the education discount as I was with Apple, as no doubt she will be using it too from time to time so I believe this is justified. (hey, the government is taking their pensions from them and enforcing ridiculous working hours whilst simultaneously letting businesses off with huge tax bills, I think I can justify this in more ways than one).

So, with the agreed discount and Microsoft’s much nicer 30 day returns policy (I might not have mentioned it but Apple’s was 14 days in general but I do believe they had extensions due to it having just been Christmas the past month when I bought it) I decided what could I lose to at least try it. They accepted Paypal finance so this also meant not a huge outlay up front (or so I thought).

I spent a good day working out costs and configurations because as with lots of new slim hardware now you really have to make sure you get sufficient RAM and disk space as these are not the user serviceable parts they once were.

With that in mind I went for an Intel i5 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD version. Sure the Mac was a little more powerful in this respect but one thing I did find with the Surface Pro was the bus speed of the RAM was the same as the Mac where other manufacturers appeared to have slightly lower speeds. This would probably have not affected performance much but if I’m paying a premium for a device I at least want it to be on a par with the Macbook I’d previously owned.

I’ll go into what I didn’t buy next installment which at this rate will be next year, I’m really not churning these out as I thought I would.

So configuration chosen it was on to accessories and colours. The keyboard cover for the Surface is not cheap, in fact it was around £110 when I bought it but you really can’t use this device as a laptop without one.

I chose the dark blue colour, because I wasn’t sure how the lighter colours would be over time. Getting grubby etc, also the light blue was FAR too much like Manchester City Blue which is my local rival team to the mighty Manchester United.

So that was chosen, next up was the dock dilemma. The Surface Pro only comes with one full sized USB port, no Ethernet and one mini display port. So much more of a computer than a tablet, but no where near enough for my needs.

I considered USB docks but I wanted a friction free experience, and I know, I know I’m basically getting into what I didn’t want to do with the Apple and the Mac, but even with these add-ons it was still coming in at a similar price to the Macbook and I had cool stuff like a dock, a detachable keyboard and the Surface Pen.

So, I went for the Surface Pro 4 Dock, which is lovely, but again very pricey, that was around £150 but only just over £100 now on Amazon. I was starting to feel a bit like a mug and that the more extras I bought, the more I wanted. It started to echo the Apple Mac route.

Surface Pro 4 Dock

In the end with the dock and keyboard cover it was still a bit cheaper than the Macbook was, but slightly less powerful, but on the plus side running Windows without having to buy Windows again and use bootcamp.

I can’t advocate more the use of a dock, even if you’ve got a laptop which doesn’t have the wonderful backwards compatible Surface Connector, if it had just plain old USB, using a dock makes life SO much easier and I can’t see myself going back now.

So there you have it, I have been using my Surface Pro 4 since I bought it and I’ve loved it. One thing I would HIGHLY recommend is that you buy a protector for the back. Within a day I think it was I had already scratched it (hence the title of this post). The protectors are easy to apply as long as you put on plenty of spray water, it then dries into place with no bubbles. The pack I bought by Skinomi is a full kit, sides, front protector and back but I just used the back two panels.

I’ve linked to the cover I used which is not the cheapest, but has lifetime warranty and when bubbles didn’t go the first time I put one cover on, they honoured it and sent out a full new pack.

Nice work, impressed by their support here. The next time I used a lot more spray and it went on much easier.

On thing I’m surprised though is that I’ve not used the pen more, I half expected this I guess. I did lose the one that came with the laptop, by leaving it in a hotel room when away for work, I bought a new one and have used it hardly at all since. I still like the option though.



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