Monday, June 3, 2013

Windows 8 - Seventeenth Pass: The @Surface in the Real World

Where I think the Surface shines is in travel. It is great on a plane and fits very well on a tray table even if the person in front of you reclines. It is light and can be used typing on the screen or with the touch cover. The only challenge is using it if your tray table is in the armrest and not on the seat in front of you – for instance sitting at a bulkhead. I found the tray tables there didn’t move out far enough so I was a bit scrunched trying to type and since the Surface is support by the kick stand and not by a hinge to the keyboard like a laptop you can’t really push it any further away. When in this situation I typically just type on the screen.

The brightness of the Surface screen can’t complete with bright sunlight on a beach or in the desert. Even all the way up it is hard to see and at full power really drains your battery. Of course using the Surface in an office environment I turn the brightness down to 25% to save battery and keep my co-workers from seeing what I’m saying about them on Twitter – they can find out with everyone else. In fairness, the iPad also doesn’t do very well in bright sunlight.

I’ve found the battery life to be acceptable although with an active cooling system it isn’t near what it could be or what my iPad is. It lasts on most flights and if it doesn’t last on a long flight, I always have my iDevices to fall back on.

As a result of having an active cooling system the back of the case does get very warm. It is important not to store it in a case unless it is in standby or sleep mode, or just plain off. Otherwise, it can get very hot. I’m hoping in the next release of the device they are able to go to a passive cooling system, which will increase battery life and keep the unit much cooler.

The more I use my Surface the more Windows 8 makes sense. The touch screen is what really sells it however, the majority of folks running Windows 8, or that will be running Windows 8, are not using a touch screen. Even the ribbon in Office makes sense because they are large and easy to tap without having to use the pen or mouse.

Despite that, and I’m sure due to my previous posts on this subject, the rumor mill is very strong that SP1 for Windows is going to bring back the Start Button and allow you to boot directly to the desktop and bypass the Start Screen. This change will make Windows 8 much more capable of fulfilling its dual role as a tablet OS and a desktop OS. It remains to be seen if these rumors come true.