Surface table, featuring Windows Phone and Microsoft Music Store

New Tech: Expectations and Aspirations for Microsoft’s 2017 Surface Pro

I think I failed to explicitly mention yesterday that when I talk about “new tech,” I’m actually talking about “tech that’s new to me,” although I mean it slightly differently than when your acquaintance gets a new used car. In my case, I mean that it’s tech of a sort that I’ve not had a chance to play with much until now and the rest of the stuff I wrote about yesterday. Part of the schtick is to talk about stuff that everyone else has been using forever as if it’s something that’s brand new. You know, “fresh eyes” and all that.

Following hot on the heels of yesterday’s post, then, I thought I’d spend a little bit of time talking about the new computer/tablet/wundergizmo that I’ll be getting to accompany my new 3D scanner: a new 2017 Surface Pro from Microsoft, complete with an i5 processor, 256 Gb SSD, 8 Gb Memory, and some of that sweet, sweet Alcantara fabric on my new key cover.

Please note, however, that the Surface isn’t new to me for the reasons one might expect. This isn’t the first transformer I’ve ever owned (I used and loved the Samsung ATIV SmartPC 500T, which was great in spite of its numerous limitations…it’s still in use as a streaming device on my treadmill, which does get used, thank you very much), nor is it the first time I’ve had a tablet with a supposedly solid stylus experience (the Samsung ATIV had that, as well, and I was happy to use it to grade papers using digital ink, which was pretty cool).

No, the Surface Pro will be an entirely new ballgame for me, not for the form factor or the interface, but because it will be the first Intel processor-based PC I’ve owned since my Dell Laptop, the first i-series processor I’ve ever had, and the very, very first “premium” device I have ever spent the scratch to possess.

See, I’m kind of a low-end kind of guy. I enjoy deciding I want something (say, a phone), looking around at all the options (Samsung, HTC, LG, etc.), and then finding the best possible configuration for me for as little as possible. In the case of the phone, I’m happy to say that my $400 ZTE Axon 7 is still kicking, even if it’s approaching a year and a half old now, thanks in part to the amazing warranty program called Passport that came with the phone, and for that cash I got all the specs from the Samsung Galaxy S of the same generation, plus front-facing speakers. So yeah, I like the hunt for good tech for less, and I can usually get it.

The proposition of a “premium” device is different, though, and I can only say that they make sense to me for people who are just, well…not like me. Manufacturers of these devices are marketing to people who fundamentally do not want to spend their time looking at tech websites or following Linus Tech Tips on YouTube. They just want something that works, and looks good while it’s at it. This is where most of the Apple users in my world seem to fall–people who don’t mind spending a little more if they don’t have to ever think about what they machine is doing or why.

My counter to that, of course, has always been that it’s fine…until it’s not. Apple products that break end up going into the Apple store, where employees either overcharge for repair services or, more likely as I understand it, try to sell you a bigger, badder, even more expensive device to replace that device.

On this front, though, I have to admit that I suffered a similar difficulty with the Samsung ATIV: not only was it glued together like so many of its competitors, but it also was locked into using Windows 8.1, with neither Linux nor an upgrade to Windows 10 being possible. On the other hand, I believe I paid just around $600 for the whole doohickey, so the glue and the limits and the plastic body felt about par for the course. The Surface I’m getting will run me about twice that, all told. and that’s with holiday pricing and a few other tricks up my sleeve.

Still, there’s something to be said for a device that must make some very demanding customers very happy. I also have to say that I’m happy to try another first here, though: the kickstand looks like it’ll be a great way to make the computer work for me. I anticipate that it will be a very useful device in my kitchen, of all places.

So I’m going to give the “premium” PC a chance. Maybe it’ll be worth sacrificing the ability to hack into the body of the device to add more RAM. Maybe it’ll be so awesome that I’ll go ahead and invest in a docking station and let it try to replace my whole workstation at home. I doubt it, but one can hope.

All that said, here’s what I anticipate the Surface Pro will be able to do for me:

  1. I’ll not have to lug a huge laptop around airports or foreign cities
  2. I expect solid performance from the processor and, despite the lack of a fan, decent thermals
  3. I expect the pen to be awesome
  4. I expect to be able to write a dissertation on it. Duh.
  5. I fully expect it to last me four or five years at a minimum.
  6. I expect to be able to play games on it. Not current AAA titles, maybe, but I’ve got this huge Steam backlog and it’d be cool to be able to work through that on the go.

I would also like to see the following:

  1. I’m hoping that the pen is awesome enough to make me want to take handwritten notes in OneNote again.
  2. I’m hoping that I can find some good uses for the Windows 10 Store once I’m back on a platform that makes good use of touch
  3. I’d like the type cover to not be gross after a year, even with regular cleaning.
  4. I’d really like to see OneDrive not suck (maybe the cloud service will finally come into its own)

There you have it. I don’t expect this device to be revolutionary for me in the same way that…say…my first Android device was, but I expect it’ll make a good many things a lot easier than they have been with a full-sized laptop.

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