Surface @ Home: It grows on you

I took the Surface RT to Las Vegas and used it as my only computer during CES, and I wrote about for TechRepublic . After that week of total immersion, I wondered if I would put it on the shelf when I got back home and never use it (at least, until I went on another trip or wanted a light, easy to carry device to take to a meeting). I confess I’ve done that with a few other tablets. They were fun to play with at first but one the “new” wore off, they just didn’t integrate into my daily computing life. I use my Note 10.1 at home for specialized purposes when I need the pen capability, and it’s invaluable in those cases. It’s also nice to have on the road, but I don’t use it for much else around the house. If I want to read or check mail or Facebook while watching TV or cooking dinner or sitting on the patio, I default to the phone. Of course, my phone is a Note 2, with a nice big 5.5 inch display, so it works better in those scenarios than smaller phones might.

To my surprise, though, I find that I’m using the Surface quite a bit here at home. It has turned out to be the handiest choice for checking my mail first thing in the morning while sitting at the kitchen counter, having my first cup of coffee and an English muffin. That’s because a) my eyes aren’t quite focusing yet so the larger screen more comfortable than using the phone, and b) there are bound to be a few messages that require answers, and it’s easier to type on the Surface’s physical keyboard than to Swype the text into the phone or use the onscreen keyboard on the big Note.

I’m also finding it’s really great for displaying recipes when I’m cooking. I used the Note 10.1 for that, too, but the kickstand on the Surface makes it work just a little better, plus the keyboard makes it easier to look something up on the web because typing a URL is just easier than on a virtual keyboard. Sure, I have a Bluetooth keyboard for the Note, but let’s face it: there is still some hassle factor involved with getting the two working together each time. And it’s a bulky and inelegant setup. The Surface keyboard is completely integrated into the device and it just works.

And it’s not just in the kitchen that I’m using the Surface. In fact, I’m using it right now to write this blog post, sitting on the bed in the guestroom while my office is being cleaned. I have a dog curled on each side of me and the Surface is resting on my legs, which are crossed “Indian style.” And miraculously, the keyboard stays attached and everything works in that position.

When the weather gets warm, I have a feeling I’ll be taking the Surface out by the pool a lot, too. I didn’t do that much with other laptops because, well, they were just a little too heavy, and the battery didn’t last for more than few hours so I had to either come back in, or lug the power cord and adapter out there and sit by an outlet, and again there was just a little too much hassle factor involved to do it on a regular basis. But the Surface is a zero hassle device. You open it up and it’s “on” – no waiting to boot up or resume. All the benefits of a tablet, but most of the functionality of a laptop.

The Surface Pro, of course, will have all the functionality of a laptop, in a package that’s not much thicker/heavier than this RT version. The big trade-off will be the battery life. We’re planning to get a Surface Pro when it’s released in a couple of weeks. At first, the question was who is going to get the Pro and who was going to be “stuck” with the RT. But then we realized that we didn’t have to make that decision. One of the nice things about the Surface (and other Windows RT/Windows 8 devices) is that, unlike the iPad and most Android tablets, you can set up multiple user accounts. So Tom and I can each create our own accounts on both Surfaces, and switch off according to what each of us needs to do with it at a given time. If I’m going to a meeting where I only need to take some notes and he’s headed to do a presentation or going to need to get some real work done while waiting for an appointment, I’ll grab the RT and he can take the Pro. When the usage situations are reversed, we’ll do the opposite.

The Pro will have the pen, and I’m looking forward to finding out how well that works. I’m hoping it works as well as the S Pen on the Notes. If it does, I might be putting a used Note 10.1 up for sale soon. (As for the Note 2, though, you can take that when you pry it from my cold, dead hands). I’m a little disappointed that the pen doesn’t store inside the device like the S Pen does, but we’ll see how that works out. Meanwhile, for someone who had a lot of doubts about the Surface before I got my hands on one, I have become quite a fan.



About debshinder

Technology analyst and author, specializing in enterprise security. Author of or contributor to over 25 books, including "Scene of the Cybercrime." Ten-year Microsoft MVP. More about me:
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