This weekend I finally succumbed to my urges, and it wasn’t the new Apple iPhone! This time I broke down and got a Surface Pro from Microsoft.
I know, I think you could have knocked my wife over with a feather when I told her.
The thing that interested me the most was first and foremost that the Surface has a pressure-sensitive screen. This means a lot to me in the way of art. What fun. It’s like a Cintiq for your back-pocket!
Well, okay maybe not like the industry leading pressure-sensitive device all those REAL artists use. But this sure had promise to be something interesting. I’ve been excited about it since they were announced, and this week I finally broke down.
My first impressions were a bit concerning. I spent many hours getting the software I’d need onto the thing just so I could get started. And from a Mac world, returning to the days of 1998 with nasty installers, popups, install riders, and even 2 “Browser Helper Objects” being installed was terribly depressing. By the end of the first day I had horrible buyer’s remorse.
Well, the next few days have turned things around.
As an art slab it really rocks. There is an issue with the screen-size and things like Adobe Photoshop’s penchant for itty-bitty buttons, but once you get a working process down it is near painless.
I have become great friends with Sketchbook Pro again and am amazed at how much can be done there. But my main art is illustration and I am yet to venture into those waters. I have a work process that involves my iPad that has been terrific at getting the rough flow of an image started before I have to wander back to a desk and Illustrator. I have Illustrator installed on the Surface but haven’t ventured in there. I am so adept with keyboard shortcuts I’m concerned that things there will feel far more difficult. We will see.
As a computer the Windows 8 environment is awesome. I’ve spent a fair amount of time there with some of my servers and in preparations to release Windows 8 tablet apps, and I really think it’s easily the fastest and best OS Microsoft has put out in a long time. That said it’s Windows and I’ve been in the Mac world for a long time. Without spending a majority of my time here for a while I think my reviews here may be a little stilted.
Dropping to the Desktop is insanely simple and fast. Bouncing in and out of it is not jarring in any way. Early preview builds of Windows 8 had me thinking that I’d feel the harsh drop-off from “Metro” back to the desktop. That’s not the case. It’s smooth and entirely forgiving. And that said I want to add this this is the first Windows I’ve been in ever that simply “closing the lid” did not come with the fear of loss. Bravo Microsoft.
Hit points are still rather small in the Desktop, so the embedded track pad on the keyboard gets some extra use there. But there is almost nothing negative to say about using “touch” in a “mouse” world. It’s not perfect, but for the most part if I find myself in the Desktop I usually want the keyboard and mouse world.
Now this one is harder. And I am trying. I’ve been with the iPad since day 1, so this transition was always going to be the hardest. In fact, I never at all expected to use the Surface as a tablet (in the vein of the iPad). But things are nice enough in the Windows world (Metro) that I’d be willing. The problem is — no surprise here — the App selection. It’s pitiful. And that’s not Microsoft’s fault. It’s simply that the market hasn’t yet shown itself. Many of the things I love to do on my iPad are not available in the same way here. Flipboard is a favorite reader and not (yet) available for Windows 8. The News reader that ships is a nice enough system and seems to work well with some cool features, but it can’t touch the depth of Flipboard. I’ve become entrenched in iMessages as well, so not “texting” from Windows is a little tough — my phone gets more use. Slacker has a very nice player (thank goodness), so music is covered. Magazines are rough as well. I have a few subscriptions that are stuck to the “Newsstand” in iOS and simply have no way to get things here. Then there are other fringe apps that I miss as well.
It’s early as a tablet for me, and dropping to a full Web has helped with some of that, but you feel it. I’ll keep stabbing around.
Honestly, this is a device that is worth looking into. It doesn’t replace everything, nor do I really want it to. But I never would have typed this whole post on an iPad, and my MacBook Pro is too clunky to have laying around begging to be used. For art it has no rival in my world. And as a computer it is really fast and powerful for such a small device.
A day or so ago there was an announcement about the Surface 2 that will be coming out in a month. Luckily I’ll be within my 45-day return period on this device and I will be able to “upgrade” for free. I’ll definitely be there early for that one. And it’s a device I really like. There’s just something about it. Very Dreamcast-y.