This was not a good weekend for the O’Brien household. Last Friday my husband drew the short straw at work and was given a new Microsoft Surface Book to replace the company MacBook Pro he used for a couple of years.
To be fair, the Surface Book replacing a MacBook Pro is not a form of corporate discipline handed down to anyone who would dare to park in the CEO’s parking spot. It’s a temporary deal and the MBP returns next week.
As much as we Apple followers and dedicated Mac users may grumble about changes and bugs in OS X upgrades, it pales in significance to what Microsoft has just unleashed on the public. Does anyone ever test new products?
Here’s my husband’s list of issues from the weekend.
- Surface Book would not boot up in the supplied dock
- Error messages pop up when Book is removed from dock
- Trackpad freezes when clicking
- Various applications crash hard or just lockup (Office; go figure)
- Screen would not fully disconnect from dock (hinge is wobbly)
- NOT twice as fast as MacBook Pro
One of his co-worker’s called on Saturday to check on my husband’s progress. He had similar problems until the system was updated, then it wouldn’t run at all. This is a perfect example of why large corporations take upgrades slowly. The handholding could be enormous on a large rollout and it’s obvious that Microsoft has some work to do to get the Surface Book into a state resembling that which has become the norm for a Mac upgrade?
It’s not that Apple’s new Macs or OS X versions don’t come with problems. That’s the nature of hardware and software. The relentless move forward often comes with a price, and stability and reliability suffer.
As a tablet it’s absolutely thick with the flip behind keyboard. And heavy. Roughly the same weight as his old 13-inch MacBook Pro. As a notebook it’s fine and the keyboard works well. The screen is gorgeous; bright with fine resolution (better than MBP), but as a tablet that requires a pen it’s anemic and only good for those who do not have tennis elbow, shoulder issues, or masochistic tendencies. Notebooks with touchscreen do not work well.
While Apple seems to been a mood to shun all ports, Microsoft doubled down with dual USB ports, a full-size SD card reader, mini Displayport, Headset jack, and the Surface Connect port. It also has both front and back cameras. Not sure why, though. Maybe for use as a tablet? Also built in are accelerometer, magnetometer, and gyroscope, ostensibly to keep it on par with an iPad.
The Surface pen and the screen work in harmony to block the palm while drawing or writing on the screen in tablet mode, something of a precursor to iPad Pro.
Unfortunately, the Surface Book came with the non-GPU i5 and 8GB of RAM inside so performance would be characterized as anemic, but the entry-level configuration is more than a 13-inch MBP but less than a 15-inch MBP. Office is installed but it’s a 30-day trial.
At the end of the weekend my husband summed up exactly the problem Microsoft is likely to have when trying to sell such an expensive notebook to compete with a Mac notebook at the premium end of the spectrum.
“It still runs Windows.”
That’s telling. Microsoft wants to compete against Apple with a premium notebook, and that’s what Surface is, despite the early hiccups. But it’s still running Windows which is exactly what’s on $499 notebooks and $199 tablets.