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Surface Pro 3 (penny-arcade.com)
351 points by ismavis on May 23, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 223 comments

I think this shows how dedicated the Surface Pro team at Microsoft is to making a rock solid product. Yes there's issues with branding, Windows 8 tries to be too many things at once, and it seems like the company as a whole (including the Surface lines) has absolutely no idea where it wants to be in five years; but I think the total focus on making the experience as good as possible combined with Microsoft's budget and a little time will yield very impressive results. I certainly hope so.

I love the vision of the Surface Pro with a good dock. A single device that can be docked with monitors and a real keyboard/mouse, used as a laptop or carried as a tablet would make an awesome machine. It seems they are there in principle right now but need some time to get it polished enough to be usable for most.

Too soon to count Microsoft out regardless.

It's already yielded impressive results for me. I bought a SP1 at a big discount, hoping to use it only for digital artwork. I didn't have my hopes too high, as I was aware of all the criticism it had drawn (though honestly, the tech press of today is utterly ridiculous. There's a couple of holdouts of excellent coverage, but for the most part it's comprised of a frothing band of gadget fanboys).

I didn't expect to end up loving the SP1 so much. I'll never be able to go back to a tablet without split-screen multitasking, or to a small laptop without touchscreen and stylus input. Everything else feels incredibly rudimentary in comparison.

The first-generation SP has a good deal of flaws, but none of them have been dealbreakers for me. This is the first device I've truly loved so thoroughly, ever. It feels like it's truly pushing the envelope.

the blunt truth is Windows 8 is excellent for a mobile/tablet OS, and absolutely horrible as a desktop OS.

So Microsoft needs to just get it's act together and put out/fix/resolve the Desktop OS and focus the tiled OS on mobile and THEN they might be able to gain ground.

A single USB3 port can be used to dock to keyboard, mouse, monitor and ethernet - thats what I do with my Surface Pro 1. Just needed a few cheap hubs and adapters. A proper dock would be nice but its not strictly necessary.

You do know there is a proper dock, that taps into the device's USB, DisplayPort and charging port to provide excellent, all-in-one, no-cables-to-plug-in-device experience, right?


Yes. But I could not get one very easily (because generally I only buy second hand kit). I have an improvised docking station made of 2nd hand usb components that is also very small so I can take it to client sites with me and dock my surface into the keyboards, mice, monitors and ethernet that they have on site. The point of my post above was to remind people that they dont need a docking station to 'dock' a surface.

Plus power. That means two cables! That's literally double the number of things I should need to plug in.

I hate to admit that this actually bothers me. It's true of all laptops, though.

Given that Thunderbolt 3 can supply 100 Watts out - you would think there would be an equivalent trick one could do to bring power in


The new Lenovos have a "one dock" plug that does USB, video, and power on one plug. It's lovely.

Yet another reason for my next laptop to be a Lenovo...

Last time I saw a USB dock with video the video performance was really poor, max 30hz at 720p etc... Do you have any experience of how these work?

I'm guessing the dock is Thunderbolt, since Intel CPUs support it directly, and it does video, USB, and power.

Wait, so USB 3 still doesn't solve the problem of "Host needs to draw power from the connection"? That the connection has to be in client/charging mode or hosting-periphs/supplying-power mode?

That's always been a massive disapointment in USB - the fact that you can't host and draw power through the same port at the same time. Big part of the reason you don't see many docks for non-iOS devices.

For MacBooks there's these things: http://hengedocks.com

I had one for an older laptop. Worked fine, but I didn't use it much just because I wasn't at my desk at home very much.

The cables really don't sound like that big of a deal.

I'd much rather use a wired keyboard and mouse anyway. Every wireless one of either that I've tried has had lag and connectivity issues.

>and it seems like the company as a whole (including the Surface lines) has absolutely no idea where it wants to be in five years

I think they know exactly where things are going to in the next five years, yet they will try their best to arrive late. Remember the MS Courier?

I believe the future is going to be a hybrid of mobile and desktop. Its already happening with the web and other OSes especially Win8 and Ubuntu (Ubuntu mobile that turns into a full fledged desktop when docked in). So technically MS is on the right track, they are just a bit too early - 70's Groovy in the mid 60's. The biggest gripe I have with them is that sometimes they make something very good and then mess up something very little in a very noticeable way. Seriously, I am starting to believe that these tiny screwups are their signature. I have the Surface Pro I and its perfect for my needs except when I am out of wifi or need directions. Just put in a GPS and 4G already. I have waited for 2 iterations now.

> Remember the MS Courier?

It was never a product, it was a concept.

This, by the way, is why it's a bad idea to show everyone your concepts. They will hold them against you for years.

I was talking about MS have the right idea but failing to go though with it. MS Courier concept was introduced well before the iPad, suggesting someone there believed that it was going to be the future but they ended up killing it before the board din't agree to it.

Similarly, they were already working on a voice assistant called "Tell Me" even before Siri was introduced by Apple [1].

A lot of people think MS doesn't come up with great ideas but its quite the opposite. They just fail to execute it in a timely manner or require a few iterations to get it perfect.


Ideas are cheap, execution is everything. You said it yourself, "MS Courier" was a concept - it wasn't actually a product. Your average gifted 13 year old can come up with a lot of great concepts, the challenge is in actually creating them.

Even Apple is running into this - Siri requires a rock solid Wireless connection, without it, Siri no longer works, which kind of defeats the purpose of a mobile voice assistant.

'Courier was much more than a clever vision. The team, which had more than 130 Microsoft employees contributing to it, had created several prototypes that gave a clear sense about the type of experience users would get. There were still tough hardware and software issues to resolve when Microsoft pulled the plug. But an employee who worked on Courier said the project was far enough along that the remaining work could have been completed in months if the company had added more people to the team. "There was extensive work done on the business, the technology and the experience," said a member of the Courier team. "It was very complete, not a whim."'


This is so revisionist.

That thing had two screens. How much would it have weighed? What would the battery life have been like? How much would it have cost.

These things matter.

> [...] but they ended up killing it before the board din't agree to it.

The technology when they 'announced' it was one thing, I'm not sure that we have the technology today to make the Courier practical. Getting it thin and light enough at that size, but keeping good battery life would be a real challenge.

>I was talking about MS have the right idea but failing to go though with it. MS Courier concept was introduced well before the iPad,

It was introduced before the iPad product -- but not before the iPad concept, which Apple was working on far before the iPhone's introduction.

The Courrier (shown in 2008) was actually a PR envisioning of what the rumored Apple tablet will be. And, as something that came out after the iPhone, it wasn't that hard to think of.

Heck, Apple had similar concepts from the nineties even -- including the "voice assistant" thing, but I don't think those count. Execution and brinding a solid offering to market counts.

--> They just fail to execute it in a timely manner or require a few iterations to get it perfect <--

You nailed it, it's kinda like when a Windows version came out. 2000 and Millenium were bad. XP was great. Vista was bad, SP1 was better and SP2 was great. People just remember Vista without the SP's. Windows 7 was what i needed, but that seemed like SP3 for Vista, only they named it Windows 7.

Then you have Windows 8, which will probably go a similar way like Vista did.

2000 was great. When XP came out a lot of people complained about how they added bloat and pointlessly screwed with the shell. (By this I mean explorer, not how Unix users understand the term "shell".) I felt that way too. XP got a little better as hardware improved and SP2 fixed some issues, then Vista made everyone forget what they hated before and suddenly XP was the "lean" one.

(Actually the more likely explanation is that the 2000-using XP-haters and the XP-using Vista-haters are not the same people. Maybe the former group gave up and no longer cares about Windows.)

I don't know, it seems to work for the car industry. Almost every new vehicle floats around the major shows as a 'concept' to gauge public reaction and perception before making it into production having taken onboard a large number of changes.

Almost every new vehicle floats arount as a concept, but at the same time almost every concept that floats around the major shows never makes to an actual production vehicle - because even if the people like it, they often are too impractical to make or too expensive for their target market&competition.

Well, I'm still annoyed at Peugeot for not having produced the Moovie :)

Except Windows 8 is a bad user experience for Desktop. Great for mobile, and even though it is a 'full-fledged OS', it actually makes things HARDER for users, so much so that they continue to lose Desktop market share, even in corporations. They have got to get it through their heads that a mobile/desktop hybrid does not mean 'One UI for all possible devices'. That seems obvious to me, but it sure hasn't happened.

And Microsoft was trying to push a tablet YEARS before the iPad came along and wowed everyone. They just did it really, really badly and didn't market their efforts well. Kind of like what is happening with Windows 8. If history repeats itself, Apple or Google or Someone New will come along, present the public with the SAME CONCEPT as Windows 8 but do it right and everyone will again claim Microsoft was late to the party. They've never had a lack of vision, but always have had problems with execution.

Why didn't they catch these issues before they committed to manufacturing them?

Why the hell didn't they bring this guy in as a design consultant? His desires reflect exactly what's missing from the market: a high res tablet with precise input for the mobile artist. I have been waiting for such a product since at least 2004 (bought my first Intuos 3 in 2005).

I've actually been googling "penny-arcade surface pro 3" waiting for this review. And please, please don't tell me about the iPad's wonderful art apps. My feature request became the first commit when Inkpad (easily the best iPad vector drawing app) went open source. Give me a computer with the input resolution of 0.3 mm pencil, or 0.05 mm pen, on high quality paper. I actually use pens under a microscope. Input resolution, Apple. Do you hear me?

I think Microsoft has winning hardware in this machine. Can I load Ubuntu?

Have you seen the Wacom Cintiq Companions? What do you think about them?

Every now and then I think about buying the Android version since it can also be used as an actual Cintiq, unlike the Win 8 one.

I have a few coworkers who have them. The hardware itself is pretty nice, but the support has been awful when she's tried to deal with a problem she had with the power adapter. Her power adapter connection was too loose and wouldn't charge the device; her coworkers' power adapters worked perfectly in hers, though, so it was just the AC adapter.

She spent about a month arguing with them and not being able to use the device because she couldn't charge it. They kept saying it was a software issue and to reinstall, even though she could wiggle the power adapter and get it to connect.

Other than that, the hardware is good, much better than the Surface from an artist perspective (and several of our artists have shelled out over two grand for a Companion after seeing hers, and none have bought a Surface).

Sorry to hear that about Wacom's customer support. I've had problems with their old wired tablets before, with the wire breaking internally or something and making the tablet useless, so I can feel some of her pain.

What kind of apps do they use for Android when drawing with it?

> Windows 8 tries to be too many things at once

That is a very, very generous description of Windows 8.

edit: it is amusing to me that THIS is the first comment I've made that some clique decided to go medieval on.

Windows 8 really isn't that bad.

I avoided it like the plague when it was first released mainly due to the lack of start menu but between the 8.1 update and classic shell maturing a bit, I basically see it as a faster Windows 7 (especially start up on an SSD). I have some minor complaints but so long as I never have to enter the metro UI I've been pretty happy with it overall.

I see what you're saying but there's no "never show me anything Metro, ever" checkbox, and for me that's a problem. I've got a Lenovo touchpad and the user experience over the months has involved learning not to accidentally make all the myriad gestures that cause Windows 8 to do something stupid.

I keep discovering new ones, I think in part due to the 8.1 update. Perhaps that's not why, it's hard to say. This is all a purely negative process for me: trying to keep the PC from doing something I don't want it to do. Apparently driver writers and Microsoft don't want to give you an official "make this trackpad not act stupid" option, either, last I checked.

Thats Lenovo's fault not Microsoft's, drivers haven't been a problem in ages. I have both a Macbook Retina and desktop gaming PC. I hand built the PC and all of the drivers automatically downloaded and installed. The only thing I ever did after that was update AMD Catalyst for my 280x's, but that was my choice; it worked fine before I updated. You probably updated to 8.1 before Lenovo updated its drivers or bought an old touchpad that was actually meant for Windows 7 and is no longer supported by them. Touchpad's are also a niche product use case, 99% of users use mice, laptop track-pads or touchscreens. Thus touchpads will never be a priority for driver development teams.

As for the learning curve, have you ever seen a lifetime Windows user try someone else's Mac? Hot Corners drive them absolutely crazy, or they will accidentally pinch to zoom or they will scroll by mistake and not realize whats happening. There is always a learning curve, even in the most user friendly operating systems like iOS. And what actual computer do you have? The problem is people use a $400 Dell and then compare it to a $2000 Retina or $1200 Air. The Surface Pro 3 is a premium Apple like device, and what do you know, early reviews from places like The Verge say its the best possible Windows 8 experience. My Mac and my PC cost about the same, and I love each of them for different reasons. Each OS has its own pros and cons.

As for metro, what are you doing that causes Metro to show up? On my desktop, I have almost never seen it since 8.1 came out. Once you enable boot to desktop and pin your most widely used programs to the taskbar, the only time it ever shows up is when you are looking for a rarely used program. Even then it is actually pretty good when you think of it as nothing more than an advanced start menu replacement. And in the next update MS is making an option to do just that: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2138443/rejoice-the-start-men.... The real problem is Windows doesn't automatically detect what hardware is connected and change the settings to ones like these automatically.

I can't speak for Lenovo, but here's my experience with an Asus laptop.

When I use my right index finger to move the cursor around, if my palm nudges the palm rest, it usually activates some kind of gesture that switches to Metro.

If I use my right index finger to move the cursor around and my left index finger or thumb to click, then that activates some gesture that switches to metro.

If I'm typing and my palms touch the mousepad, that activates some gesture that switches to metro.

If you've never seen it once on your desktop, I would guess that it's because you don't have a touchpad that lets Windows interpret random touches as a "go to metro now!" command.

I won't say it works for everyone but on my Lenovo y510p, I can change the settings for the ELAN pointing device to disable my trackpad when there is an external mouse attached. If I have to use the computer for more than a few minutes, I make sure I plug in my mouse. (It isn't made to be an ultraportable / on top of a lap laptop notebook computer as the air intake is at the bottom.)

The surface would, of course, need to work well without a mouse. Perhaps the pen could be used as a pointing device in desktop mode as well?

I found the jump to macbook from a Windows laptop to be quite easy and friendly. That sorry of thing never bothers me.

>As for metro, what are you doing that causes Metro to show up?

There are various gestures (in my case, quite literally always made by mistake) a person can make on the trackpad that cause random metro behavior. Swiping from the side or top and so on, very easy to do with a large trackpad by mistake.

Your comments about lenovo are off base in this instance. The problem with the trackpad is that it's working as Microsoft intended.

Type "swiping" on the start screen. The first option listed is "Choose to allow swiping from touchpad edges"

> Type "swiping" on the start screen. The first option listed is "Choose to allow swiping from touchpad edges"

Doesn't bring anything up at all on my Lenovo with 8.1. The option doesn't seem to be in PC settings either. Tried searching on "touchpad" as well. Let's see...

Your mentioning that this now exists did inspire me to dig a little more... the setting I needed was buried in the Lenovo-specific "thinkpad" tab under mouse properties: "enable gestures" on the OLD control panel.

Searching on "swiping" instead in the manner you described wouldn't actually help anyone. This setting lives in old-control-panel land and the metro screen's search only searches new-control-panel land, apparently. It's hard to know who to blame for such a thing: lenovo for using the old-school panel for its custom trackpad settings and messing with the default behavior, or MSFT for splitting settings across two completely different paradigms.


edit: just to be clear, I double checked Settings -> Change PC Settings -> PC and Devices -> Mouse and Touchpad settings and there is absolutely not a "Choose to allow swiping from touchpad edges" option there.

Those settings exist as I described on my Surface Pro 2 and my Dell Inspiron. The former uses a factory install of 8.1, the latter using a raw install from disc. I would say that the issue lies with your Lenovo's setup.

However the search should definitely include old style control panel options as well as the new. Again, it does for both my Surface and my Dell (it's a lot slower on the Dell since it doesn't have a SSD, but instantaneous on the Surface).

> However the search should definitely include old style control panel options as well as the new.

What can I say? Possibly this search was broken by whoever decided pdf and txt file searching should stop working properly for no apparent reason.

It's not all completely grim with this Lenovo laptop, though. You can replace the CD-ROM drive with a second SSD, so I'm also running Linux. :)

The search charm (which typing on Start is a shortcut to) does search settings from throughout the system, including Control Panel in the desktop, but I'm not sure if third-party extensions are included in the search.

A perfect example of why search is less useful than hierarchical organization for a new user: I would've searched for "gesture" or "start page".

It's also the first result for "gesture".

But you can also find it the long way:

Settings -> Change PC Settings -> PC and Devices -> Mouse and Touchpad settings

Which is a deep but logical hierarchy, IMO.

How much time have you tried customizing it to your liking? I couldn't stand Windows 8 before some serious tweaking, which don't get me wrong is a massive design flaw, but if you don't mind using some 3rd party software you can basically achieve the "never show me anything metro, ever" checkbox.

Definitely check out classic shell[1] if you haven't yet, I wouldn't be using Win8 if it didn't exist. Also you'll find plenty of guides to turning off charm bars/ gestures/hot corners and whatever other UI trickery Windows 8 brought us.


The funny thing is, I actually don't have as huge a problem with the shell or lack of classic menus as some people do. I can just pile shortcuts onto the desktop like all my install programs want to do anyway.

It really is the touchpad for me that's the huge annoyance, and dealing with the UI to make wifi work properly, which I guess is a Metro gripe. The last time I checked, the touchpad thing required registry tweaking and positive results were not at all guaranteed. Whoever decided that the touchpad, of all things, should sorta-kinda try to incorporate the same gestures as the touchscreen (maybe? I have a touchscreen but barely use it) was probably guilty of huffing gasoline.

I went into the Synaptics control panel and turned off touchpad gestures completely. Everything got better.

I've never seen the Microsoft astroturf so vigorous. The same thing happened when this topic came up on /r/apple. I mean, it's /r/apple, and the pro-Microsoft position was the VAST majority of the comments and upvoting. It makes me think that this iteration is on the chopping block. That, if they can't start really getting some traction with them, they're going to have to pivot somehow. Of course, it could be that there's a lot of love out there for the Surface, even on an Apple fanboi forum, because it's just that good, but, somehow, I doubt it.

Also, yeah, retaliatory downvoting. Yay.

Mocking Windows 8 like that is like shooting fish in a barrel, it's easy and satisfying but doesn't really move forward the discourse in a meaningful way.

I wasn't mocking Windows 8, I was attacking the comment. Trivializing the massive failure for Microsoft - and for a corporate world still largely dependent on their products - represented by Windows 8 really doesn't serve anyone.

No need to get upset if you make a comment that doesn't actually contribute anything to the discussion.

...rock solid product.. notice the number 3 in the name of said product? and still not good enough.

Not to mention UI lags. 2014 and GUI is lagging. Someone needs to get shot.

Notice he didn't say it WAS a rock solid product, he said they were dedicated to making it one.

It isn't surprising it has issues; the Surface line is a little less than 2 years old.

The iPhone wasn't polished from day one; it took them a few years too. I don't think it was until the end of the 3G, somewhere around the iPhone 4, where the iPhone was generally accepted as a well-polished product. Which, I might add, was a timespan of ~3 years.

Not surprising. The MBP Retina suffers from such lag as well, unless you go for the top of the line model with the dedicated graphics card. 2160X1440 res is too much for these integrated chips to handle.

If the higher end model uses one of the i7's with Intel's Iris graphics (still an integrated GPU), it'll have no problem. I have one powering my 2560x1440 laptop connected to another external monitor, and it drives both screens in native-res games just fine. It's more capable than the discrete ATI Radeon was in my older i5 laptop. It's also an Ultrabook (0.6"), so the same chip shouldn't have any size/thermal issues with being stuffed in an SP.

I've run 2x monitors with a 3840x1080 desktop for 9 months without a hitch on hd4600. No lag at all, albeit I'm talking Arch + KDE running kdenlive / krita / karbon / kdevelop / freecad / blender / Firefox / qtcreator / etc.

In my experience that was only true of the Ivy Bridge models. I've used both the 13 & 15 inch Haswell Pros, and neither seems to have any appreciable GUI lag, with the possible exception of scrolling/resizing sites with very complex layouts in Chrome.

OSX has some really odd lag issues with the UI and responsiveness.

I'm running my lenovo win Win8 dual monitor on the 1377x768 & 2560x1440 external monitor and I don't see any UI lag. This is on an older Intel HD3000 integrated chip.

My 13" MBP from the same time lags even if I'm using just the built in screen.

iOS 7 UI is significantly laggier than iOS 6 (I honestly do not understand how 4S users deal with it, its not fantastic even on 5S). Not to mention glitchier.

I have a 4s. While iOS 7 is laggier than iOS 6 when doing things like switching apps using a home key double tap etc., it is a much faster interface. That is, there might be (not too heavy) laginess for a small set of tasks, but iOS 7 unlike iOS 6 can keep up with my natural speed for doing things much better.

I think the key is that iOS 7 is 'slower', but the animations are meant to take less time. Thus swiping back and forth through view hierarchies, changing apps, etc. is all faster because the animations are designed to take less time (and animation delay is an artificially induced latency).

On the latest and greatest flagship products, it may be slower than 6 but it's not "laggy" by any means.

To ship a flagship that lags is unacceptable.

I have an iPad Air, and there are definitely basic iOS7 operations that lag and stutter on it. (For example, pulling down the search box).

This is because of the keyboard. It's extremely heavy weight in iOS 7 for some reason — it consumes quite a lot of memory when it appears. It's not really acceptable, but that seems to be the cause of the stutters (keyboard appear during an existing animation).

Additionally, there's a very slight user-perception / psychology disconnect because of the conflicting animation speeds. The pulldown is gesture-responsive; pull faster and more firmly, and it pulls down more quickly. But the keyboard popup is automatic, and it triggers a split second after the pulldown gesture, always at full speed. The two animations look off-synch in anything but ideal conditions.

You must be on an older iOS 7 version as the latest updates make appear to be very fast. Seems to be the fastest phone / tablet OS I've had.

I'm on an iPhone 4 - think the lag would be painful on a 4S, put yourself in my shoes. But mostly I just wanted to comment and upvote because I wasn't sure how many other people had noticed it since upgrading iOS.

(NB: I know the age of my technology is part of the issue. Bought it in early 2011, had it replaced under warranty after 23 months in 2013, have only just started to feel the problem so hoping it lasts until the 6 is released.)

I turn off all the animations. Everything is good once you do that.

It has to be really frustrating to be an engineer working on Surface and having to deal with the HN echo chamber, or MS bashing (some from Apple fanboys), or totally unrelated comments.

Maybe it should be a rule that these folks below post their own product for review. Hopefully they have something significant that can be open to critique.

Of course, that would not be too much fun.

- nivla: "Seriously, I am starting to believe that these tiny screwups are their signature."

- rasz_pl: "...rock solid product.. notice the number 3 in the name of said product? and still not good enough. Not to mention UI lags. 2014 and GUI is lagging. Someone needs to get shot."

- justin66 "> Windows 8 tries to be too many things at once That is a very, very generous description of Windows 8."

- jodrellblank: "2014, Intel Core i5, SSD and stutters when 'browsing files' in PS. shakes head"

- carlio: "I feel a little cynical by saying this, but does Microsoft really care about artists as much as they care about the audience they're reaching via Penny Arcade?"

- enraged_camel: "It's the execution that is lacking significantly. I've always said that Microsoft is really, really good at engineering, and really, really bad at UX and usability. After reading Gabe's review, I'm disappointed that this is still the case."

[EDIT: Software to "product" + line breaks]

This isn't elementary school where everyone gets an "A" for effort. Microsoft has demonstrated with the Surface line an institutional inability to execute. From Surface RT shipping with a buggy beta of Office to continuing major deficiencies in Windows Phone (no forward button in IE until 8.1?) to the schizo nature of Windows 8 that only makes sense if you look from the engineering side and realize that its schizo only because it would be too hard to make everything run in Metro. Yes, there are engineering compromises that have to be made, but they shouldn't result in what the user perceives to be a compromised product.

Sometimes its better to not do something unless you can do it right. E.g. Surface RT shouldn't have shipped without a final version of Office. It featured prominently in every rewview, and almost nobody went back and updated theirs. E.g. Surface Pro shouldn't have shipped without Haswell. E.g. Surface Pro 2 shouldn't have shipped without the major firmware update that improved battery life by 20%. E.g. Apple has wisely avoided shipping a Retina MBA because they can't do it yet without regressing battery life.

Microsoft is playing in Apple's price range, and is late to the game. What it lacks is Apple's ability to take on limited ambitious, but (usually) execute those without major flaws.

I'm reading this and thinking about the history of the iPhone. Starting with no copy/paste (something even available in elementary school) thru to maps. How is Apple's track record different to Microsoft/Surface?

[Edit] My intent is not to be facetious. What I'm seeing (and I may well be wrong, it wouldn't be the first time) is consistency bias - our compulsive desire to be consistent with past decisions. If I have an iPad then the iPad must be good and the Surface must be bad.

"Starting with no copy/paste thru to maps."

Not to mention the original intent to not support native 3rd party apps at all.

Having said that, Microsoft really did fuck up with the Metro (or whatever it is called now) rollout in stupidly trying to apply the same basic UI to everything despite the fact that it only works really well on touch-centric devices. And they've been stumbling a bit with hardware.. I'm not a Surface user but I do have an Xbox One and it is pretty disappointing compared to the PS4 (YMMV if you care about the live tv stuff, but as a "cord-cutter" I don't).

These slips really fucked up the user experience on desktops, laptops (via Windows 8) and consoles (the Xbox One console UX is in quite a lot of ways vastly inferior to the UX on the Xbox 360 and the primary reason seems to be to allow it to be yet another Metro platform).

However, there are pretty strong signals that the new leadership realizes this was a mistake and they are now attempting to fix it. It is way too soon to write Microsoft off as a major platform player.

Not to mention the original intent to not support native 3rd party apps at all.

Is there any support for this claim? The original developer story was to write web apps, sure, but how are we to know what the original intent was? It seems more likely that they were keeping their cards close to their chest while quietly polishing the SDK into a shippable condition.

Apologists are only bad if they're MS apologists apparently.


It has been Steve's modus operandi since the early eighties to make such statements in public and in private to stop customers and employees focusing on matters they shouldn't be. It was the right move to focus on releasing the iPhone without an SDK, and to distract the issue with the webkit "solution".

It will have gotten the product out the door much, much faster than if they made it battle-hardened against third parties from day one.

It's worth noting that the SDK was released just nine months after product launch and the full app store experience came within twelve months of launch. For a 1.0 release, the SDK was quite polished and surprisingly well documented -- hardly the product of a last minute change of heart.

Downvoted, huh.

For future reference: Hacker News is only for the Android fanboys.

> I'm reading this and thinking about the history of the iPhone. Starting with no copy/paste (something even available in elementary school) thru to maps. How is Apple's track record different to Microsoft/Surface?

The difference is that Microsoft is late to the game. Surface isn't trying to compete with the 2006 iPhone that has no copy/paste. It's trying to compete with 2014 Apple and Android devices whose historical flaws have already had time to be polished out.

They're in entirely different markets. The Surface is an ultra portable laptop that can act as a tablet or also do desktop things while the iPad is a tablet and can only do tablet things.

It's quite possible to use a phone without copy & paste (even if it's not optimal), and at the time most people were coming from feature phones that didn't have the feature.

On the other hand Office was basically the reason to buy an MS tablet; and they didn't have it ready.

No, having a tablet was the reason to buy a MS tablet

Office was their main differentiator in your eyes, other people might have different priorities to which the designers must also cater. Keep in your mind they had to get right on the first try everything their concurrents developed throughout years (including copy/paste), the sole fact they did this to some degree is an example of competency.

The pen/x86 processor were, to me, the main selling points of surface pro. I did not see any reason to own a RT. Later I bought a Samsung Note that, although wasn't everything I wanted, was at the right price range for what it offered.

There was no compelling reason to buy Surface RT besides office. That was the killer app that differentiated it from iOS and Android tablets that were either same price with better specs, or cheaper with similar specs. Office was the lynchpin and they flubbed it.

Isn't that rayiner's point, though? rayiner argues that Microsoft should have shipped without a feature at all, rather than shipping with a broken feature (e.g. shipping Surface RT without Office rather than with broken Office), which is what Apple did with the copy/paste feature on the iPhone.

He says it shouldn't have shipped with a buggy Office. It may not be correct to infer from that it should have shipped with no Office, it is just as consistent with a preference that the Surface line shipped without Surface RT. Or at least that, given a commitment to Surface RT, making Office work properly on it was treated as a prerequisite for launch.

Its also worth noting, with regard to the Apple comparison, that "copy/paste" wasn't a central selling feature of iPhone, whereas "it runs Office" was a central selling feature of Surface, including RT.

At the time, a lot of people accurately pointed out that the first iPhone wasn't really a "smartphone" at all. It was missing too many features like a real keyboard, copy/paste, and GPS. But those commenters were so busy being Right On The Internet that they missed the larger point: it wasn't a smartphone, but it wasn't a conventional phone or feature phone, either. It was something else, a product category unto itself. Just like the peanut gallery on Slashdot, most of the industry heavyweights didn't understand that fact until it was way too late. That is why Steve Ballmer is sitting at home twiddling his thumbs right now instead of running Microsoft.

The new Surface is being introduced into a very different market. Is it a new type of product altogether, like the first rudimentary iPhones were? If so, it had better be able to fulfill a lot of unsatisfied market demand, like the iPhone did, or it will languish forever in its niche.

If not -- if we're supposed to judge it as a replacement for existing laptops, tablets, or both -- then the required features and performance characteristics are very well understood, and Microsoft has no excuses if they fail to meet those requirements. Their failure to engage with graphic artists and other key users at the design phase was clearly a bad move.

I think Apple has had an uncanny ability to build excitement around their products. It is something MS does not traditionally have.

I think the Surface sounds great personally; and it has a very good shot at being my next laptop.

To be fair though, apple has its own schizo nature compromise going on with the iOS / OS X divide. iOS's inability to multi-task or scale up to bigger screens makes it unsuitable for productivity, and OS X's lack of touch support makes it unsuitable for light-weight entertainment and real on-the-go usage.

In fact, now that W8 has made me used to combining productivity and touch in a single device I've found that I dislike using all non-touch PC's, including apple's.

For a start iOS does multitask and for many apps automatically scale up to larger screens. Those two points have nothing to do with why people rarely use iPads for productivity (whatever that means). It's because the form factor, input method and brand lends itself to consumption.

It's great that you find W8 to be the best of both worlds. But you are the anomaly right now. And for me personally I like having two devices dedicated to what they do best, "work" and "play". I think Apple may just too.

Well, i'm always reminded of star trek tng, where all devices are touch devices, even the engineering workstations, and it makes perfect sense. For me, it's not a question of whether we're headed for an all-touch future, just a question of when and how. I'm curious what apple will do when they eventually bring touch to the desktop.

I don't know about A's for effort. All I know is that I spend 10 hours on my Surface Pro 2 for every hour I spend on the iPad.

Comments like these genuinely make me wonder if a non-trivial chunk of the crowd here is paid marketers and/or folks not being honest about full disclosure.

Touting the HN echo chamber in the context of the Surface is hard to take in good faith. Frustrated Surface engineers? As someone who waited in line on launch day and returned their Surface within a week, how about frustrated Surface customers? After reading a review where the device sounds like a strong step back and was developed in isolation without customer feedback, I think your sympathies are misplaced.

Are you reading the same HN as me? I'd say 70% of the comments here are disparaging towards the Surface.

They do this on reddit too..

It's way worse on reddit. No critical comment survived:


Apple Fanboy and MS basher here.

Seriously, the Surface is a great move. Aside from the whole Pro / RT naming thing, of course (confusing customers is not good).

The Surface is, AFAIK, the only good tablet PC out there - it's a real flagship product for Wintel tablets. The OEMs will eventually beat MS on value, but I suspect Microsoft will be OK with that. Microsoft can afford to take a loss creating the market for Windows 8 tablets, and won't be upset if other OEMs start competing in the space - they'll then make money on software sales.

MS needs tablet PCs to be a thing. Tablets are a thing - people love tablets. People will either choose between a laptop and a tablet, or just a tablet that can also run Office. If there's good Windows tablets, people will tend to go with that. As Intel improves mobile x86 chips, the choice will be even easier.

Microsoft does not want everyone using Android / iOS tablet, because then the software ecosystem will move to iOS / Android apps (as it is already doing).

Whether Microsoft should have made the hardware itself, or let OEMs do it is a good question, but I think they were right to do it themselves. Just look at what the competition has been like - every other Windows tablet I've seen (not a huge sample) has been pitiful - ugly and either not portable enough, or grossly underpowered.

Also, making Surface probably gives them the institutional knowledge to make Windows better for tablets.

Yeah Surface is to Windows as Nexus is to Android.

MS accept (now) that its going to be a niche product but are OK with that because it leaves space for the OEMs

Actually when Microsoft had Windows XP based tablets in 2002 they worked better than these Surface tablets. I don't know how they got changed and how they aren't as good as the ones in 2002 that had slower processors and less RAM etc.

I've been using tablets since the early 1990's when Toshiba had the Windows 3.1 based pen tablets using MS-DOS 5.0 with the option for MS-OS/2 1.21 if you wanted it.

Following your brilliant thoughts on criticism in general, I propose that we ban all tech reviews, literary critics, and all sorts of critical thinking, with the exception, of course, of people who have created flawless pieces of work. Roger Ebert should be dug up and then ceremoniously shot and stripped of all of his awards.

Also, it goes without saying that if you want to submit any criticism to this comment, you'll have to submit a full resume, a short fugue, and run a marathon backwards.

edit: Heh, I might have gone a bit over the top. On-topic: SP3 is a seriously impressive piece of work and I sense great things coming from Microsoft under Satya's reign (if only they would start properly leveraging their wonderful MSR).

I am going to assume your comment is in good faith.

My observation was that a single glitch is seen as some sort of disaster, when in reality is a simple issue in one scenario that clearly was not prioritized over many other scenarios. Anybody knows there are constraints in design, and clearly they decided one thing over another.

We can all be arm chair generals, but my focus is on the engineers themselves who must be frustrated that their work is generalized as a global failure because "it's Microsoft."

I don't know about other people but Ioway saw the built-in Wacom tablet as one the best features of the Surface. I know that having a great digitizers one of the few things that I wish my iPad had, and my brother seriously looked at buying a Surface because the built-in digitizer.

In fact some of the best reviews I've seen of the Surface, such as Penny Arcade's, we're so happy with the precisely because of the ability to draw.

Given that that's one of their standout features, it seems odd that they would make such a big mistake with it. From the description it sounds like something that anyone who used the Surface for drawing for more than a short amount of time would've run into. It also sounds frustrating enough that it might ruin the usefulness of the tablet for precisely the kind of people who might of bought it.

That makes the regression seem very strange.

Good faith, in my opinion, is about contributing to the discussion in a valuable way. Reminding you that you don't get to set the conditions for criticising your work, even in a tongue in cheek way, is just that.

If those are the sorts of comments that you view as over the top, I question your familiarity with tech criticism, or criticism in general. Making mistakes on a shipping product has consequences. Clownpenisdotfart on the internet spending a sentence emoting his dislike is the very, very least of them.

The thing is, the engineers KNOW all the stuff we're talking about, and the products ship anyway. I bet they're frustrated for reasons a little deeper than an HN "shakes head" comment.

A product needs to ship at some point. You can't expect a product to be polished 100% free of limitations or defects for 100% of the scenarios.

So it's your view that the engineers are sanguine with the bugs and misfeatures they're shipping and they're just frustrated (your word) with criticism on the internet? I would note that your opinion of Microsoft's engineers is apparently a lot lower than most of us who are criticizing their product.

Not with all criticism. My point is that the comments I copy-pasted reflect criticism that a) generalizes a feature limitation into some sort of macro failure and not priorities or other design restrictions, b) shifts the bar because "it's Microsoft" or c) is unrelated to the original comments from OP.

>nivla: "Seriously, I am starting to believe that these tiny screwups are their signature."

>Maybe it should be a rule that these folks below post their own product for review.

Umm... that is exactly what I am doing. I own a Surface Pro 1 and I had a genuine criticism about it. From my previous comments you can easily deduce that I am far from echo chambers of MS bashing. However that does not mean I can't criticize the products I own, like and have experience with. If I din't it will make me a blind fanboy and trust me I have been on that path before and it doesn't have any merits.

MS like every other company has its strength and weaknesses and genuine criticisms will only help them improve their product line and keep them motivated.

All companies make "tiny screwups" in all non-trivial efforts.

Yes all companies make "tiny screwups" but with MS its becoming a pattern with new lines. The gripe I have is because even after shelling out $1200 on a Surface Pro it din't have a GPS or a 4G that already all phones and low end tablets have, not to mention even in the flagship Nokia 2520 tablet. Its these trivial mistakes over and over again that makes their product go from near perfect to manageable.

Most of the time they do have the right idea but it gives out the vibe that they rather do the trial and error than learn from their competitors success and mistakes.

So you bought surface and didn't check its specs and you blame Microsoft for that?

No I brought the surface knowing the spec but hoping they would add it in the next few iterations, which they haven't so far. Not having a GPS and 4G is pretty much the only reason I am not going to upgrade to the Surface Pro 3. These two additions makes it the complete package for my travel.

I recommend a MIFI device. Best thing I ever got. Saves me tons of money; I cancelled my two mobile subs and my home internet. Only need 1 data sim sub and that's it. Great stuff.

In fairness, just the single fact that they put a button exactly where the hand needs to go when actually using the product in one of it's core use-cases is a pretty good excuse for some MS bashing.

They could have taken 5 minutes, given the prototype to an artist and noticed the hand placement issue immediately.

You can be an apologist if you wish, but I don't know how you can excuse such a glaring failure of design.

You'd be surprised at the number of "obvious" things you'll miss when shipping your product. The fact is, the people designing these things are human, with their own biases and blind spots. Furthermore, your beta test group will probably miss a few "glaring" problems with your product (even if you've shipped multiple versions before!)

In the resulting bashing and crowd pleasing "this sux" comments, there will be a few people who WANT to love the product but just can't, and are willing to explain exactly why. Those are the people you latch on to, give free products to, and pick their brains for their insight so that you can iterate better on your next version.

And that's exactly what Microsoft is doing. This is the correct strategy.

They may have done just that, but their artist was left-handed. Or a right handed artist whose hand position didn't touch that area. Or a test group made up of these kinds of people. Also, doing User Acceptance Testing certainly does not 'take 5 minutes'. It's far more difficult that people give it credit for - if it were as trivial as you imply, then there'd be no kudos for good design

I'm surprised they don't give test devices (under NDA presumably) way earlier to people like Gabe, using your evangelist bloggers to improve the product before they write their public review seems smart.

Saying that it's a "failure of design" suggests there's an easy non-failure alternative. If so, can you tell us what it is? Are you sure that solution won't fail under some conditions?

People like to take something that exists, take the problems it solves as a given, and act like all that's left is fixing the problems remaining. That's not how it works.

Solution could be the same as for palm rejection: disable start button when pen is near the screen.

The issue is with the "fatalism" of the comments. For example, you refer to a "glaring failure" when this can be fixed with a simple "drawing mode" patch.

No such thing as a "simple" patch in the context of Windows: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ericlippert/archive/2003/10/28/how-m...

Can we agree to get over anything that happened in computing more than 10 years ago?

I'm not sure how a reasonable person can see that article and think Microsoft doesn't have to worry about justifying features, project management, testing, documentation, group policies, localization, security, or anything else that makes a "simple" feature for Windows complicated because the source saying so happens to be more than ten years old.

The process and consideration outlined is certainly in-line with my own experiences at Microsoft.

The fact that the article is old doesn't meant we should ignore it, but on the other hand, you have to consider the possibility that things change over the course of a decade, and the article may be out-dated. You can't use 10-year-old evidence as 'proof' of anything currently happening at Microsoft, though you can use it as evidence to weigh probabilities.

They should have tested on a right handed designer at least. Panos looks left handed, is he the only guy that has played with it?

So you need to be a cook before you can criticize the food that the cook serves you?

What a crock of bullshit.

This appears to be hyperliner's first comment ever. Tough to tell how impartial they are.

Your first comment ever as randomfool is below. Should we question your impartiality then?

=================== I believe that Scott Jenson put it best in 'Why Mobile Apps Must Die'- http://vimeo.com/33692624 Watch it. The problem with native apps is the installation barrier- if I had apps installed to do everything that I'd love my phone to do, I'd be overwhelmed with hundreds of apps installed. Web-based apps have the potential to slip in and out of use as necessary, with more applicable discovery mechanisms (geo, proximity, etc). ====================

So you need to be a coder before you can criticize the code that a programmer writes? What a crock of bullshit.

Criticize the code? Yes. Criticize the product? No.

Remember this is a review by a designer. There's little doubt the Surface Pro is pretty good for that. The problem Microsoft has is that it's not really a mainstream device. Most people would be better served by a laptop with more storage that works better (not lag, not touch-confusing interface, and so on).

Also, Microsoft made a huge mistake keeping the 4400 GPU. It was already slow for the 1080p Surface Pro 2. And they kept it for Surface Pro 3, which has even higher resolution. By comparison, the Macbook Air comes with a much faster Intel HD 5000 GPU, and it has a much lower resolution.

The i7 Surfaces will have a better GPU than the 4400, I hear.

edit: below: "Core i7 version is the i7-4650U model, with HD5000 graphics."

I can't help but wonder if perhaps the perceived failings in Microsoft products could be the result of an internal attitude towards criticism that is similar to the attitude towards criticism that you are expressing here.

Does Microsoft have an internal culture that discourages criticism, which results in criticism from the outside world catching Microsoft employees by surprise?

No, there is plenty of criticism internally. It's just not criticism about the same sort of thing. It's more political than technical/product.

Frankly, I don't think my friends who work on Windows Phone realize that it's a failure. When I last talked to former coworkers from Windows 8, they didn't think it was a failure.

I doubt it, the surface team actually does regular AMA's after a product launches. They do listen to criticisms and manage to correct most of them in the next iteration. If you watched the keynote event, Panay talks about it, especially in regards to the trackpad issues. Not to mention the usual flurry of "M$" and "Who uses bing?" comments they have to deal with.

I only would like to point out that all the comments I copy-pasted are gross generalizations, unrelated to the main points in OP comments.

You do have a fair "design process" question.

If I were on the Surface team, I'd be A) elated that the product is generating discussion, and B) watching this thread (and others like it) like a hawk and taking notes. From the right perspective, this thread looks like a room full of people all competing to be first in line to tell Microsoft that they'll buy their new product if they just fixed their one complaint.

Negativity is wrapping paper on the gift of feedback - it is to be torn off and thrown away, because it has no value.

I once worked at Microsoft on a product that was actually getting almost entirely positive feedback (while still in preview) for once and ... it was kind of frustrating. I started scouring the internet for "<product name> hate" (and did find haters, some with interesting povs) :)

Well, when you play in the big leagues you need to bring your A game. They aren't doing that.

Most of the negative comments in the article can be distilled into a single phrase: they don't use their own product. Otherwise, for instance, the button that dumps you back to the desktop wouldn't work the way it does, be placed where it is, or be so difficult to disable. (You could say much the same of Metro as a whole, but that's not germane here.)

Failure to eat your own dog food is a mortal sin in this business.

> It has to be really frustrating to be an engineer working on Surface and having to deal with the HN echo chamber, or MS bashing (some from Apple fanboys), or totally unrelated comments.

Not really.

In MSFT, engineers (and pretty much all other employees) are sheltered from the criticisms of the outside world.

I think that is one of the reasons they struggle. They're not plugged into what the rest of the world thinks.

MSFT is weird, they do something rad, like the Xbox and 360, and totally fuck it up with the XboxOne. They take a mediocre product like Excel, and make it rad (seriously I love Excel 2013). Then they take Office2013, and make it stupid with Office365 (You can't install a single Office 365 product. You have to install the entire fuggen suite...).

Windows 8 was a really cool idea, but I'm not sure how they managed to get so many people pissed about it.

Serious question: What makes them fanboys but not you?

It's a fair question.

I think a fanboy would have called out (listed) every single criticism in the thread, not just the ones I called out as not adding to the conversation, as defined by me somewhere else in this thread.

I am looking into whether a Surface could extend my Mac, iMac, iPad, Windows Server and Windows 7 (no Android yet :( collection.

'Naming and shaming' the way you've done it is not really the way HN does things. Whether or not you are a fanboy, I find your behaviour to be more harmful than any of the comments you quoted. The "well, what have you done" tone of the comment is basically claiming that all of those you named are worthless people.

Instead of being a tattletale (of dubious quality), respond to comments you find egregious and lead by example (unless they're trolls, then simply downvote and then ignore them).

One of the most uncomfortable moments of my career was talking to some guys in a pub during a conference, mentioning where I work, and seeing a flash of contempt in one of their faces. This person proceeded to make some disparaging comments about the company and the main product. That sucks, and it's easy to take personally.

However, I once chose to work at that company, have continued to choose to work there, and I get paid for it every month. Who am I to tell anybody how to criticise my work? I'm a professional, and being able to tolerate even harsh criticism is part of what I think is professional integrity.

People have been able to run Ubuntu on Surface Pro 2 but it took some effort (custom kernel etc). If this has improved and if the new Surface pro can dual-boot Ubuntu without any issues, I'd definitely buy one. The hardware concept is too tempting.

I've always wondered what stops MS for making it easier for Linux to be installed on their products.

There will always be a class of people who will stick with Windows and they don't/won't care about Linux compatibility anyway. So nothing to lose there.

Then there is the un-captured "technical/Linux user" segment to whom they can sell Surface so thats more devices sold. Unless they are making a loss on the device just to push Windows - even then, at least this segment would appreciate the quality of the device (and this segment tends to care about/be more loyal to quality) which is the kind of impression you want to make on people. If nothing else, that is a good to have thing for future devices.

I'm waiting for my 2 to use with Ubuntu. Totally unconvinced whether "3" is an upgrade to "2". Don't get fooled by numbers, look at what matters.

Very well written review. I myself was worried about the switch to N-trig (having dealt with a few products in the past), but I glad to hear it is a non-issue. To me, the additional size is great. While I like the portability of a tablet, having the extra screen real-estate makes me more productive and thus worth the trade off of a larger physical size device. I think MS's third attempt at a tablet is finally the tablet/laptop/combo that I have been waiting for.

Counter-point on surface-pro by another webcomic author:


Basically, Scott Kurtz found that the stylus lag on every tablet was so bad that he ended up using his Wacom Cintiq, which requires a wall-outlet.

How did Kurtz get access to a Surface Pro 3 in January?

To clarify, this is about an older model surface pro, however Krahulik/Gabriel indicated that the SP3 didn't improve on the pen lag that seems to plague the entire form-factor.

I just brought it up because Krahulik is one of the louder cheerleaders of the Surface Pro line, and so one of his colleagues in the same field that disagrees is worth reading too, even if that article is now a bit dated with the launch of the SP3.

Looks like the Core i7 version is the i7-4650U model, with HD5000 graphics.

Details in Ed Bott's article: http://www.zdnet.com/which-cpus-will-you-find-in-the-surface...

Link to Intel specs: http://ark.intel.com/products/75114/Intel-Core-i7-4650U-Proc...

Just saw that at neowin. Very tempted with the i7 now. I wonder how that will affect battery life.

From what I understand, it should actually be better for the battery life, as it has a lower base clock


I'll never understand why the comments on certain products and brands end up being so vitriolic and "my Dad can beat up your Dad!"-styled discussions are considered par for the course.

Frankly, I have Apple everything, because it works for me. My family use a lot of Windows and Microsoft products, because it works for them.

At the end of the day, these are tools, not lifestyles. I think we'd all do well to remember that you are not your gadgets...

Agreed, but I think reasonable people can filter out the pointless childish noise, and find the useful information and opinions.

Me, I'm trying to break into 3D design in my "spare time" and I need either a Wacom Cintiq or one of these Surface Pros for painting on 3d textures in applications such as Substance Painter. I am undecided. The Cintiq looks really nice as a permanent workstation tool, but relies on a computer to run the application. Perhaps I need to accept that what I am wishing for is merely an input device for my main computer, rather than a completely separate computer.

I've been a believer in the Surface concept since the beginning. I'd bought a Surface 2 last year and was blown away by just how unique and incredibly inventive the design was. The 16:9 screen and the lack of power really suffered it, though...

But like the MacBook Air, three generations in, and it looks like this is going to be Microsoft's Hail Mary.

I preordered one.

Do you think 3 will be really better than the 2?

I'm still waiting for my 2 and I'm not convinced. I'm going to try to "upgrade" from a 12" ThinkPad X series and I really liked that the screen size is smaller. All the other changes don't necessarily feel like an upgrade to me, too.

Every time I used my Surface Pro (1st gen), I lamented that the screen wasn't bigger. You really feel like you're missing a third of possible screen real estate. Hence why I'm excited about the 3:2 aspect ratio. I always figured the Chromebook Pixel was on to something ;-)

I don't know, I'm using a 12" Thinkpad X and I feel like I could bear if the screen would be a tad smaller, so I was excited about a prospect of a 10.6" tablet/laptop. I guess, I'll wait and see: Surrface Pro 3's are not going anywhere, not sure about the older models. Unlike Thinkpads, I'm afraid Microsoft made not very many of these. Sorry for the accessories though: the innovative things like Freedomcase just started to appear for the old form factor. http://www.freedomcase.com/

My only worry with buying the Surface Pro 3 is how I was burned by the Surface Pro 2 late last year when I got an original Surface Pro early last year. Very much like the iPad, they seem to be releasing new Surfii every 6-9 months. Since this model isn't available at launch with the i7 and only has Intel 4400 graphics, I expect early next year to see a bump in specs, perhaps Intel 5100 (or better) graphics by next March? Which has me wondering if I should buy now or hold off. If they had the ntrig bluetooth pen with OneNote integration in a smaller form factor for cheaper, I'd buy that first right now and wait for the larger device to get a bump in performance. That said, no question -- if you want OneNote for school in September or can afford to upgrade once a year, buy now. The only thing I wish it had was a touch-optimized terminal app with tabs ;-)

Should you wait? Just answer the question, "Does it meet my needs?". If you aren't going to use it to draw in Photoshop (for example), it may not make a lick of difference whether you have the i7, or which graphics chip it has.

It is equally true that the smoothest ink experience is within Microsoft apps such as OneNote. And so, by far, it should have enough performance for note-taking regardless... Well, at worst Microsoft does have a return policy :)

I'm really pleased to hear about how good the NTrig digitiser is. Seems like an awesome painting tool.

What kills me about this thing is that it's still an almost-notebook. They take a tablet and make you choose to run almost-Windows or Windows. It's most visible difference to other tablets is a great keyboard concept, but it's not quite a notebook in that it now needs a kickstand to stand up. I'd rather have a notebook that has a rational keyboard that holds the screen at whatever angle than something that is almost exactly the same, but somehow inferior.

I'm really not against the whole idea of a Windows tablet, but if the keyboard is that important...just make a keyboard that handles the weight of the screen. In fact, the keyboard I bought for my mother-in-law's iPad does that just fine (minus the variable-angle) so I'd still rather have the iPad or Android tablets. Or a well-executed ultrabook. Easier for working on the couch/plane/train etc.

Still, I'll forward this article to an artist friend. It looks great for a drawing tablet and maybe it'll work for him.

Being left handed I wouldn't have the problem Gabe does, instead I'd be activating a half dozen tools on the left margin of the screen. I appreciate the 'wrist' input for the JOT stylus which lets you tell it where you rest your hand normally.

I'll definitely try out the SP3, and I'm still trying to get my hands on a Samsung Note Pro (12" tab). The screen is what I crave, a 12" 3:2 aspect ratio screen with 2160 x 1440 feels pretty close to ideal in this form factor.

The touch screen itself would be disabled when you use the pen. It's just that the Windows button on the right side is a hardware button (just touch, too) and doesn't disable itself like the rest of the screen.

I'd imagine one of the "special options" he's going to be getting from MS is a version which does exactly that; disable the home button with the pen input.

Yeah that should be fixable in software - the screen itself can detect and ignore palms

That sounds like it should hopefully be a software fix.

As an old MCSE I am happy to see the Surface 3 reviews, for me (an Android tablet user) this means Microsoft is fighting not to lose the tablet race. The idea of replacing the laptop with a very well designed keyboard "docking station" is brilliant. And it does seem that they did do everything else right!

As a Thinkpad user, I have bad memories of docking stations. They're nice to have, but they're ridiculously expensive for a hunk of plastic and some interconnects.

As a Dell user, I couldn't get my _Dell_ monitor working with _Dell_ E-Port Plus Port Replicator docking station (USD 219) when used with my _Dell_ E7240 laptop - in Linux (and this laptop has the option of selling with Ubuntu). Dell support were very patient and after 1 hour and docking station firmware update later (done via Windows obviously), it still doesn't work. Works fine in Windows (but only after firmware update).

Now I use the "hunk of plastic" as a tilting platform to let the laptop vent exhale easier.

3:2 I need this so badly. I hope they solve the lag and handedness issues I really want to love this device.

Finally. A step in the right direction. Wide screen on small desktop-like devices is just stupid. It's OK on tablets and such, but on notebooks? Why anyone thought it's a good idea?

I don't think 16:9 is good on anything, not even for movies. Heck, movies are usually shot in a much wider format anyway.

On tablets and small devices it's even worse. There's a reason why Apple used 4:3 on the iPod -- it's because they're actually thoughtful and pay a lot of attention to the design and use cases of their products, unlike Samsung and others who simply slap together whatever's cheaper (AFAIK 16:9 panels are more cost effective for them) and shove it at consumers.

16:9 means panels can also be used in TV hardware, and you can standardise your tooling. This is why the common 'decent' midsize computer monitor has fallen from 1920x1200 to 1920x1080, because the latter has 16:9 panels that can be used in TVs.

The app shown in the pictures is "Manga Studio"

I mean yes it is good for art and drawing cartoons.

I have tried every Surface tablet and I don't like them. Just my opinion. I got a Nook HD+ that works better and cost less, and will sell it now that Nook tablets are not updated anymore and maybe buy a Kindle HDX to replace it. Even the Android tablets are more responsive.

My son has an iPad that is faster as well and it is only an iPad 3.

We can get pens for them that draw art and cartoons.

Just my opinion, the Surface could work better for others in different things. But for me and my son, we chose a different tablet due to the Surface being sluggish and locking up at times when we demoed it at the Microsoft store.

Which of these other devices provide pressure-sensitive drawing, and how well does it work?

I'm curious because that's a feature that can be the deciding factor for me.

For Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.dsandler.a...

For iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/procreate-sketch-paint-creat...

Pressure sensitive stylus: http://www.adonit.net/jot/touch/

From what I know all iPads and Android tablets have pressure sensitive apps and touch screens and you can buy a stylus that supports it as well.

My son draws for school on both the iPad and Nook. We don't seem to have any issues nor do we need Photoshop and other expensive software.

There are attachable bluetooth keyboards for Android and iPad tablets that work better than the Surface ones. I don't know why people seem to think that only Surface has an attachable keyboard and stand?

I mean these features were standard and options standard with iOS and Android before the Surface tablets marketed them as exclusive to the Surface series only.

For iPad devices go to an Apple store.

For Android tablets some of the mobile carriers might be able to demo them for you.

Don't take my word for it, what my son and I like might not meet your standards. Look for yourself, but don't think that only the Surface has those features.

Thanks for this, very useful.

From what I know all iPads and Android tablets have pressure sensitive apps and touch screens and you can buy a stylus that supports it as well.

I've an Asus Transformer Prime TF201. Runs Android. Nice enough for certain kinds of drawing, but no pressure-sensitive screen.

Perhaps now they all have this, but it wasn't standard a few years ago.

Markers looks like an interesting hack; I will give that a try.

I've yet to find an Android drawing program that gets everything right though.

What makes the Surface 3 so appealing is that I've already some Windows apps I'm happy with for Wacom-driven drawing. Running those on a tablet would be ideal.

2014, Intel Core i5, SSD and stutters when 'browsing files' in PS.

shakes head

Wait, is this a criticism of Surface, SSDs, or PS? Have you used Adobe products lately? I can't imagine how they could be any more bloaty.

My work PC is an 8-core Xeon beast with 12GB of RAM, a 2GB GPU, a SSD and Photoshop still lags while browsing files.

I don't know if that says more about the Surface or Photoshop...

This was the show stopper comment for me. I was somewhat considering this for my back-and-forth home and office computer. But the thought of ANY stutter for the price I'd be paying keeps me in line to get a regular laptop. It's heavier, but once it's plopped down on a desk and I need it to WORK, the weight factor is gone.

For those looking for more of a working "Tablet", well, maybe it's a different story.

Probably because there's no magic in how they made it so thin for an Intel machine - they just underclocked it a ton in order to achieve a minimal TDP and not need huge air vents, free space and fans.

it has fans

I bought a retina MBP soon after they were announced, I have an SSD and Photoshop feels very average most of the time.

I just bought a Surface 2 Pro 4 weeks ago. It is an awesome piece of hardware.

The pen is great, I use it to sketch up stuff in OneNote like I would in my regular notebook.

I connect it to an external display and use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse at work, and I confuse people by running a fullscreen mintty.exe with terminal vim in my linux VM.

The stand is why I bought it over a Dell Venue or a Lenovo Helix (even though I think the Helix is the best offering).

It's a brilliant machine. I sold my Macbook Air 11" to buy it too! I sure hope Apple make something like this one day that runs proper OS X :)

It's interesting that there doesn't appear to be lag when he's actually drawing.

I'm not too sure about that drafting board profile. Having not seen the device in person, at that angle it looks like it might break. Is there some form of support running along that line?

The hinge actually looks quite sturdy to me: http://www.wpcentral.com/sites/wpcentral.com/files/styles/la...

i waited for this tablet release, and then, seconds before the impulse buy i remembered i should wait for Gabe reviews :) ...saved by the bell!

that said, i'm still anxious to a tablet with a decent perf/battery life and a good pen. tired of only consuming content on tablets. and i'm sure a keyboard is not feasible anytime soon. while i could already code with my palm custom pen input... albeit painfully, it was less painful then any apple soft keyboard.

Reading other comments, the i7 version has better graphics, hopefully not laggy...and hopefully a software fix to disable home button when pen is in range...but...the i7 ain't cheap.

Apple shills or what?

The Penny Arcade guys live a little too close to Redmond for me to believe their reviews of Microsoft products are unbiased.

If you read the article, he's actually quite critical of the product.

Ack. I read right up to the 'now the frustrating stuff' without seeing it and closed the tab thinking 'not more of this crap from PA'.

I stand corrected.

Gabe has written some very complimentary things about the Surface in the past, it's no wonder they're eager to hear his opinions and tell him what he wants to hear. "Yes Mr Gabe, we really like artists, like a whole bunch. Please write some more nice things!"

I feel a little cynical by saying this, but does Microsoft really care about artists as much as they care about the audience they're reaching via Penny Arcade?

Microsoft went out to Adobe and got them to build a touch-optimized version of freaking Photoshop and had them on stage at the unveiling of this thing to announce a new Adobe product as part of their product launch. [1] Then they went ahead and added a new setting to the kickstand in the back of the surface to make it easier to draw on -- actual changes to the physical design of the thing with artists in mind.

Yeah, Microsoft really cares about artists. They absolutely want people creating digital art to be doing so on the Surface.


The care is certainly there. It's the execution that is lacking significantly.

The types of issues Gabe describes could have been resolved if they had actual artists test the product before it was released. The drawing hand accidentally brushing against the Windows button and kicking the user out to the desktop? Please. This type of stuff is extremely trivial to discover with proper usability testing during development. (Heck, they didn't even have to release the prototypes to the public. I'm sure they have plenty of in-house people who do their drawing on tablets.)

I've always said that Microsoft is really, really good at engineering, and really, really bad at UX and usability. After reading Gabe's review, I'm disappointed that this is still the case.

Why is the pen and digitizer for "artists?" One of the faults I see with current gen tablets is that its uncomfortable to use them as a clipboard-like device. I want to use a pen, write things, sign things, draw things, etc.

We can certainly do better then the hunt and peck iOS keyboard or the quicker but often guessing wrong swipe-style Android keyboard.

MS is aiming clearly for the business customer here and things like these are more for the warehouse worker or management annotating something in OneNote or Word, than for the digital artist, but they obvious benefit as well. Why can't we have more win-win situations instead of more narrow use case wins that iOS and Android provide?

MS got ahead by appealing to a broad range of needs, users, and by playing ball with as many people as they possibly can. Sure, that got us the kitchen-sink like Win8, but I imagine Win8.3 or Win9 will have solve a lot of those issues. Ironically, MS has become the 'friendly' software vendor. Watching MS on the ropes is kinda fascinating. You can see them try desperate things, fail, regroup, etc. They're dying to make everyone happy, because of the success of iOS and Android have had with more narrow requirements. Why beat Apple and Google at their game when you can win your own game?

I kinda see the success of the tablet right now similiar to the success of the PDA device in the 90s. Everyone had one, we kinda enjoyed them, then someone asked, "Why can't these things be web browers? Why can't they also be phones? Why can't they also have wireless email?" Then the idea of a portable PDA that wasn't a phone died almost overnight with the success of the Blackberry and Windows Mobile. Now we're asking, "Why can't my tablet do all the things my laptop can? Why can't I have a kick-ass pen with this? Why doesn't it recognize my hand-writing? Why can't I just dock it and use it as a computer with no compromises? Why can't it run Photoshop or Office in full?"

Cynicism aside, would it matter? Microsoft is probably extremely happy to make someone with the reach of Gabe happy. For obvious reasons. Thing is, they still have to make him happy.

And really, this is one of the reason's PA has the clout they do. They are rather blunt about the things they do and don't like. And many people trust their judgement. Even agree with it.

Now, if you were worried that they could just bribe him, that would be one thing. But, they are keeping him happy by having a product he likes using. That is huge.

I felt this review of SP3 was far less positive than his Surface Pro 2 review. I'm sure Microsoft also needs him as a conduit for his audience, but on the bright side, they've a dedicated tester for their target audience, a working professional. I don't see the downside

Even an amateur would be annoyed by hitting the capacitive home-button while drawing.

Of course they are managing their PR carefully. Apple does the same. That doesn't mean they designed the product to get a nice Penny Arcade write up. My guess is that their audience (gamers) are already in the MS ecosystem anyway.

How ironic: Apple in boardrooms and Microsoft for artists...

Designers are a market absolutely owned by Apple in spite of the fact that Apple completely fails to cater to them with artist-oriented hardware. These artists/designers were the early-adopters for OSX.

Designers and artists like Apple because it's well-designed and snappy, but not because it has any art-specific features. MS hopes to take this market and get a proven-important early-adopter market for their new tablet/laptop hybrids.

Does it really matter if they care about artists or not in this case? In order for them to get good publicity to the audience of Penny Arcade, they have to cater to artists. (assuming you aren't cynical enough to believe that Gabe is just a shill for Microsoft, which he likely is not) If Surface 4 comes out and they don't fix any of the issues Gabe has mentioned, and they send him one to review, he'll point out that things were not fixed, and they were obviously not listening. I think at that point it would be valid to say they don't care, but the way things are described, it does sound like they're trying to improve the product, at least for the specific niche Gabe occupies.

Remember "I'm a Mac / I'm a PC?" The loyalty that Apple built up among creative professionals has under-girded their entire brand. If you were Microsoft, and you saw a chance to knock some of those people loose, wouldn't you work like hell to make that happen?

This would also be an example of MS improving its touch in terms of attempting to persuade people about Surface. Rather than just repeating over and over about how great [tabletX] is and how a celebrity they've paid to endorse it just loves it (see HP's disastrous TV campaigns for their tablets), they're letting an influential guy use it, review it, and criticize it publicly. The critical bits are what make it more effective as commercial messaging for MS' particular purposes at this moment.

If Gabe were shilling they would pay him directly to shill and it would be marked as an ad (which PA has done many times before for many companies). In this case, that's probably not happening.

He is getting(and keeping) free hardware, I would consider that getting paid. He clearly states he got the item under review for free and once he complained about the performance they said they would ship him a high performance model for free as well. They used to give away any such free loot specifically to avoid the shilling moral hazard.

So take it into account in your evaluation of the product. Every magazine reviewer on the planet gets 'free' items to review.

> Does it really matter if they care about artists or not in this case?

The digitizer on the Surface is one of the undeniable advantages it has over an iPad for some workflows.

I think it's an attempt at a broad grab, They like to be able to show multiple use cases for their devices, art being an interesting niche. The other grab is the obviously large audience that PA has.

If they could capture the teen angst journal/poetry crowd, they might have a gilded pathway into the future.

I think you're being downvoted because of tone. I don't have enough karma to downvote but my feedback is that sometimes extreme cynicism makes HN not so fun to read. Cheer up, it's Friday before Memorial Day weekend!

If they're creating a product that (generally) impresses a professional illustrator as much as it seems they do, I'd say they care.

And Gabe's write-ups always seem very honest to me.

Microsoft care about the money that artists are willing to pay for their product. If that induces them to make a product artists like, great.

He says that the reduction in sensitivity on the digitizer "scared the hell out of [him]."

Why do people say stuff like this? You know what scares the hell out of me? Getting mauled by a bear.

Hyperbole is what's known as a "rhetorical device" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetorical_device) — a technique that an author or speaker uses to convey to the listener or reader a meaning with the goal of persuading him or her towards considering a topic from a different perspective, using sentences designed to encourage or provoke a rational argument from an emotional display of a given perspective or action.

> You know what scares the hell out of me? Getting mauled by a bear.

Why do people say stuff like this? You know what scares the hell out of me? Getting mauled by two bears.

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