Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Tale of Two Surfaces–Surface RT/Surface Pro

At TechEd Madrid, as happened at Teched US and at the WWPC, Microsoft sold Surface devices to all attendees at knock-down prices. The RT, the 64GB version, went for a mere £70 and that included the basic keyboard. At those prices, I could not resist and bought both devices. I attended TechEd courtesy of Microsoft and my most excellent MVP Lead Claire Smyth and was able to buy both devices at cheap prices (which I snapped up).

The devices were orderable on the company store, via a voucher code on vouchers that each conference attendee received. I saw several folks selling their vouchers for pretty good money – others were clearly desperate for multiple devices at this very cheap price. I ordered mine online on the Monday night and they were delivered to my home before I got back from Conference.

I note today that Microsoft has reduced the prices by 30% (see http://www.itpro.co.uk/desktop-replacements/20196/microsoft-cuts-surface-rt-price-30-cent?_mout=1&utm_campaign=itpro_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter). Speaking personally, and knowing what I do now, even a 30% cut is not enough. At the price I paid, the RT was a bargain – but at a list of nearly $300, it’s too expensive and it’s why I held off buying either surface system.

Like Apple packaging, the Surface packaging was pretty, albeit pretty minimal. A tiny manual, a charger and the device was all that came in the box. It was easy to get started, as both devices had enough battery charge to get through the OOBE (out of the box experience) and get me to the start screen on both devices.

Now that I have had the devices for a while – I find (surprisingly to me and others) I prefer the RT. It’s a lot lighter, the battery life is great, and is comfortable to use. The pro version, on the other hand, runs pretty hot – not a great laptop companion for a long flight for example due to the heat, and the battery life is a lot shorter (showing the difference between the I5 and Atom chips!).

This week, I am running some training across 3 continents – I have a morning session with attendees from India and UK, with an afternoon session with attendees from UK and from US/Canada. The class uses Cisco’s WebEx conferencing platform and an excellent set of labs provided in the cloud by Virsoft, an Amsterdam based firm. The platform is working great: here’s what it looks like from where I am:


As you can see in the picture, I have the laptop open, with the RT device (far left) being used to browse, and the Pro device which is shadowing my on-line environment. And being old-fashioned, I also have my printed training  book open to the lecture I am giving.

All things considered, I am pretty happy with the RT device, especially at the price. The Pro device, on the other hand, has still not proven its worth to me yet. I need to travel a bit with the pro to see the value. For me, anyway, the Pro is too much like a laptop (short battery life, high heat) and not enough like an iPad (long battery life, light weight, etc). It’s not powerful enough for all my needs (I’d want 500GB of storage, an i7 chip and 16gb of ram (for VMs) or more.

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