Dower’s First Few Days with the Surface Pro

So, now that I’ve had my Surface Pro for a few days, I wanted to let people know what I’ve been trying to do with it and if it’s been meeting my expectations. To really put it through it’s paces I’ve got to cram it full of stuff for me to use. Follow me and let’s see what I’ve uncovered so far.

First thing’s first, I’ve got to cram this thing full of the stuff I want. Mercifully, Microsoft didn’t cram any bloat onto the device, so unlike buying a laptop for HP, Dell, or Sony, I didn’t have to uninstall any junk applications. I immediately went to installing the software I’ve been dying to install on my Surface RT, but couldn’t. Here’s a list of all I crammed in so far:

  • MS Office 2010 from Office365.com
  • MS Visio 2010
  • Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver CS6 from Adobe’s Creative Cloud.
  • Manga Studio EX4
  • Visual Studio 2012
  • Autodesk 3D Studio Max 2013
  • Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 6
  • Balsamiq Mockups
  • Daz Studio 4.5
  • Dropbox
  • Skydrive
  • Notepad++
  • Sublime Text
  • Steam
  • SonicWall Global VPN Client
  • Sculptris
  • Google Chrome
  • Pandora’s Adobe Air application

From the Microsoft Store I grabbed the following:

  • Pulse News Reader
  • Sketchbook Express
  • Netflix

Lastly, because I installed  Steam, I had to put some games on to see how well the built in Intel HD Graphics 4000 handles. I settled on the following:

  • Team  Fortress 2
  • Dead Island
  • Borderlands 2
  • Faster Than Light
  • Legend of Grimrock
  • Torchlight 2
  • Terraria
  • Strike Suit Zero
  • Warhammer 40K Dawn of War 2: Retribution
  • Wizorb
  • Zombie Driver HD

Now granted, some of the games on the list aren’t super heavy hitters, but they’re games I wanted to play on this smaller platform. I figured a decent test would be Borderlands 2 and Strike Suit Zero, since both are newer titles from 2012. The desktop applications ended up taking a good chunk of space, but Steam took up a majority of my disk space… almost 40GB. Even after all the apps and games installed, I was left with about 8GB free on my 128GB drive. To save some space on my main drive, I decided to move Steam, since my games are my non-critical applications, and they were the major space hogs. The only place I could move the games to, and still have them easily accessible was to try and put them all on an MicroSD card. I’ve never tried running Steam or any games off of a MicroSD card before, but I’m happy to report that it does work. Over the Christmas holiday I bought a SanDisk 64gb MicroSD card and Steam and my games all run quite nicely from this location!

So here’s how the games I had time to try and playing ran:

  • Team  Fortress 2 – being older, but still excellent, the game ran perfectly fine.
  • Dead Island – I was surprised at how well this game ran with the default settings.
  • Faster Than Light – Ran fine, but oddly at the default 150% zoom level of Windows 8, caused the game to have a little trouble being in full screen mode, I dialed the zoom down to 125% Medium, and the game was ok in full screen mode.
  • Legend of Grimrock – I didn’t dive too deep, but things seems pretty smooth at 1920×1080.
  • Strike Suit Zero – didn’t scale up to full screen in any resolution other than 1920×1080… It had trouble being smooth at 1920×1080… Being in a lower resolution was better, but because it didn’t scale up, I was essentially playing on a 7″ or smaller screen.

Here are some of the performance related issues I ran into so far:

  • The Wacom digitizer isn’t completely realized on the Surface. There are apparently some driver issues with the Surface Pro which prevents the pen from being completely recognized by applications like Manga Studio or Adobe Photoshop. Pressure sensitivity is lacking in these applications, which takes the usefulness of a Wacom digitizer away… I believe Microsoft has recognized the issue and is working with Wacom to resolve this, but for now, this hurts it. However, the digitizer works fine with programs like Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and Express. Stay tuned for updates regarding this issue.
  • I’ve run into an occasional problem when putting my Surface Pro to sleep and moving from one wireless location to another. The Wireless adapter will sometimes become disabled, or simply refuses to connect to another wireless access point, even if it recognizes it. I either recieved an error saying it can’t connect, or the device has stopped working.
  • I’ve also run into an odd problem where occasionally the Surface Pro won’t wake up from sleep mode. Hitting the power button doesn’t seem to wake it up… The only solution then is to hold the power button down for a few seconds, letting go, and then clicking it again… Essentially forcing a shutdown/restart. 

Overall, even with these problems, I’m still quite happy with my Surface Pro. I’m going on a trip in the next few days, and I’m going to be leaving my bulky Dell XPS17 at the office. I’m going to see how productive I really can be with just my Surface Pro. 

Stay tuned for more updates.