Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) First Impressions

Bit of History

I remember the time I switched from Microsoft Windows to Apple OSX but cannot remember the year. I had become tired of bad computer design, poor laptop construction and an uninspiring interface that distracted you with alerts, or worried you about viruses while crippling performance with poorly designed real time virus protection.

I am not entirely sure how I got here, but some years later I noticed that third parties had become pretty close to perfecting the hardware design and construction issues, and Microsoft themselves had started trying to out Apple Apple. The Dell XPS13 whose early incarnation was the reason I swapped to Apple in the first place due to its poor construction is now about 90% there, great screen, nice keyboard, nice top plate, nice bottom plate, shame about the plastic bits in the middle.

Others like HP, ASUS and Acer are doing good work, even though I am not convinced on the whole 180, or is it 360 degree hinge approach that some are taking.

Now coming to Microsoft, I was sceptical about the Surface line when first launched, and to be honest I still am. However, the Surface Studio, Book and Laptop are pure genius in my opinion. So why did I get a Surface Pro?

Fair question and I am still not entirely sure I made the right decision. Currently using an iMac for heavy work, a 5-year-old MacBook Air for light work and an iPad for when I am trying to stay awake in front of the TV I wonder whether the Surface Pro will replace the MacBook Air or the iPad.

If you break my computer habits down it would probably look like 70% MacBook Air use sitting at a table or on the sofa, 20% iMac at a desk and 10% on the iPad. Which raises the nagging doubt as to whether the Surface Pro will be useable, with or without the keyboard while relaxing on the sofa.

Why did I opt for the Surface Pro then, besides wanting a challenge? Primarily because I want to use the pen to quickly edit images in Photoshop rather than use the Wacom on the iMac. I appreciate it’s not a powerhouse, but I have a 5 minute rule on edits and I am not that good at it either meaning I don’t push Photoshop or a 5 year old MacBook Air to its limit so I am assuming a new Microsoft Surface Pro i5 will be fine.

How well the Surface Pro will shape up when balancing on the arm of a sofa, and how it will perform with decent virus, malware and ransomware protection installed will be the other deciding factor for me.

I have viewed many video reviews for the Surface Pro (2017) and previous models, only one or two exist that reviews the device for an extended period. My intention here is to review the device over an extended period in a format that is more office friendly than YouTube, and hopefully more informative.

First Impressions

I opted for the mid-range Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) i5 with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD storage. I went all in with the signature keyboard and the new surface pen. I do not want to think about the total price, but I did get it from a store in the UK with 2-year warranty and a good 30+ day return policy.

On the ports or lack thereof argument I have to admit I am yet to see a USB-C cable in the flesh, no doubt that will change and I think this may well be another reason I replace the Surface Pro sooner than the 5 years that my MacBook Air has served me. However, for now I am fine with the one USB port and display port.

When you feel the weight of the box you might think you made the wrong decision or that 0.77kg is heavier than your thought. But rest assured the device itself is lightweight but Microsoft packed some heavy weight card in that box design. The presentation itself is impressive, very MacBook or iPad like when opening. Upon lifting the lid you’ll be greeted by the Surface Pro and beneath that the charger and token paperwork.

I’m old school so after clipping on the signature keyboard I dutifully plugged in the charger before booting it up. I did not expect the Cortana assisted setup and never used Cortana, sadly I found the voice more reminiscent of the old text to speech engines from the 90s. Setup was a breeze and I was in and running within 5 or 10 minutes.

Reports of the hardware design and construction are accurate. It’s a nice looking device, not the soft curves of Apple devices but striking and the quality of the construction is impressive. It has the solid feel of a tablet rather than the feel of a laptop and it is quite comfortable to hold. The keyboard clips on to the bottom with a nice clunk, like closing a Volkswagen car door and any reports of the pen, certainly the new pen, not sticking to the side of the screen properly are unfounded the thing is practically welded to the side of the screen.

Perhaps my only criticism at this point and I have not tried it to be certain is that the micro SD card slot is not accessible unless the kickstand is extended slightly, although I guess you can close it again once inserted.

On the kickstand, it seems pretty well built and I am hoping that positive reports on the strength of the hinge are true. Time will tell.

Overall, very happy with the quality of the design and build of the Surface Pro, keyboard and pen.