From iPad 2 to Surface 2: First Impressions

I bought my wife an iPad 2 for her birthday shortly after the 2 came out. She wanted it and LOVED it…just never used it. I use to get onto her in an attempt to get her to use the expensive gift. Part of it was me simply being a fool for people using tech but she really didn’t have much use for it. Unfortunately, the iPad 2 lacked basic needs for her to use it professionally and she had to force herself to use it as a consumption device.

Surface2When I bought my iMac, I tried to get her to use my old MacBook Pro, per her wishes, but she simply couldn’t make the switch to Mac. Windows was and is best for her. Realizing this and the simple fact her iPad mostly collected dust or was a large electronic Bible a few times a month [physical books are her friend] and during certain spells worked out as a good reading device, I decided to look into the Microsoft Surface 2 after seeing the improvements made in the new version.

Counting Costs

Financially it was a no-brainer. Microsoft is offering $200 [minimum] for iPad and iPhone trades. My daughter had my old iPhone 4s that she didn’t like [she hates Siri; I’m not 100% sure why but she says she doesn’t like the way it talks to her, go figure] and wanted my Nexus 4 since I just retired it for my new Nexus 5. I happily obliged her request and added it to the trade to get $400 in credit. A 32 GB Surface costs $449. Easy decision.

I went to get the 32 GB but they were sold out at the Microsoft Store in the Galleria Mall so I went ahead with the 64 GB for $159, after applied credit. Since I saved so much I added the Type Cover 2, insurance, a screen protector and a case with the $199 bundle they were offering. They were sold out of pink covers so I went with purple…close enough. :) The Touch Cover 2 didn’t suit her when we tried it in Best Buy last week but for an extra $10 I wonder who would even consider the Touch over the Type Cover.

Apps

The Store is littered with low-rent options. Since development has proven to be so easy, it leaves the Store open for less than great apps; at least that’s my assumption. This doesn’t mean it lacks essential apps for my wife’s needs but in going through the Top Free category there was definitely some trash mixed with some quality apps.

Microsoft needs to add better discovery. Either the low-rent options are the top apps [I didn’t check download count on them] or there are some much-needed updates. I was able to easily find the apps important to my wife’s needs. It just took some patience and swiping.

Setup

The initial setup was easy. Since she didn’t initially realize it was touch screen, since it looks like a laptop w/ the cover on it, she had a momentary delay on the first screen when selecting a region. After that, she flew through the setup.

The part she loved was the ease of porting her files/settings. She was asked if she wanted to set it up as a new device or copy settings from Jarvis [a streaming rig I built she now uses as her desktop computer; I name all devices after superhero culture]. She copied them, customized her background and her apps, etc were added.

There isn’t another ecosystem where this flow works this well. My Mac apps don’t setup on my iPad mini or vice versa. Keychain is new and that helps but you clearly have two separate ecosystems and, important to me, separate app development flow. There isn’t a desktop Android option so definitely not there. I have said numerous times how Microsoft has the best ecosystem from phone to tablet to desktop and actually seeing it in action proved this true. Now they just need developers to back them and Microsoft could take over marketshare. I doubt they’ll win profit share. Apple’s margins [read: overcharging] is duplicated by no other. ;-)

Usage

Touch Cover 2The Type Cover 2 is great. It is laptop quality. The touchpad on it is really easy to use, although a bit small. It turned a tablet into a laptop alternative and shows the true intelligence of the “Smart Cover“.

Flash. Yeah, that old argument. Steve Jobs was simply wrong and this helps prove it. One of my wife’s professional needs is the use of Flash. She complained constantly on while we traveled or we she tried to do work on the couch about her iPad not allowing her to be productive. This is primarily due to her profession: teaching. Many of the school district sites and educational tools use Flash. So what did she do after setup? She went to one site, tried to download a file she never could on her iPad [due to the sites use of Flash], it worked, and she was sold.

On day one her Surface provided more productivity than her iPad has in 2 years. Sure that’s a little sensationalism but it is true.

SkyDrive

My wife has a ton of Office docs in her Documents folder. I have tried to get her to use Dropbox. She didn’t [who wants to manually save all files to one folder?]. I got her into SugarSync. She used it a bit [thanks to selective folder selections] but it sat dormant so merely served as a backup.

SkyDrive? It just works. Windows 8.1 has an option to set the default save location to SkyDrive and boom…she creates a file and it is available on her desktop and Surface. [insert ‘That was easy’ button]

Moving files to the device were as easy as dragging over her 4 GB of files from her Documents folder, dropping them in her SkyDrive/Documents folder and she was setup. Of course 4 GB takes a while to upload then download but once done it is a mindless matter to keep her devices in sync. iCloud never offered her anything remotely close to this level of comfort or integration.

With a free 7 GB, she should be good for a bit but after adding her music [create a SkyDrive/Music folder, drag/drop files into it…done] she’s down to about ~1 GB left. I’m not big on paying for online storage for her after the failed Dropbox and SugarSync attempts but SkyDrive simply offers superior integration on Windows 8.1. After she cleans her old docs up, we’ll revisit paying for more storage. ;-)

Office

Clearly, based on the number of docs she owns, Office is important to my wife. Office RT comes free on Surface RT. I’ve tried moving her to Google Docs without any success. She simply is more comfortable with Office so why fight it? Her first foray into using her Surface involved her diving immediately into Office and responding with “Ok…it’s the same thing.”

Sure, touch targets, etc are small and potentially problematic but not a showstopper when you have a capable cover with a mouse embedded. She went through Word, PowerPoint, and opened an Excel file from SkyDrive to happily see it was the same file she last used on her desktop.

There is a lot of fluff about Office being old, not loved by anyone, and a failed attempt at being a stake Microsoft keeps hammering but after seeing my wife in action…they should keep this stake. Most of that noise comes from Apple zealots, understandably, but Office is #1 for a reason. iWork is a novelty…for a reason.

Printing

It just works. No new printer needed.

Closing Thoughts

You may see another post in a while stating “She didn’t use this one either” but I doubt it. :) With Office RT, printing, SkyDrive, settings/integration w/ her desktop, and the full Internet [read: Flash]…Microsoft has a winner.

This post by no means is intending to paint the iPad as an incapable device or the Surface 2 as the device you should push to your friends/family. Clearly the iPad is very capable of being productive for a lot of people but my wife wasn’t one of them. I’m not either [Nexus 7 all the way] but I know a lot of folks who truly get the most out of their iDevices.

Find what works for you and do you.

  • Dan

    Thanks for this review…my wife is a teacher as well, so this was a very helpful article…i passed it on to her so she could see how it works…not saying she is going to go out and buy a surface, but it might keep her from having to bring her laptop home…now if the surface can just run Quicken, we might have a winner :)

    So you are also saying the windows 8.1 interface is not too new and awkward compared to older versions of windows?

    thanks again!

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      Thanks! I hope it helps her.

      Get the Surface Pro. It’ll run Quicken. The Pro is laptop quality.

      I really like 8.1. The start screen is a stark change from past versions of Windows but I really like it and my wife hasn’t had any issues using it. It realllly makes sense on a Surface too. On her desktop some things didn’t quite gel but in 8.1 they added help overlays to educate users on what happens when you move your mouse to the corners. That helped.

      Ultimately 8.1 has some serious performance improvements and if you accept it for what it is vs trying to shoehorn it into earlier versions of Windows, I believe you’ll come to enjoy it.

    • ctitanic

      There is a software called Mobu that allows to import quicken files, the way I use it is exporting my bank statements to quicken format, then import those to Mobu reconciling the existing in Moby transactions with the new transactions. Mobu is a little slow in Surface RT but useable, in S2 works fine.

  • Danielle L. Myrick

    Great review. Quick question….My oldest son wants the surface 2, but my concern is canine still set up parental controls? Do you know?

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      So this is where I am won over with Microsoft’s solution. I get a report for the kids use on the laptop. Seeing as the Surface uses the same OS, I would fully expect the family safety setup since you use the same child Microsoft for both the computer(s) and the Surface.

      Here is a report from my daughter.

      • Danielle L. Myrick

        Thanks!

  • ctitanic

    Excellent review. I used an iPad as my main PC for all my needs at home for more than a year. I switched it for a Surface RT as soon it was released. When the Surface 2 was released a traded my old RT for the new S2. To make the story short, since I’m using the Surface I feel productive again. With the iPad I spent lot of time looking for workaround to do anything, the simplest thing. With Surface is all there and when I can’t do something then I can always connect to my home PC and do it there using Remote Desktop which is Free at MS Apps Store.

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      Oh man, I completely forgot about Remote Desktop AND I didn’t mention flash drives.

      So many positives to this device.

      • ctitanic

        Or the fact that you can have the device charging while being connected to a monitor and an external HDD or even a DVD Drive!

        • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

          See, I didn’t even know all that goodness. It just keeps getting better. ;)

  • Glenn Davis

    I’m just curious: what’s the advantage of a Surface 2 over just getting a larger-screened Windows laptop? Now that there are really affordable touch-screen laptops, what’s the benefit of the Surface 2? From a cost comparison standpoint, a Surface 2 with keyboard seems really expensive vs. a touch-screen Windows laptop from Toshiba or HP.

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      If you need a screen/device that large, I’d go with a laptop. The Surface Pro is a laptop replacement but even then, if I was to get a Windows laptop, I’d get the Lenovo Yoga 13″. I’m a sucker for orange devices but I also love the different styles it offers.

      As for the comparison between a Pro and a laptop, I agree it is costly. The major difference is portability. The Surface fits nicely into a pouch. It really comes down to personal preference. I suggest going to Best Buy and playing with one or hit a Microsoft Store. They have all sorts of devices to play with.