The MS dream combo?

Surface Pro3, Windows 10 and Office 2016 – a perfect combination?

OK, I admit this review has been a long time coming – I first took delivery of my Surface Pro 3 in March in 2015, however, I didn’t feel I could review the device until I had Windows 10 installed as it would have been massively negative due to Windows 8. This would have been unfair on the hardware as it certainly is well built.

I think it is fair to say I am what is affectionately known as a gadget freak – I have, and use on a daily basis, a 2008 iMac, a 2015 Pixel Chromebook LS, my Surface (running i5 processor, 128gb memory and with 4gb of RAM) as well as a plethora of tablets running different operating systems.

I guess I have never been truly satisfied with any one OS and kept looking for tech utopia which clearly doesn’t exist but would I come closer to it with the Surface running in tandem with Windows 10 and Office 2016?

So before that conclusion a little about how I use the Surface in my work life.

I predominantly work on the web (we run a hybrid cloud network) along with various applications, mostly in-house built along with an on-premise server housing our client data. For me, the first application I turn to on boot up is a browser. Being in marketing communications visual presentation is very important so PowerPoint and now Sway along with complex data routines using Excel is core to the tools we utilise. Having the ability to load third party applications such as InDesign is also a must. We also have several clients we keep in contact with via Skype for Business using both video conferencing and the IM functionality.

sp3

For me, it is vital the technology “just works” how it should from the ease of collaboration within the different Romax Teams to our clients – if I can spend more time on Romax than on IT issues then it’s a win for me.

Now to the positives:

* Where the Surface shines is in the quality of the materials used from the kickstand to the gorgeous screen (certainly one of the best I have ever used but not as good as my Pixel).

* It scores very high on mobility (with the exception of the battery life as listed in the negatives) as it is very powerful but incredibly lightweight compared to any other laptop

* The pen is a revelation being able to use One Note and draw directly onto the screen has brought dividends in client brainstorming meetings.

* Having the ability to do anything from one device has allowed me to become more efficient whether that is being responsive to client needs or interacting with the teams here at Romax.

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And some negatives:

* It gets very hot around the USB and charging cable area (in fact my first Pro3 was returned after two days due to it frying the motherboard)

* The type cover keyboard is only good for mobility it is not for serious typing so you will need a “proper” keyboard although the new Microsoft Pro 4 keyboard which fits the Pro 3 maybe better

* When used as a tablet, for media consumption, for example, it is quite heavy so prolonged use will definitely build your arm muscles

* Battery life is not terrific with about 5 hours real world use – although Microsoft has done a good job in making the charger very light and useful with a built-in USB port

* However, for me the biggest negative is it is not “lap” friendly – if I want to relax at home, or indeed catch up on work whilst travelling, sitting on a sofa or armchair is out.

One of the attractions of the Apple system was the marriage of hardware and software and for Google it’s fantastic collaboration ability within its Apps suite, so have Microsoft achieved this? In short with the introduction of Windows 10 and Office 2016 the answer is yes.

Windows 10 works so much more logically – no longer having to use two different browsers for example when in desktop or tablet mode. Collaboration on documents and presentations is so much more streamlined and intuitive as is the sharing – in Office 2016 just click top right and share with permission setting. Without a doubt, the Office 2016 suite, and in particular Excel, is world leading and at last Microsoft are catching up with Google in its ability for teams to work together wherever they are.

One reason I was never satisfied with the Microsoft eco system was in its inability to handle media – from photos to music – in my opinion, Windows media player was a disaster with frequent crashes. Certainly media handling has improved, especially if using a Windows smartphone, where photos upload to One Drive without a glitch and in Windows 10 there is no longer different folders carrying the same media as there was in Windows 8.

So in conclusion Microsoft are going in the right direction with both their hardware and software approach and are now suddenly becoming the most exciting tech company around. All in all the Surface Pro 3 is a very good machine, especially so since recent price cuts, but for me, I will carry on searching for tech nirvana, which may well come in the shape of the recently released Surface Book or I might just stick to my Pixel LS and enjoy life!

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