Surface Go: The Future PC That the iPad Pro Failed to Deliver →

August 29, 2018 · 11:45

Owen Wilson, on Charged:

If you take an iPad-sized device, cram a whole computer into it, then blur the boundaries between PC and tablet completely, you get something interesting: the Surface Go. I’ve been testing Microsoft’s new tiny 10-inch tablet for a few weeks, and it’s totally changed my perception of what computers are going to look like in the future.

I like his take on Microsoft’s new Surface Go, but I have some comments I’d like to share.

The Surface Go is a curious device, because it sits somewhere in-between devices like the iPad and actual full-on laptops, like the Surface Book or a MacBook Pro. It’s small enough to be an iPad, but has enough processing power to run desktop apps if you need to.

I still use a 15-inch Surface Book 2 and while it can be used as a tablet, there are way too few apps that make it as easy or fun to use as an iPad. On the plus side, typical desktop-y tasks are often easier. This is a software problem on both platforms.

The first thing I noticed after booting it up is just how much better the Surface Go’s kickstand is. I’d never loved these things, because they always felt like they were awkward, or got in the way — but the Go’s hinge goes all the way back, meaning it’s able to prop itself up just a little for writing notes or drawing.

I really wish the iPad had an integrated kickstand — just this would make things so much easier.

There’s a track pad at the bottom of the keyboard, unlike the iPad Pro which omits it intentionally and forces you to use only touch as a fine-grained input. Apple has done a hell of a job trying to convince people that a mouse isn’t necessary, but little to actually prove it; I’d always missed a more precise input method when I used an iPad Pro at length.

Apple argues that Macs shouldn’t get touchscreens because it’s not comfortable to hold your hand out in the air to interact with them but that’s precisely what you do if you use an iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard. A trackpad would go a long way to help solve this.

The final notable piece of hardware is the one you look at the most: the screen. It’s 10-inches, with a resolution of 1,800 x 1,200. That’s pretty good for the size, and doesn’t feel cramped for the most part. The display delivers great brightness and color accuracy, with an ambient light sensor that isn’t overly sensitive to light changes — but it’s all let down by a bezel that feels far too large around the edges.

The iPad Pros have calibrated displays which cover the Display P3 gamut. The MacBook Pros do too. The Surface line (apart from the Surface Studio) does not. Microsoft should remedy this immediately. I also consider the Surface Go’s resolution to be too small and the bezels too thick.

I debated even mentioning this, because I’m frustrated by the constant ludicrous push for thinner bezels that lead to the notch becoming universal in smartphones. Bezels really don’t matter, in practice and the Surface Go’s are not really a problem at all when it comes to functionality, but they are sticking point on a year that the iPad is rumored to lose even more of its already-thin bezel.

Thinner bezels allow for the fitting of a larger screen in the same footprint. That’s a good thing. Imagine if the Surface Go had 12” instead but retained the same external dimensions. That would make it so much more compelling.

My first experience with Surface Go was actually a mind-boggling accident that reaffirmed why I wanted this device in the first place. I received it while at the office, where I use my Surface Book with my screen, through Microsoft’s single-port magsafe connector that charges the device at the same time.

I opened the Surface Go box, but the battery was low from being in transit, so I figured I’d top it up while setting it up and slammed in the magsafe dock cable. It booted immediately, and surprisingly worked with the very same dock, so was on my 4K display at 60hz, with the keyboard and mouse already set up.

This is what I really like about the Surface Pro and Go — one device for different situations.

I’m a huge convert to using the Surface Pen for note-taking and annotation with the Surface Book 2, but the Go is a game-changer because it’s so tiny. It’s just a little bit shy of an A4 piece of paper, and around the size of my existing physical notebook, so it’s a good candidate for full-time notes usage.

OneNote is perhaps Microsoft’s best-kept secret. It’s a solid application with stellar support for inking features, like OCR from your writing, or interpreting what shapes you’re drawing. It’s become my go-to inking app, and is great for keeping a larger notebook of things that are written with the pen. The Surface Go is the killer device for ink, and it makes the Surface Pen an absolute necessity. Because I’m using the Go, and it’s always with me, I now write everything down.

The iPad Pro and Pencil combo are really great for taking notes but I my Pencil is usually too far away from me to bother going looking for it. It’s also usually discharged. Apple really should figure out a magnetic way to attach it to the iPad.


If the Surface Go was available with a higher resolution screen (calibrated for sRGB or Display P3) and smaller bezels, with a 256 GB fast SSD and 16 gigs of RAM, I’d probably go for it. It would make a perfect travel computer for developing my photos in Lightroom.


July 21, 2018 · 22:55

There’s something amazing about using a 15-inch tablet, weighing only 800 grams or so. It might not be as refined as an iPad but there are areas where it offers so much more. Kudos to Microsoft for the Surface Book.


The Surface Book 2 Is the Real Deal →

July 4, 2018 · 19:36

Marco Arment:

The Surface Book 2 is also the real deal. Massive 15” 3:2 screen, detachable to a great-feeling tablet with a great pen that stows easily.

Touch/tablet-hybrid laptops aren’t just the future — they’re the present. Apple’s either being coy about future products or is in denial.

 


The Surface Book 2 Is Everything the MacBook Pro Should Be →

July 3, 2018 · 10:29

Owen Williams, on his blog Charged:

I’m back to say I was wrong, and I’ve found a machine that not only matches Apple’s standard of hardware quality, but goes far beyond it to demonstrate how a laptop of the future should work.

That machine is the 15-inch Surface Book 2 and somehow Microsoft has made the 2-in-1 that Apple should’ve been building all along, to the same level of quality I’d expect from anyone other than Microsoft.

I’ve used the Surface Book 2 as my daily computer for three months now and it’s consistently blown me away with how well considered it is across the board, how great the software works and has completely converted me into the touchscreen laptop camp.

Unless Apple gets their act together, start innovating, post regular CPU/GPU updates, my next notebook will most probably be a Surface Book. It’s not perfect by any means, and I’d miss macOS a lot, but I’d manage. What’s tempting me most is the removable screen which can be used with the full Adobe Lightroom experience. I wouldn’t mind a Surface Studio too, on the condition that it had a replaceable M.2 SSD instead of a hybrid drive and an upgradeable GPU.


Teen Hackers Snatched the Keys to Microsoft’s Videogame Empire →

June 25, 2018 · 11:20

Brendan Koerner, for Wired:

Pokora had long been aware that his misdeeds had angered some powerful interests, and not just within the gaming industry; in the course of seeking out all things Xbox, he and his associates had wormed into American military networks too. But in those early hours after his arrest, Pokora had no clue just how much legal wrath he’d brought upon his head: For eight months he’d been under sealed indictment for conspiring to steal as much as $1 billion worth of intellectual property, and federal prosecutors were intent on making him the first foreign hacker to be convicted for the theft of American trade secrets. Several of his friends and colleagues would end up being pulled into the vortex of trouble he’d helped create; one would become an informant, one would become a fugitive, and one would end up dead.

It’s amazing how fast someone’s judgement can become skewed the wrong way.


Surface Book 2: Six Months Later →

May 28, 2018 · 12:47

Brad Sams, for Petri IT Knowledgebase:

When the Surface Book 2 was announced late last year, I had high hopes that this was going to be among my favorite laptops, ever. All Microsoft had to do was take the original Book and address the few issues with the hardware and voila, a hero device for the category.

It’s a bit hard to believe but the device was released six months ago and since that time, I have taken the high-end 15in Surface Book 2 on the road to Vegas, NYC, Seattle, Chicago and a few other locations and after all that time with the hardware, here is my long term update.

This is one of the notebooks currently on the market which pose an interesting alternative to the MacBook Pro. I am especially interested in using it for retouching photos in Lightroom, using just the 15” screen in detached mode.

It’s hard to come by extended reviews such as Brad’s, but he conveys his pros and cons succinctly. The Surface Book’s biggest issue is the power button, which sometimes fails to turn the machine on. While this seems serious, the workaround (which shouldn’t be necessary) is extremely simple.

Just the simple fact that I am looking at alternatives to MacBooks, which I have been using for over 10 years now, should be worrying for Apple. While the Surface Book 2 could potentially be an excellent Lightroom hardware platform, I would miss macOS for everything else. Oh — the keyboard supposedly doesn’t die from dust specks. Ultimately the Surface Book 2 would be a compromise, like everything in life, but Microsoft is really trying to tempt users, and is probably succeeding in some cases.


Microsoft Could Fix The Surface Book 2 By Slowing The Machine Down →

November 16, 2017 · 16:19

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

One issue I did run into with the Surface Book 2 is the power supply. Microsoft has only supplied a 102-watt charger with a machine that has an Nvidia GTX 1060 inside. Most similar laptops are gaming ones that have 150-watt or even 200-watt power supplies. There are two batteries inside the Surface Book 2, one in the base and one in the tablet portion (screen) itself. The base battery discharges too quickly with the supplied charger, meaning the Nvidia card (located in the base) will disconnect in the middle of a long gaming session at maximum performance even if you’re plugged in.

Microsoft is currently investigating this issue, and believes I have a faulty power supply. The company says the “Surface Book 2 is designed to supply enough power to maintain and charge, even under heavy load (including gaming).” I didn’t notice the discharge with apps that rely on the GPU, but most productivity apps simply use graphics power in short bursts rather than long periods like in games. I suspect the 102-watt charger isn’t enough for full performance gaming sessions, which will disappoint many who were hoping to use this as a gaming laptop alongside work tasks. I’ll update this review if the replacement charger makes a difference.

I have also tested with an old 65-watt Surface Book charger and the base still drains too quickly during gaming. I’ve also tested with a Surface Dock, rated at around 90 watts, and this still doesn’t hold the base charge to keep up while gaming. In all scenarios I also tested with the recommended “best battery life” setting, but the base still failed to charge properly during heavy gaming loads. If a replacement charger doesn’t work, Microsoft could potentially fix this in software by reducing the GTX 1060 clock speeds further and slowing the machine down.

Or… you know… they could just supply a more powerful charger.


More People Are Switching From Macs to Surface Than Ever Before →

December 12, 2016 · 16:34

Brian Hall:

More people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before. Our trade-in program for MacBooks was our best ever, and the combination of excitement for the innovation of Surface coupled with the disappointment of the new MacBook Pro – especially among professionals – is leading more and more people to make the switch to Surface, like this. It seems like a new review recommending Surface over MacBook comes out daily. This makes our team so proud, because it means we’re doing good work.

I have been considering this too, but the Performance Base Surface Book is just too expensive (and not available for purchase in my country) — the model that fits my needs best costs $2400. That’s 15″ MacBook Pro territory.


Introducing Visual Studio for Mac [fixed link] →

November 14, 2016 · 12:40

Mikayla Hutchinson:

At Connect(); in November, Microsoft is launching a preview of Visual Studio for Mac. This is an exciting development, evolving the mobile-centric Xamarin Studio IDE into a true mobile-first, cloud-first development tool for .NET and C#, and bringing the Visual Studio development experience to the Mac.

At its heart, Visual Studio for Mac is a macOS counterpart of the Windows version of Visual Studio. If you enjoy the Visual Studio development experience, but need or want to use macOS, you should feel right at home. Its UX is inspired by Visual Studio, yet designed to look and feel like a native citizen of macOS. And like Visual Studio for Windows, it’s complemented by Visual Studio Code for times when you don’t need a full IDE, but want a lightweight yet rich standalone source editor.

Update

Fixed link; leads to cached version of page.


I Expected More From the Surface Book’s Battery Life →

November 11, 2016 · 09:54

Dan Seifert:

Also missed on me is the increased battery life. In our rundown test, the Surface Book lasted 10 hours and 21 minutes, which is quite good. But in my real-world usage, browsing the web, jumping between a half-dozen apps, writing email, monitoring social feeds, etc., it struggled to last a full work day before calling it quits. Most days, the Surface Book would last between six and eight hours, which is about average for a laptop of this size. (Using the Book as a tablet worked for about two hours before it died, which is unchanged from last year.) That’s a far cry from Microsoft’s claimed 16 hours and less than my colleague Vlad Savov could get with the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. Fortunately, this Surface Book has no issues going to sleep when it’s closed and in my bag, which is a problem I’ve encountered with numerous Windows 10 laptops over the past year.

When Apple showed the new MacBook Pros, I actually looked around at the competition, and the Surface Book was one of two laptops that piqued my interest, mainly due to 16 hours of battery life. I had foolishly assumed that I could indeed use it for that long without a charge.

One other thing that completely put me off is its weight.


Microsoft Invented the Tablet Market →

August 22, 2016 · 22:25

Matt Weinberger:

It’s not all sunshine and roses for Surface, though: Despite booking $4.1 billion in Surface revenue last quarter, and despite the fact that the Microsoft Surface basically invented the market that Apple is now carving out for itself with the iPad Pro, Microsoft is still lagging behind Apple in so-called hybrid-tablet sales overall.

Wait, what?


Facebook, Google and WhatsApp Plan to Increase Encryption of User Data →

March 14, 2016 · 20:38

Danny Yadron:

Silicon Valley’s leading companies – including Facebook, Google and Snapchat – are working on their own increased privacy technology as Apple fights the US government over encryption, the Guardian has learned.

The projects could antagonize authorities just as much as Apple’s more secure iPhones, which are currently at the center of the San Bernardino shooting investigation. They also indicate the industry may be willing to back up their public support for Apple with concrete action.

Within weeks, Facebook’s messaging service WhatsApp plans to expand its secure messaging service so that voice calls are also encrypted, in addition to its existing privacy features. The service has some one billion monthly users. Facebook is also considering beefing up security of its own Messenger tool.

Snapchat, the popular ephemeral messaging service, is also working on a secure messaging system and Google is exploring extra uses for the technology behind a long-in-the-works encrypted email project.

At this point in time I would like to see more action from the other tech companies — this is obviously a delicate situation, but too much is at stake.


Microsoft Buys SwiftKey for $250 Million →

February 3, 2016 · 09:29

Tim Bradshaw and Murad Ahmed for the Financial Times:

Microsoft is paying about $250m to acquire London-based Swiftkey, maker of a predictive keyboard powered by artificial intelligence that is installed on hundreds of millions of smartphones, according to people familiar with the deal.

Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock, who founded the company in 2008 when both were in their 20s, will each make upwards of $30m from the buyout, which is set to be announced this week.

I have been a SwiftKey user on Android for many years and while the keyboard layout has its own issues, it has one absolutely genius function: the ability to choose two primary languages. This means that the keyboard will auto discover which one we are currently typing in and autocorrect as necessary — there is no need to change the language at all.

I really hope Apple adds this feature to iOS soon — I really miss it, switching between keyboards dozens of times per day. I’m not alone — Federico Viticci also sees this as a problem. The thing is… the technology to overcome this already exists. Please Apple, add it to your to-do list.


AnandTech’s Apple iPad Pro Review →

January 25, 2016 · 11:39

Joshua Ho, Brandon Chester & Ryan Smith for AnandTech:

The iPad Pro is arguably the first tablet that I personally want to even consider buying. It isn’t perfect by any means, and there is still a lot of work to be done – seemingly fitting for a first-generation Apple device – but for the first time in a long time it feels like the broader tablet market is advancing once again. If you want a proper tablet that can replace pencil and paper with a keyboard for extended typing sessions, I have no problem recommending the iPad Pro. If you’re hoping for a laptop that can also double as a tablet, I suspect that the Surface Pro 4 will remain the right choice for you.

Having tested both the iPad Pro (which I bought) and the Surface Pro 4 (which I didn’t), I found that the former is a great tablet and can function as a laptop replacement for many, while the latter is a good laptop, which can be used as a tablet, albeit a bad one due to issues with Windows and the lack of quality apps.

P.S. Autocorrect is giving me a hard time today…


Microsoft Uploads Windows 10 Encryption Keys to Their Servers →

December 30, 2015 · 07:23

Micah Lee:

ONE OF THE EXCELLENT FEATURES of new Windows devices is that disk encryption is built-in and turned on by default, protecting your data in case your device is lost or stolen. But what is less well-known is that, if you are like most users and login to Windows 10 using your Microsoft account, your computer automatically uploaded a copy of your recovery key — which can be used to unlock your encrypted disk — to Microsoft’s servers, probably without your knowledge and without an option to opt out.

It’s as if they want you to go and get a Mac.


The iPad Pro Smart Keyboard vs. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Type Cover

December 25, 2015 · 17:16

I’ve wanted to write about so many things during these past few weeks, but I never could find the time to get into them. One of those on hold have been my thoughts and first impressions of the Surface Pro 4, which I had on loan for a few weeks. It coincided with the time when I bought my iPad Pro. A few of the more interesting aspects of the two are the keyboards, hardware design and ergonomics of Apple’s and Microsoft’s products.

Continue reading →


Tom Warren Blasts Microsoft Lumia 950 XL in Review →

December 19, 2015 · 10:59

Tom Warren:

There’s no easy way to say this, but like the smaller Lumia 950, the Lumia 950 XL design is simply boring. It’s uninspired, plasticky, and looks like any other low-end Lumia that Microsoft has been churning out over the past year. If you’re someone that believes Windows Phone is dead, this is the casket you’d bury it in. It looks like a developer device, and feels like whatever talent was left at Microsoft from Nokia just gave up on designing anything pretty.

Ouch.