I previously posted a brief rant in reaction to my first experience of the above. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I began to feel more comfortable with the interface. A couple of weeks on from that I no longer know what to think. Anyway, this is a long way short of a review and in any case some of my reservations and problems may well be a consequence of my own misunderstanding.
I have the 128 Gb (SSD) Surface Pro 2 (and how that "Pro" which pops up everywhere p!sses me off.) I bought this in preference to a 13" UltraBook on the assumption that by now Microsoft had had enough time to sort out the initial problems (not least by consigning "RT" to the dustbin of technology history.) Given the importance of the entire move to an integrated set of touch-enabled devices I figured that MS would make the SP series class-leading products. Hmm.
Like most people buying one of these hybrid devices I thought that it would cover two requirements. Firstly a replacement for my 8 year old Vaio/XP and secondly as a tablet: I mean, everyone else's got one, haven't they? I have no real need to run full-fat applications on this device although it's capable of doing so, unlike tablets. Unfortunately I don't get to do much recreational travel and fortunately I don't need to spend a couple of hours a day commuting on the Tube so there's no compelling need for a tablet. I like text on paper anyway.
It's small. That said it's surprisingly heavy. Several friends who have picked it up said "too heavy"... A woman friend rejected it completely for travel use on and bought a Galaxy 8" tablet: I couldn't argue with her choice on this basis. The little screen pen has nowhere to dock apart from the slot used for the magnetic charger lead and is eminently lose-able. To my mind it's not very nice to use anyway. I hate trackpads. I'm mostly using a wireless mouse... should have bought a Bluetooth version... which uses up the single USB (3) port. 4Gb of RAM isn't exactly generous for such a premium device either. Not upgradeable as far as I know.
I bought the "Type" keyboard. Nicely made and the magnetic docking function is excellent - far better than I had expected. But there's one bizzarre (to me) design feature. The left-hand shift key is about 2/3 the size of the regular alphanumeric keys whereas the right-hand shift key is about three times the size of them. Now this reproduces, sort of, the conventional key layout of full-size keyboards. Except that these usually allocate about 25% MORE space to the LH shift key. When typing (badly) on the Surface keyboard I'm constantly accidentally typing a "|" when using the LH shift key. Now I guess I should use the RH shift key but this is almost hard wired into my brain. It's absolutely infuriating.
The default text settings are tiny. This has been widely covered although I imagine as time passes that most applications will begin to accommodate the device and scale the text appropriately. In many contexts you can simply zoom up and down anyway. When running Chrome (by habit and a loathing of the IE interface) the selected default font size settings are cached for each URL - which minimises the problem.
Not having another Win 8n device I can only comment on its implementation on the Surface. I have Win 7 and XP desktop boxes too. People complained a lot about the "Metro" interface (name since abolished) but I can see why it's there if you're going to run the same OS on touch devices. I bought a Win phone on which it works very well. However there seem to be some really odd changes to the OS which drive me nuts. I don't have the time or inclination to describe them systematically but I'll mention them in no particular order.
Skydrive,(you get 200 Gb "free" for 2 years with the Surface) is implemented as a separate tile. Login to the SP2 with a MS account and mail (outlook.com), Skydrive etc are available without launching a browser. However you cannot share a gallery of pix from the native SD application! You can use it to attach dozens of huge files to an email but not simply send a link to an email address. To do this you have to launch an additional version of Skydrive in a browser. Astonishing. Useless.
Skype too suffers from a modified interface compared to previous OS versions. On the SP2 it seems to eliminate many of the functions (simultaneous texting and file transfer for example.) Maybe I'm missing something.
There's been a lot of buggering about with administrative tools and the control panel too. Why functions like system restore (see below)have to be relocated beats me.
The biggest p!ssoff in the last couple of weeks has been the MS update function. Now you'd think if everything else was flakey, they'd have at least got this right. But no... A week ago I had an update loop itself. I had to force a shutdown. And try again. Same result and worse. Whilst I can't recall the exact sequence of events (mercifully) I do know I spent many hours trying to back out of the consequent mess using, with difficulty, system restore. At one point I thought it was a return to supplier situation.
Subsequent investigations reveal that I'm not alone. The most commonly reported problem is that the firmware update mid-Dec. - assuming that it installed at all - caused the battery life to drop by at least 50%. Not good, that. But it seems to me that the reversal patch also crashed my machine; not that it's clear what's what in the update process these days - see below. Currently I'm sitting here waiting to hear reports before I install the Dec 24th firmware update. Assuming that's what it is.
In the Good Old Days you could click on the name of the patch and go to the KnowledgeBase entry for that patch to see what it's about. No longer, it seems. Now you can only see what the patch is AFTER you've installed it (update history). Assuming your Surface isn't bricked at that stage.
I've tried clicking on the support link below the patch name but that just takes you to the MS generic support site ("how to use your mouse" etc...) All attempts to find out the current status of the Surface firmware on the MS site have defeated me. There is, of course, information out there where public-spirited users blog about this stuff.
There are a few other minor niggles. One is that the integrated news aggregator has a set of pre-installed sites plus a "+" function where you can add the URL of a site you want to include in the set. This hasn't worked for any additional news site I've tried so far and the application just reports an "unable.." without any additional information. This is p!ss-poor. Doesn't anyone test this stuff at all?
Overall I just don't know how to judge this product. It has a well engineered and solid feel to it. Weight = quality (subconsciously, anyway.) The screen is very nice (207 ppi as far as I recall). But it's NOT a laptop/UltraBook and it's NOT a tablet. In truth for the same money you could probably buy a mid-price example of each for the same price as the SP2 spec which I have.
Anyway I hope there's some useful information in the above.