Breaking My 264 Day ‘Buying Fast’ With A Surface Pro 3

imagesIt’s been 264 days since I last bought anything new, not because I don’t have the money, but because I decided that I had enough stuff in my life.  Well that ‘buying fast’ came to an end today with the purchase of a Surface Pro 3.  I’ve owned a first generation Surface RT and Surface Pro in the past, both of which were quickly sold for a profit because they didn’t mesh well with my needs, but I’m hoping the Surface Pro 3 is different.  The key things that made the SP3 the ideal device whereas the previous versions failed that test include a fabulous screen, a form factor that’s close to A4, lower cost, light weight and all-day battery life and design for laptop use. This post complements my first thoughts on the SP3 that I wrote on the day that it launched.

Let’s step back a bit though.  I already have a great x230 laptop, an iPhone 4S and an iPad Mini with Retina display, so I’m pretty spoilt, by what I consider to be the best light weight hard use laptop money can buy and the best mini tablet.  The iPhone 4S is getting a bit old now, but it meets by needs for now.  Unfortunately I know that something’s missing from my device line up because I’ve owned tablet PCs in the past, in fact I owned the best tablet PC that money could buy 10 years ago the classic TC1100 which until now has never been bettered.  Using the TC1100 taught me that there’s more to a tablet than the iPad can give.  The iPad is without doubt the best research and reading device I’ve ever used and it has the best apps, but for key use cases it’s lacking.

Here’s what I’m looking for in a Tablet that the iPad doesn’t deliver:

  1. A first class review/mark-up experience for PDF and Office documents.  This is hugely important to me, it’s one of the activities that I do best and I do a lot of it
  2. The ability to read large Word and PDFs, typically A4 size.  This is another key part of my job and whilst in theory I can do it on my laptop, I rarely do because many text books, magazines, product brochures, whitepapers and analyst reports are just too much of a struggle to read, my iPad mini with retina display in theory has good enough resolution but it’s just too small. 
  3. The ability to do free form sketches, I love to sketch out ideas and a SP3 with a stylus should be amazing for this.  I fell in love with this way of working when I had the TC1100 10 years ago and have missed it for the last 7 years.  The integration between the stylus and OneNote is especially impressive
  4. The ability to sketch on the screen when I’m hosting a video conference, I use Zoomit for this.  I’d love to bind the pen button to Zoomit draw mode.
  5. The ability to run Calibre which is the application I use to catalogue all of my books, manuals, analyst reports and magazines.  Calibre is simply brilliant, but it only runs on Windows
  6. I sometimes need to access work email via a browser and that only works well in internet explorer
  7. I prefer the speed and power of the windows desktop Evernote interface, and Evernote is central to my personal knowledge management system
  8. I need true multi-tasking and a fast way to switch between apps
  9. I’d like to carry all of my files with me and sync them between my desktop, laptop and tablet in the background.  I’m settling on BitTorrent Sync for this as the fastest and most secure option I can find
  10. A great remote desktop experience for accessing my Windows PCs at home, including access to my home server which is critical when travelling
  11. I want the ability to search across all of my files and I’ve settled on the amazing Everything search app for this

After several weeks thinking through my options I’ve decided that even if an iPad pro turns up in the next 6 months, it’s not going to fix these issues and so I need a Windows tablet.  If I need a Windows tablet there really is no other option that meets my needs, so it has to be a SP3.

So having made that decision I then needed to decide which model to buy and I opted for the cheapest model possible the i3 with 64GB of memory.  My rationale for this decision was as follows:

  1. The i3 is substantially faster than the iPad Air and the iPad mini and these seem fine for most tasks
  2. The i3 is also faster than the laptop that I had prior to the one I’m currently using and I was happy with that performance for all but a few tasks
  3. The i5 is only 20-30% faster than the i3 and that delta will rarely be noticed for most tasks based on my past experience.  The price difference however is substantial and although I would get a larger SSD I can buy a fast 64GB SD card for a fraction of the price difference
  4. The i7 is way out of my league, unless I were to replace my laptop and just have a single device

2014-08-15 12.17.07Which brings me to the next decision, do I replace my laptop with the SP3.  I’ve decided not to, for the following reasons:

  1. I hate depending on a single device for work.  I much prefer to have two devices kept in synch with each other.  This gives me the confidence that I can continue just fine if a device breaks and provides resilience against data loss
  2. For my primary work device I prefer a device that’s provided by work and similarly for my personal knowledge management and entertainment device I prefer one that I’ve purchased myself
  3. If I only had a single device I would probably have felt the need to invest in the i7 which is crazy expensive
  4. I like the flexibility of using the laptop and tablet as complementary devices.  I do this a lot with my iPad today.  For example I will be scanning my RSS feeds while attending a web conference.

Which brings me to my next big decision, do I buy just the tablet on it’s own or add the keyboard as well.  I decided to buy the keyboard.  My rationale for this decision was as follows:

  1. I’ve purchased Logitech keyboards for my original iPad 3 and for my iPad Mini and found in both cases that it added substantially to the flexibility
  2. Windows is meant to be used with a keyboard, and although I know that just using my TC1100 with a stylus was fine, the keyboard definitely reduced frustrations at times
  3. The keyboard protects the screen
  4. I might find that the SP3 replaces my laptop after all, I definitely won’t be able to verify that without using the keyboard for a few weeks
  5. Adding the keyboard will make it practical to leave my laptop at home if I want to travel light

Fortunately I can now restart my buying fast because I already have a nice bag that I purchased when I was trialling the original Surface Pro which should work fine.  I’m still going to be keeping my iPad as it’s much more portable and it also acts as the mobile 4G hotspot for my laptop and soon the SP3.

For other posts relating to me and my Surface Pro 3 you can check out this link

The first photo in this blog post is of the Surface Pro 3 pen, because in deciding to buy the SP3 the experience of using the pen was the key tipping point. It’s my custom though to provide a photo of some nice scenery with each blog post, so today I chose the view north along Blackpool prom, almost exactly at the spot where I made the decision to buy the SP3 today.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

5 Responses

  1. Nigel says:

    Do you do bidirectional syncing? If so do you trust it?

    I keep my main laptop as my primary source and sync one direction only to all my devices.

  2. I do use it bi directional. I’ve never had an issue provided I don’t have the same file open concurrently

  3. Joe O'MARA says:

    I sync two desktops, external backup drives, my Airstash wireless storage for iPad and my Laptop bidirectionally. And I might add without failure, yes, I can trust that the latest documents are synchronized to all my devices.

    I use a product by Heatsoft, called “Automatic Synchronizer”. Tell it the folders or drives I want synchronized or mirrored an it takes care of the job for me. The ability to put in file filters, folder filters and rules for synchronization are superb. I’ve been using it for years now and it is affordable. All my pictures, and documents are synchronized between my NAS drive, my Backup drive and my Desktop computer and it takes minutes to synchronize new files, it only synchronizes new files once I’ve got a copy on my backup drives.

  4. Joe O'MARA says:

    BTW, I posted some review comments inspired by your write up. See ttp://surfingjoe.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/surface-pro-3-review/ ‎

  1. August 16, 2014

    […] I’ve picked up pen and paper (fictitiously), to write about the Surface Pro 3. I’m inspired by our friend Steve Richard’s post regarding his recent purchase of the new Surface Pro 3 http://steves.seasidelife.com/2014/08/15/breaking-my-264-day-buying-fast-with-a-surface-pro-3/. […]

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