Microsoft Surface Pro Review

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Update 17/01/19

This is an old article but scroll down the page if you would like to see an experiment attaching 7 external monitors to end up with 8 working displays on the original Surface Pro!

This can of course be done with all subsequent models but in a slightly different way given the option of the newer Surface Pro dock and the two Mini-DisplayPort sockets. I am current using a Surface Pro 5 with a Surface Dock in a similar setup to the picture below but with two Samsung 24″ 1920 x 1200 displays.

Surface Pro 5 + 2x24" Screens

Update 12/02/2016

This article is now a little dated as the Surface Pro 4 has since been released. Loads of articles out there. Can’t quite justify moving up from the i7 Pro 3 but you never know.

Meanwhile a home-working pic with the new-ish Surface Dock and two external monitor setup I’ve been using for a while. N.B. if you use this you must use active Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapters otherwise you will have problems getting the two DisplayPorts to work on the Dock.

Surface Pro with Dock and 2 Monitors

Update 05/09/2014

(We’ll be updating this over the next few days as we have our hands on the top-of-the-range model, Core i7 8GB RAM/512GB HDD)

Quick note – FIRST THING update, reboot, update and update etc. again. We had a fair bit of trouble diving in thinking that there were no updates because there were none showing. Second – using the DisplayLink USB adapters will cause you problems with a blank screen that is there, and working, but blank…

1. Disconnect the adapter from the computer.
2. Run the DisplayLink Cleaner tool to completely uninstall existing DisplayLink Software:
http://displaylink.com/techsupport_f…ll_cleaner.zip
3. Download driver v7.6 M1 from the below link and follow the installation prompts.
http://www.displaylink.com/support/sla.php?fileid=119
4. Reboot the computer.
5. Replug the adapter to the computer. Allow several minutes for the driver to enumerate and for the firmware upgrade to complete.

Otherwise, she’s a beauty. Will report back soon.

Previously…

The Surface Pro 3 has just been announced and looks amazing. Shipping due in the UK the end of August. We’ll keep you posted. We by-passed the Pro 2 hoping for something special and it seems that the Pro 3 will deal with some of the niggles. The larger screen, various processor and memory configurations, and longer battery life will be a winner.

The interesting thing about all the articles being written about the Pro 3 and its predecessors is that they are mostly negative. I think most people are missing the point. Yes, it won’t last as long on battery as an iPad, yes the keyboard is extra, yes it is a bit pricey, yes it is a little large and heavy to be compared with an iPad. It is not an iPad. It is nothing like one. It is a full-blown PC that is nearly as small as an iPad. If you are someone like me who works at a desk, on the train, on the sofa etc. and you want a proper, lightweight and powerful tablet-style PC, this will clip your ticket. Microsoft really missed a trick here in trying to compete with a product that it has very little in common with, and is only just waking up to the fact that this is a brilliant product that can entirely replace your laptop, your iPad, and your desktop. You now only need the one device. I have been using my Surface Pro for work rest and play for a year now and nothing else, apart from my smartphone of course.

All the below was written a while back relating to an experiment with the Surface Pro, since then we have the Pro 2 and now the Pro 3 on its way.

The following will be entirely possible on all models. It should be noted the Pro 2 & 3 come with DisplayPort 1.2, so it may be possible to add even more monitors if you wanted to go crazy, as they can be daisy-chained. So you could have six (or more??) external USB graphics display adapters and another 1-5 monitors daisy-chained on the DisplayPort!

Surface Pro 1 Review and Experiment with 7 External Monitors

Availability

From the 23rd of May 2013 the Surface Pro has been available in the UK, and now we are being tempted with a new version, the Surface Pro 2 from October the 22nd. A little annoying to say the least – only 5 months later for the UK.

Is it a “no compromise” product? Where will it fit in and how does it compare to other tablets/PCs/laptops?

We’re not going to go into huge depth as there are hundreds of articles on the Internet. We are going to address some key points and questions for those of you who are wondering whether this really is a viable desktop or ultrabook alternative.

Warning – Fragile!

So, the first thing – get yourself a decent case for this product. The ‘Touch Cover’ or ‘Type Cover’ will NOT offer a decent level of protection against damage

We broke our screen within a month and it was well protected in a laptop bag. It seems there was pressure applied to the bottom right hand corner, and a crack appeared that spread over the course of the next day. This rendered the Surface unusable. Top tip here – disable the second USB input device in Human Interface Devices in Device Manager to disable the touch screen and be able to work.

The other thing that we had a problem with is that the Type Cover has a rubberised surface. This can very unhelpfully trap a single (or more) grain of sand. When the case was closed this slowly bored a hole into the lovely screen!

At this point though – and it has to be said – the Microsoft Complete warranty for the Surface Pro really was worth the (rather high at £249) price. Sending in the Surface on Monday resulting in a new one arriving on Friday. It would have been Thursday if UPS could have worked our how to ring our doorbell properly. You will get a replacement, so back up your data, and there are a maximum of two damage claims in the 2 years.

Covers Cases and Keyboards

We would strongly recommend getting a “Rigid Black Zip Case With Elasticated Interior Strap Custom Designed For The Microsoft Surface” from GadgetPlusUK on Amazon as well as an “Expert Shield – THE Screen Protector for: Microsoft Surface RT & Windows 8 Pro 10.6″ Tablet *Lifetime Guarantee*” from Expert Shield on Amazon as well. These two products will save your bacon!

One other thing to note; you may want to consider alternatives to the Touch or Type Cover. Either are great for casual use, but working on the train forces you to over-hang the front edge of the cover on the edge of the table to give the person opposite more room. Get a Bluetooth Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard and Wedge Mouse – photos further down this article. With the above case and these two you may even decide not to go for the Touch or Type Cover.

So – all that aside – the product – what’s the verdict?

Well, although pricey, it is really an excellent experience. There are a lot of foibles to running applications and an OS that has not really been designed from scratch for touch, and as with any Microsoft operating system, you have to expect the odd hiccup or glitch.

It has to be said – there is not much that can touch the Surface in terms of size, build and capability. Our iPad is weeping in the cupboard.

Hello productivity! No longer is a hand-held tablet a thing of content consumption – it is now a full-blown OS capable of pretty-much anything you can throw at it.

Workhorse/Desktop Replacement?

Simple answer – yes.

In our office we have a Surface Pro set up with its own screen and two additional 1920×1200 external TFT screens, one on the DisplayPort and one on a USB Display Adapter (see below).

It can take everything we throw at it and it is great to be able to throw it in a bag and pick up working on the train.

Monitors Crazy!

See how we can run up to 8 screens including the one on the device itself. We cobbled together as many high-resolution displays as we could for this experiment.

Here we have the Surface Pro screen at 1920 x 1080, two other screens at 1920 x 1200 and another four at 1920 x 1080

Surface_Pro_1Here we were running animated web pages in Chrome on each screen and the BBC iPlayer playing video on the top left one.

Surface_Pro_2Surface_Pro_3

With static content the processor is fine, but it gets a little busy when showing all the above dynamic web pages and video using the 8 screens:
Surface_Pro_4

A slightly more sensible setup with two 1920 x 1200 monitors…

Surface_Pro_5

So – How Did We Do This?

We connected one screen using the Mini DisplayPort and another 6 using a Belkin F4U041 USB powered hub and Diamond USB Display Adapters as well as a USB wireless keyboard and mouse.

These display adapters can give up to 2048 x 1152 each apparently, by the way, but we didn’t have a large enough collection of high-res monitors to test with I’m afraid!

We also happen to sell these. Please contact us or buy direct from our eBay site… Click Here  ** Sold Out – Sorry **

Touch Type vs Wedge Mouse/Keyboard

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