Selling your soul; my first step into the Microsoft Surface eco system

I am a Tech Geek.  I have been a tablet user far longer than almost everyone as I started with a Dauphin DTR1, the very first tablet computer back in 1994.  It was impractical in every way but in other ways it was incredibly functional and obvious that it was the way of the future.  From that point I have used pretty much every tablet ever made, and I was overjoyed when Apple got it right with the ipad.  The UI being designed from the ground up to be touch based solved all the problems that others before it had.  Windows 3.11 for pen computing, Windows for Tablets, Windows XP all worked but were clunky in every way as you kept running into keyboard and precision pointer needs.  the iPad solved all those and with Android hot on the heels created some of the best tablets we have ever had in the history of computing.  Android and iOS both created very useable and smooth interfaces that changed the world and brought us the true Star Trek data pad we all have seen and wanted.

But for me it has always been a slight miss, I do some things with computers that 99% of the world does not.  Tuning and troubleshooting motorcycles and cars via the ODB-II interface simply has no real software or hardware options on Android Tablets or Apple iPads.  Same goes for Ham Radio software as well as what I use for my profession as an AV programmer.   It is getting better, but 3 years later I still need software and apps  that Android and iOS just do not have, so I need to return to the Windows Ecosystem.  That means a Microsoft Surface Pro, and after research the Pro 3 is not worth the money, but you can get from several sources Microsoft Refurbished Pro 1 tablets for around $350.00 in like new shape.  Ok, I'll take the risk on one at that price, at worst I can install Ubuntu on it and have a linux tablet to earn some nerd street cred.  NewEgg had some refurbs so I ordered one.   At first glance this "old and fat" surface is not bad at all, the screen is incredibly clear and easy to read even at it's 10.2" size,  I do like the true 16:9 aspect ratio more than the apple standard.   But I cant play with it yet, just like the Xbox One experience I have to wait a few hours while it downloads and installs about 900,000 updates.   it seems that microsoft never updates their internal image files to include any updates, so devices that get refurbished get installed the oldest possible OS image available.  That means waiting for downloads, updates, reboots, more downloads, updates, reboots...  it sure looks nice while its updating..... and the updates are forced, I tried to install some software from the store before updating... but everything complained that I was out of date and only after updating will I be able to install software.   Knowing that this is the typical Microsoft Operating standard, I complied.....  3 hours later and it's still updating, this time around it's on update 73 of 108.

It is now 6 actual hours later and I have updated the tablet enough to install windows 8.1 update.  That only took another hour and now the tablet is useable.  Yes it's still the horribly outdated old Surface Pro 1 but it's 100% useful.  Sadly it suffers from all the problems I have experienced with previous Windows on Tablets iterations.   99% of all software out there is not designed for a tablet and is klunky, including internet explorer.  Microsoft still has a long way to go with their on screen keyboard, it covers up what you are trying to type in and is freakishly huge.  It's nice to type on, but honestly taking up 50% of the screen is just nuts.  Sadly microsoft is typical and you can not download and install a better keyboard.  This is the #1 reason why everyone buys the $160 keyboard cover.   Windows 8.1 is actually brilliant on a touchscreen device, that same interface when used with a mouse makes people want to murder puppies.  After learning some of the strange UI quirks, like the start boxes will not show the menu options until you let go of them it's fairly easy to get around.   I understand that I inflict this klunkyness on myself by getting the pro and the full OS.  and to be honest, Windows 8/8.1 is massively better than Linux is in the tablet/touchscreen world.  I have never understood why there has not been a touch based windows manager ever made for Linux/BSD.

Build quality is nothing like an ipad,  it just feels cheap, and that kick stand really needs to go away, yet microsoft tried to tout it as a reason to get it in their ads.... very odd.   Using this tablet for the Car ODB-II scanning and performance tuning will work just fine, in fact it will be a lot more convenient as you can get a suction cup window mount for a tablet so it can stick there on the dashboard while I drive and collect data.    ECM programming on the motorcycle will also be a lot easier, although I know the screen will be completely unreadable when outside in the sun.  But where I am really excited is that my ham radio hobby I can now run all the digital modes with standard desktop software.   Yes it will have uses at work as well, I will be able to just grab the tablet and do some basic tweaking or uploading to a customers Crestron system without having to break out the laptop, as well as use some of the really good acoustic room tuning software that you need a full PC for.

 Would I buy a Surface Pro 3 for the $1299 to $1499 price point?   Nope,  this is just not worth the price of a premium high end laptop without the processing power and expandability, they really should have been priced the same as the iPad.  What would I pay extra for?  get rid of the kick stand (yes that again) and make it 1mm thicker to deliver a replaceable battery and a door to access the mSATA SSD drive for upgrading.  Hack if they used a decent engineer, the back panel would side off after a couple of screws removed and allow you to release the front plate and LCD to deliver some repairability.  Yes I know that the ipad is not really repairable, but it's $399 and not $1299.  at $1299 I want at least the illusion of repairability or upgradability.  Overall I am happy with my purchase, it's fast as any i5 laptop and the 4gb of ram is plenty for every task I throw at it.  the 64 gig of space is in reality less than 30gb because the OS and the recovery partition takes up all of that.  I'll be installing a 64gig MicroSD card for file storage.  and when I get bored with it, I may even try to set it up to dual boot linux/windows so I can impress the Linux nerds at work with an Ubuntu Tablet.


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