Third time’s a charm

Surface Pro 3
Microsoft's Surface Pro 3. (Image: Microsoft)

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31 October 2014 | 0

I’ve blogged on previous occasions about deploying an ultrabook-spec tablet as my main productivity machine.

I did so with the Microsoft Surface Pro and Pro 2.

Much of this was around the right accessories and sorting out applications, and then the practicalities of being able to slip the device into a bag and head off to a conference, business trip or just going on holliers.

When the first previews came out about the Surface Pro 3, and how Microsoft itself was making much of the laptop replacement tablet, I thought that it would be great to blog the process again and let people know what they need to make the switch and enjoy the benefits of an ultraportable machine that not only has the horsepower and capacity to be a desktop, but also the flexibility and user experience to be a damn good tablet too.

So, imagine my surprise when I finally got hold of the Surface Pro 3 and its new docking station and found that I had nothing to write about.

Here’s the process:

  • Unbox docking station, and plug it in
  • Plug in a monitor, external keyboard and mouse, any USB devices you might use and Ethernet (if you so desire)
  • Unbox Surface Pro 3 and place in docking station
  • Turn it on

There you go.

That’s it. You need nothing more.

If you are currently using any desktop or laptop you are likely to have all of the necessary accessories above, bar perhaps a minDisplay Port adapter. But that really is it.

I found no app compatibility issues, nothing that wasn’t recognised or wouldn’t work.

Now, there are some criticisms.

There is an odd issue that has been around since the Pro 2 whereby an external screen and external keyboard and mouse makes the cursor disappear on boot up. You have to unplug and replug the monitor to resolve this. It is a pain and something that should not have made it past the Pro2, let alone into the Pro 3, but the fix is easy and it has been officially acknowledged and is under remediation.

The other thing is more of Windows 8 issue and that is the fact that if you choose anything other than the single scaling option across two screens, you tend to get slightly blurry fonts in some instances (Outlook in particular) on the larger screen. Again, this is being looked into.

But all of this begs the question, if Microsoft was always positioning the Surface Pro line as the business tablet, why did it not make docking stations from the start? And why did it not make them more widely available from launch?

The Surface Pro and Pro 2 use the same docking station, but the dock was not made available until long after the Pro 2 arrived. Even then, it was not made directly available in Ireland, though it was in the UK, albeit in small numbers.

Now this was not necessarily an inhibitor of adoption but it certainly didn’t help.

In my usage, I daisy-chained USB hubs, powered it must be said, to get the number of ports I needed for an external had drive, USB headphones (built in digital signal processor so it’s worth it), phone charger, voice recorder download and of course a spare for general usage. But inevitably one device would take umbrage over another’s chatter and occasionally the whole thing would have to be unplugged and then reconstructed in a complex sequence of plugging in and out.

The docks go a long way toward alleviating such worries and in several weeks of usage, the Pro 3 dock hasn’t lost a USB device yet. It has USB ports, including USB and it leaves the inbuilt Pro 3 one available too.

The Surface Pro 3 dock was made available within weeks of the Pro 3 retail launch here and it makes perfect sense as to why, highlighting even more the sin of omission in previous launches and availability.

However, this does bring me back to the central point of this little rant — there’s nothing to tell in the process of adoption. This demonstrates the central point of Microsoft’s approach in marketing the Pro 3 in that it is the easiest tablet with which to replace a laptop or desktop — it’s that simple.

If you were considering it before, stop. Just do it.

 

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