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  • Blog, Gadgets - Written by on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 15:28 - 23 Comments

    Use a Surface Pro as your desktop? It’s possible


    blog Those of us who spend all day at a desk working and growing paunches are notoriously picky about how we set up our overpowered desktop PCs to satisfy our every need. Every little delay from inferior hardware, every time we can’t do precisely what we want when we want, gets annoying in the long term. So that’s why we’re so impressed that local Microsoft Office 365 MVP Loryan Strant has been successfully conducting an experiment in using his new Microsoft Surface Pro tablet as his full-time desktop, complete with multiple monitors. His article on the subject (including photos and a list of software used) is here. A sample paragraph:

    From time to time I do hear the relatively quiet whirring of the tiny fan inside of the Surface Pro, but that is when I have a lot of applications open and running at the same time, but a recent disadvantage has been a heat wave in Melbourne which has resulted in less-than-ideal air temperatures inside my house … Three weeks in with the Surface Pro acting as my sole device (other than my phone) – no regrets.

    I can’t personally say that I would be satisfied with this solution, or at least not until the Surface is powerful enough to run StarCraft II, but it is very impressive that Strant can get so far using this kind of minimalistic hardware. As was also demonstrated in our Apple iMac review this morning (another high-powered machine with a tiny physical footprint), computing power has come a long way over the past several decades. Nice one. Now if only Microsoft could manage to start selling the Surface Pro in Australia.

    Image credit: Microsoft

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    1. Posted 20/03/2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink |

      Thanks for the post Renai. One of the challenges I faced with this device was “can it do absolutely everything I want as an IT pro?” – and when I realised that the product wasn’t built with me in mind I changed my focus to “what can I do for me?”. After going through and realising that it does everything I need on a daily basis I was sold.
      I wish I could run virtual machines on it, but given I only use that functionality about 8 hours a month – I won’t miss it. :-)

      I guess each to their own. For gaming – I have an Xbox 360. :-)

      • Posted 20/03/2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink |

        No worries, it was an interesting blog post worth highlighting :)

    2. stoffs
      Posted 20/03/2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink |

      I like the way it is going – maybe a 2nd version of it will be a tipping point?

      Honestly within a few years you’ll be going the path (like the asus padfone) – where you just clip your phone into a workstation setup and off you go.

      i’d still like to get one in to test out at work though.

    3. Posted 20/03/2013 at 4:18 pm | Permalink |

      Agreed. I currently use my phone as my 4G service for the Surface but would very much like to see them more tightly integrated.

      I also see the v2 being even better, faster, thinner, lighter (all the things that Apple says each new version of their hardware). For a v1 device I’m very impressed.

    4. Chad
      Posted 20/03/2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink |

      I’m hanging out for the Haswell based Surface, I think the idea was one generation too far ahead of the CPU…

    5. marcus
      Posted 20/03/2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink |

      I know a CIO that wants to make it the default deployed machine in a 4k+ environment…

      Apart from the lack of USB on it, It just might work to.

      • Posted 21/03/2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink |

        Hi Marcus

        if the CIO is interested I can send him a sample of our USB Dock that was mentioned in the article for him to test. We have some large corp’s rolling them out in activity based working solutions.



        • Posted 21/03/2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink |

          Neil have a talk to Paul Dale – he’s the one who helped me choose the docking station in the first place and worked with me to make sure it all worked.

    6. Posted 20/03/2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink |

      @Marcus Are you referring to the Microsoft Surface and a lack of USB?

      • marcus
        Posted 20/03/2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink |

        yes. a single USB port on a PC (not an appliance like the RT) is pretty poor.

        Even if it is USB3.. A part of the design philosophy with that nifty keyboard cover and stylus / touch interface is to limit the number of peripherals to use with it. but then only one USB means I’d have to carry a USB hub to plug in my phone/external hard drive (because of the “faux128GB” isnt anywhere near enough”)/3G dongle

        • Guest
          Posted 21/03/2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink |

          I believe the surface pro power cord has a USB port on it that you can use while powering the device.

          • Posted 21/03/2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink |

            Only the Pro has that, the RT power pack doesn’t.
            I use it (with my Pro) to power my phone when required.

    7. Chad
      Posted 20/03/2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink |

      Surface (both Pro and RT) have USB?

      • marcus
        Posted 20/03/2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink |

        yes, though the RT one has very limited use… there are not a lot of driver out there for external devices on the RT.

    8. Harimau
      Posted 20/03/2013 at 8:29 pm | Permalink |

      I find I simply cannot type on the Surface keyboard. It doesn’t register my button presses, and there’s none of the “feedback” I’m used to from typing on a keyboard or a smartphone (with its vibrate).

      • marcus
        Posted 20/03/2013 at 11:59 pm | Permalink |

        @Harimau, like Loryan Strant says there is two models of keyboard. Most people arent aware of that.
        The other one is very tactile and has moving keys…

    9. Posted 20/03/2013 at 10:03 pm | Permalink |

      @Marcus – several points:
      - the Surface Pro is a PC and tablet hybrid, you can’t expect it to have everything. If I wanted more USB ports I would have kept using my notebook as it was also a tablet (albeit thick and heavy). I travel A LOT, one USB port is plenty for me. I don’t need to run every device at the same time. If I did – again I’d use a different device
      - the 128GB unit (which I have) works out to have 93GB free. I installed a 64GB microSD card and use it as scratch space for downloads and large files. Everything else I have lives in the cloud. (I went from a 500GB hard drive to a 128GB SSD in my previous notebook and survived).
      - I am an IT Pro. The Surface was built with the average mobile business user in mind. If I can thrash it out and make it work for me I’m sure most people can too.

      @Harimau – try the “Type” keyboard. I used the Touch keyboard with my Surface RT and found it was acceptable but only for short usage. When I got my Pro I purchased the Type keyboard which is just like a normal keyboard.

    10. matt marx
      Posted 21/03/2013 at 12:41 am | Permalink |

      I use the surface as my only computer. I have a Lenovo x230 laptop and a high-powered desktop, but I have not really used them since getting the surface pro a month ago.

      I plug it into a 27″ screen at my desk with 2560×1440 resolution and it works great.

      both keyboards work well for me. took about a week to get used to the TouchCover, but now I love it. I leave the TypeCover on my desk for extended use.

      to be fair, the ULV i5 can’t compete speedwise with my i7 chip and 16G of memory, but that only is an issue with large statistical analysis (I am a business school professor).

      and the great thing is that the Surface Pro fits in my handlebar bag on my bike! love it.

    11. Jason Brown
      Posted 21/03/2013 at 12:46 am | Permalink |

      I do expect to get everything from my surface pro and do. The only thing that i had problems with was remote desktop in windows 8 and i figured it out after a few days when i realized MS has defaulted that no hardware sources are checked off in remote causing whatever program you are running remotely to not see printers. that is not a surface problem though.

      i bought a 10 foot mini DP to DP cable and a 4 port usb3 hub. i have a normal mechanical keyboard and mouse connected along with a usb3 Ethernet adapter. the DP cable is connected to my U2410. everything works as good as the desktop it replaced. picking it up and walking to a meeting makes it all the better.

      the only thing i see missing is a dock with extra ports and charging. i would like to simply dock it everyday without having to reconnect the above connections.

      oh and alarm clock HD in the windows app store makes this the absolutely greatest alarm clock ever made!

      • Posted 21/03/2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink |


        Check out our docking solution that Loryan mentions in his blog http://www.targus.com/au/accessories_docking_stations.asp

        The universal power allows for most laptops to be charged as well it keeps the dock hot for charging all the other devices you may need on there. USB 2 and 3.



        • Posted 21/03/2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink |

          Neil the docking station does not work with a Surface as I’ve mentioned in these comments – as the connector is proprietary.

    12. joe
      Posted 21/03/2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink |

      But when can we have them in Aus? Do I have to fly to LA to get one?

      • Posted 21/03/2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink |

        I believe they are coming to Aus very soon (a month or two). It happened that I was in the US a month ago so was able to pick one up, however I do know of people who have been ordering them via US fulfilment houses to ship them here.

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