Microsoft’s new Surface Pro remains on the surface!

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Some dreams come true! With the release of the Microsoft Surface RT, I can bet a a good number of people wished for that tablet to run the revolutionary Windows 8. “Definitely charming!” wouldn’t it? Well, the Surface Pro from Microsoft has come and even with its chin itching price tags – $899 for the 64GB and $999 for the 128GB version, the Microsoft Surface truly makes a demanding statement – that from the looks of it, may be worth it.

Preceding the new Surface Pro was a Surface RT which as at now seems to be more or less a preview to the good things to come. True, the design was something new and some of the hardware features were worth a good chat over a cup of tea; but so many things seemed absent and yes! The Surface Pro delivers all of those inner cravings you desired for it. Microsoft Windows fans and Windows 8 enthusiasts will certainly not mind putting down all more than a couple of bucks for it. The Surface Pro gives the complete Windows 8 experience which still is the most popular and most dynamic entry in the world of operating systems as of date. The Surface RT would pretty much be for those who would just prefer a windows like tablet experience without paying too much for things they would not probably use. Its not a bad idea if you look at it; after all, it comes along with the very excellent Office 2013.

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The new Surface Pro competes on par with its ultrabook rivals in a unique and most challenging manner. Compared to the earlier Surface RT, it is larger and to house some of its powerful hardware components, packs in a little more weight with a thicker form of its “VaporMg” magnesium composite casing. It comes with the basic expectations of a regular ultrabook: front and back 1.2 megapixel  cameras, a full size USB port, an intel Core i5 CPU, Intel HD Graphics, 4GB of RAM, solid state storage up to 128GB, expandable memory through a memory card reader, Bluetooth 4.0 technology and Wi-Fi 802.11a, b, g and n. It also comes with exciting features as a tablet such as a scratch resistant glass surface, 720p HD video recording with video calling abilities, accelerometer, gyroscope and compass sensors. Surface is indeed a delight to behold and touch.

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One issue people may have with the Surface Pro though is its kickstand, which only gives a single angular view. This does not tend to be a problem until you get into a place with heavy fluorescent lighting or worse, the sunny outdoors. You might spend some extra time adjusting to suit your convenient viewing. Furthermore, an honest truth is that it doesn’t do as well as the earlier Surface RT in terms of battery life but you should be able to get about 4 hours out of it or so. Nevertheless, Surface will do pretty well to impress newcomers and  even existing customers in the tablet purchase market.

Surface Pro comes along with a Wacom-made, pressure-sensitive stylus that is is a very welcome accompaniment. Surely you would enjoy touching around Windows 8 with it. It has a nice feel; especially when you are using applications such as Adobe Photoshop and the like. The touch and type covers remain as optional accessories and require a separate purchase to an already quite expensive pricing but of course, that completely depends on the customer in question.

In conclusion, the Microsoft Surface Pro is a stylish welcome addition to the world of portable and personal computing. There are a number of things to consider though but it works. It is fast, beautiful, the screen is gorgeous and… it runs Windows 8.

A laptop?… or a tablet? The Nigerian ordeal

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Many of us reading this post are most likely to have asked, pondered and maybe dreamed about the question at least at one time or the other. Others were put on the spot with it and some lucky people didn’t really need to bother since someone else helped them out in making the silent, salient yet important choice between the two prevailing forms of mobile technology that has swept the whole world all too sudden.

Buying a Tablet or Laptop isn’t an easy choice. You need to be clear about your requirement in order to decide between them; except you have money to buy both which, from the Nigerian perspective, doesn’t seem to be a likely option in most cases. Surely there are extreme advantages of having both (I use both actually so I can tell) but nevertheless, it does make one wonder about the real decisions to make before you go ahead with either of the two. This post is aimed at helping even you to understand the main differences to consider as clearly as possible.

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Keyboard and input

The most obvious difference between a tablet and a laptop is the lack of a keyboard. Tablets rely solely on a touch interface on the screen for all input. This is fine when it involves mainly pointing, dragging or tapping to navigate around a program. It can also pass off to be a very savvy way of getting things done. Tablets give you full control of the screen, features and applications. By using your finger or a stylus, you can directly touch the screen to make gaming more interactive, and the hands-on approach provides a more tactile experience than a mouse for drawing and illustrating. The problems come in when you have to input text into a program when such as an email or document. Since they have no keyboard, users are required to type on virtual “touch” keyboards that have varying layouts and designs. Most people cannot type as quickly or as accurately on a virtual keyboard and this could pose as a really annoying experience. Users do have the option of adding an external Bluetooth keyboard to most tablets to make this more like a laptop but it adds costs and peripherals that must be taken with the tablet.

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Design and battery

The design of all the laptops is almost the same, that is, they have a “clamshell” design. There may be various colors, back panels and textures that are available, but… the basic design remains the same; very much unlike tablets. Aside from some hefty price tags, you must take special precautions in the care of your tablet; not like this does not apply to the laptop itself but as a tablet may have a durable body, the touchscreen display is exposed. If the touchscreen is damaged, your device could become useless. You can buy a case to protect the screen, but these are not included with the product and require a separate purchase. Compared to laptop computers, tablets are small and smart. Most tablets offer anywhere from a 7-inch to a 10-inch display screen and weigh less than 1 pound. You can store all your music, capture photos or videos, video chat and even read books on their built-in eReaders. Truly ideal for the on the go, take around personality.

Tablets are designed for efficiency because of the low power requirements of their hardware components. In fact, the majority of the interior of a tablet is taken up by the battery. In comparison, laptops use more powerful hardware. The battery component of the laptop is a far smaller percentage of the laptops internal components. Thus, even with the higher capacity battery of laptops, they do not run as long as a tablet. Many of the tablets right now can run up to ten hours of web usage before require a charge. The average laptop would only run for roughly three to four hours with a few systems able to stretch it out to eight hours but that still less than a tablet. This means that tablets can achieve all day usage which few laptops can achieve.

Storage

In order to keep their size and costs down, tablets have had to rely on the new and pretty much more reliable solid state storage memory as a means to store programs and data. While these have the potential for faster access and low power usage, they have one major disadvantage in the amount of files they can store at the moment. Most tablets come with configurations that allow between 16 and 64 gigabytes of storage. By comparison, most laptops still use traditional but more fragile hard drives that hold far much more data. Extremely affordable netbooks still have 160 gigabytes of storage which allows for ten times the amount of data as the most affordable tablets. This won’t always be the case though as some laptops have moved to solid state drives as well and may have as little as 64GB of space. However, we can predict that solid state drives will be the future of storage computing which, if you ask me, could wipe off the ever exasperating hard disk problem laptops today face.

Power

Since most tablets are based on extremely low powered processors, they will generally fall behind a laptop when it comes to computing tasks. Of course, a lot of this will depend on how the tablet or laptop is being used. For tasks like email, web browsing, playing video or audio, both platforms will typically work just as well as neither requires much performance. Things get more complicated once you start doing more demanding tasks. For the most part, multitasking or graphics performance is typically better suited with a laptop but not in all cases.

Even though it is possible for a tablet version of a certain software to have similar functions as its desktop version, it is expected that the desktop version would have more capabilities. But again, while traveling, if you are having some sort of work to be done, then tablets are a decent choice as most tablets have sync properties that help us to access our files from anywhere across the world.

The software that runs on a laptop or tablet can be vastly different in terms of capabilities. Assume that a tablet is running Windows 7 for example.  It can theoretically run the same software as a laptop but will likely be slower or have less features of a sort of the other.  Major tablet platforms available right now are Android, iOS, Blackberry and the new Microsoft Windows 8 RT which require applications specific to their operating systems. There are tons of programs available for each of these and many will do most of the basic tasks that a laptop can do. The problem however, is the lack of the input devices and hardware performance limitations mean that some more advanced features supplied by corresponding laptop class programs may have to be dropped in order to fit into the tablet environment.

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Data Security

Concerning malware and other security threats, tablets are claimed to be safer when compared to laptops. This statement is very arguable. Most security threats are as a result of Windows operating System and not the form factor. Laptops that are loaded with Linux or Mac, are considerably secure and claimed to be free from malware attacks. On the other side, tablets are not so free from security threats as many assume. Currently, malware apps are uploaded on the Apple store and even Google Play Store. An example was the debated “Find & Call” app which was supposed to offer the service of  aggregating and simplifying contacts but simply harvested data from users’ address books and uploaded information to the developer’s server which was used to spam users with SMS messages. The number of security breaches for tablets have become a concern that are as horrid as that for desktop/laptop based operating systems; especially with the concept of “jailbreaking” devices which allow third party applications to be installed on tablets.

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External Devices

Tablets these days, are coming with USB ports or OTG (On-The-Go) cables which means they are steadily rising to be on par with laptops as regards external storage devices. Many tablets even now have Bluetooth enabled joypads and accessories which allow a laptop like experience with your tablet. But the question is if you are willing to spend even more money for that after spending so much already acquiring the tablet.

If you’re trying to decide between a laptop and a tablet, it all depends upon you and your needs. If you are planning to carry your computer for extended periods of time, especially to do light based tasks such as watching movies, picture slides and listening to music, the lighter tablet may be ideal for you. Writing out what features you must have in your device is a very good approach to making the right investment. Compare and contrast different products to see which ones have the specifications you are looking for. Only by figuring out your needs will you discover which type of computing device you prefer.

Buy a Windows Surface? Watch it capsize!

With the Windows surface tablet finally out in stores, we should be expecting them to hit Nigeria anytime from now. You are sure to find them in the hands of those who had taken the pre-order option, and maybe some of your friends who had somehow had it bought or sent to them. Surface was the single biggest genuine tech surprise of the year so far. Microsoft tantalized us with a tablet that suggested the iPad as old fashioned. It promised the future of computers with its snap on keyboard, light weight and the gorgeous looking Windows 8; which gave us the idea that we would finally have the revolutionary tablet that could finally double as a laptop. We guess that was what you were hoping for when you heard about Surface.

Straight to the point, Surface is more like most of our naija governors that promise so much and then give not as much. Yes folks! We had looked forward to all of the hype to have our dreams flushed down the WC. Sure, Surface is good, but Surface RT sure isn’t the future that we had always hoped.

The truth is everybody needs a computer these days; not another tablet. The laptop is about as far advanced as one can imagine already. The tablet isn’t exactly pushing civilization forward; it’s still fundamentally a luxury device, a delightful toy for reading email on the couch or watching movies on the go. It’s a lovely, superfluous thing with limitations of what you can do effectively with a laptop. Microsoft’s promised that Surface was to pioneer a strange new kind of gadget: all the grace and leisure of a tablet, combined with the ability to actually make stuff that a computer brings; that Surface will bring together the best of everything that exists — the elusive union of laptop and tablet… yes! Finally! No more of those ultrabook clones! Get to work and then… get to work!

We have used the Surface so we can tell you our experience. Surface is well designed but rather heavier than the iPad 3. The screen is indeed colorful in every sense; Windows has done a good job with the artistic presentation of Windows 8 and even though Surface’s display doesn’t have a crisp as the retina display on Apple products, it still works. There is a USB port which is a very welcome property. Open the Touch Cover keyboard/track pad hybrid; snap out the kickstand, and lay the thing on your desk like a laptop. Start writing an essay. Flip the cover all the way around, hide the keyboard, and give yourself something substantial to grip like a tablet. Start swiping the web. Or prop the kickstand against the folded-back cover to create a stable base while you can make everybody jealous and wish they had one when you watch your movies. Switching configurations is so cool and easy. The Touch Cover feels as integral to the Surface as the binding of a book to the sandwiched pages. There’s every reason to believe most computers will look and feel something like this, someday soon. It’s beautiful to look at, and certainly more charming than any Windows device before it.

Tablets aren’t for work. That’s the old refrain. But if they’re going to be more than great toys someday, tablets have to become every bit as viable as a desktop tower as a way to write (and edit) long emails, presentations, and poems. Surface RT is the first evidence we have that this is possible, because you’ll use it like you’ve never used any computer before. Your brain starts to rewire itself, and it’s delightful.

But as much promise as the Surface can really provide, it is really as good as a delightsome meal that ends up undercooked. Surface RT does not really deliver all it claims with little issues here and there and instead of trading in your laptop and tablet for Surface, a cocktail of compromises that fracture the whole endeavor, you might miss them both urgently.

The keyboard idea was cool no doubt. It surely does better than tapping an iPad screen but it is still not the complete experience.  It is not as terrible as those irritating Bluetooth keyboards at Ikeja but still not the exact thing you have always dreamed of. Accuracy is very limited and you will feel clumsy; your hands will begin to hurt like you are some pianist playing Liszt for the first time. You may get used to it though… we hope. The track pad is nowhere near good. It’s sludgy, not-so-responsive and nothing compared to the touchscreen option – and unlike the keyboard, it would probably always feel that way. You don’t believe it? Try typing an essay on your lap and see how it feels. We will be sure to remind you that we told you so.

You may not have heard about it but the touch cover of the Surface comes at an extra price; like buying an iPad with extra for the keyboard. What?! It feels like selling your windshield wipers separate from the car! Microsoft also offers a Type Cover; that promises actual physical keys instead of the flattened solution, but that will add critical bulk to your Surface experience and yes, you guess it, it’s more expensive!

The beautiful letdown, is Windows 8 RT. It is NOT to be mistaken to be Windows 8. Visually, you cannot tell the difference but you certainly will when you use it. Windows RT is underpowered (everything opens and syncs slightly too slowly), under-functional (you cannot install a single app that’s not available through the Windows RT app store, which offers a paltry selection), and under-planned (the built-in apps can’t feel like Lite versions of something better). After a while, the makeup gets washed off and then you ask yourself: “is this all?” I mean, Android tablets and iPads have apps for almost anything you can think of (and we mean everything really… but trying to be realistic here); we wonder what you would think about those available for Surface.

In the end though, this is nothing more than Microsoft’s tablet. There’s no Twitter or Facebook app, and the most popular 3rd-party client breaks often. The Kindle app is completely unusable. There’s no image editing software. A People app is supposed to give you all the social media access you’d ever need, but It is impossible to write on someone’s Facebook wall through the People app. Surface’s social hub; the only workaround, is to load Internet Explorer. Oh come on! Something as simple as loading a video requires a jumbled process of USB importing, dipping in and out of the stripped-down desktop mode, opening a Video app, importing, going back into the Video app, and then playing! What?!

The app selection, overall, is worse than the already pathetic Windows Phone app fare, as scanty as… as… one of those road side cell phone shops. The difference is that Windows Phone, used in quick, informative bursts, skates by on the strength of its excellent with integrated features. The truth? Surface is weak because Windows RT is weak; a tepid tablet OS pretending to be a computer’s.

You can do work, yes. But productivity is limited to a “preview” (beta) version of Microsoft Office. It also hurts that Office requires plunging into Windows RT’s Desktop mode, where users of actual Windows 8 are able to install a decade’s worth of legacy software. Normally, this would compensate. But RT users can’t install any of this older software; none of it. Desktop mode is entirely worthless in RT, a cruel tease of non-functionality. It’ll only remind you of how much you can’t do with your Surface, and is going to confuse the living hell out of most people who buy one — especially when Surface Pro, built on x86 architecture and perfectly compatible with all of those legacy programs, steps in a few months from now.

It could be quite expensive for all of that you know. But of course, to buy it depends on you… because we won’t!