I always take a portable with me on vacations, trips, visits, etc. One time I did not take anything with me turned to be one of the worst-vacation-ever, so I decided that I’d better take something with me and not use it than spoil another vacation in desperate search for something to work on :). Anyway, I already went through an old BSD-powered subnotebook, a black MacBook (ancient by modern standards, but still serving happily as a Skype station for my wife :)), an iPad (well, not really working machine lacking command line and any sign of development environment, but at least I was able to read/take notes/make kids happy with cartoons :)), Nexus 7 (when iPad went broken) and finally the last-of-the-breed Acer Aspire One D270 Ubuntu-powered netbook. I deliberately spared my MacBook Pro from travel for several reasons, but netbook proved to be a less versatile option, prompting to get a tablet along. Spoiled me. On one of the last business trips I had a business notebook (owned by client), my own one for other projects (I do not mix businesses) and a tablet for on the way. Well. That proved to be an overkill even for a week. So it was time to look for something different. But what?..
I’ve started my search with ultrabooks as that seem to be the next hype after netbooks faded away. I was always put away by the price and to be honest lacking anything really innovative in the idea. Well, it is a notebook, somewhat small, perhaps very light, with too many pixels to see anything with font under 14, etc. What’s new? Well, the modern ones have touch screens and… ehhhhm, Windows (I did not own any Windows device since an old Dell Latitude now lost between piles of
crap other useful things on attic). I’ve spent almost all professional (= paid work) life on Windows since all my clients are bound to Windows ecosystem. For my private projects I always enjoying all kinds of *nix (including Mac OS X) environments and command line interface, but I am not biased towards any of them. Every problem shall be solved with the proper tool. But that is another story.
As you already could guess I was also looking for something not that usual yet covering my needs. I was almost sold to MacBook Air, but that would be ‘another Mac on the dining table’, and would not add to my existing experience (I will buy another mac when my current one will be ready to
go the way of Dodo replace my wife’s mac :)).
So what a heck can I get these days? Let’s summarize requirements:
- Allow development (python, C, etc);
- Reasonably powerful (shall not give impression I am way faster than the device, that annoys me enormously);
- Reasonable battery life (4 hours won’t do the trick with long travel);
- Reasonably portable (be able to hold with one hand :));
- Reasonably priced (well, this highly depends on how premium/latest you want to go);
- Well-designed/built (netbook is not something you’d be showing off with :));
- Preferably with a good (and quiet) backlit keyboard (my own working hours often begin when sun is down and kids are in bed while I am crawling on a couch in the same room);
- Not (exactly) like one of devices I already own (otherwise what’s the point?);
Well, my first conclusion was that I want something that does not exist. Too bad, I’ll have to wait.
But then after reading reviews and getting used to the price levels I started to see something which I could reason with myself about :). And that turned to be Microsoft Surface 2 Pro. I am not going to repeat numerous existing reviews, but it is a full-fledged powerful machine with the heart of a notebook and a body of a tablet. That seem exactly what I want! Considering that I am still considering Visual Studio to be one of the best development environments the whole thing started to look better and better.
The shopping list
Microsoft Surface 2 Pro
Configuration 4GB RAM / 128GB SSD.
This wasn’t an easy choice as I didn’t want to spend too much, but 64GB translates to only 30GB of usable space and that is not much. 4GB of RAM does seem questionable too (it is never enough), but having a mental threshold of ~1000 eur I could hardly go for a more expensive option (well, the final verdict will be made when I will press the ‘Finalize order’ button :)).
Type Cover 2
I am fond of cases, bags, backpacks, etc. I have covers on almost all my portables, even if that sacrifices their looks and sometimes feel. I was considering different options for a portable and finally decided to go for a case which can be used for transportation while be able to use/hold the device itself. Main reasons is that Surface is thick enough and had a nice material to hold, so having a leather ‘jacket’ on top of it would make it too fat and clumsy.
Having a Microsoft device without Office is like having a dinner without a dessert – you can leave without it, but feels not complete (almost joking :)). Since I am talking travel Office 365 is not always an option, so we’re talking full-fledged Office licence (ouch, that is not cheap!). On the bright side – I am a bit tired of Open Office and clumsy presentations, ugly Calc, etc. I will still use Open Office, but I want a complete set for now.
From my experience one thing you won’t avoid if using anything for a regular work is having external screen. Especially talking in terms of development or (ehm, yep) giving presentations. So a miniDisplay to VGA Video Adapter is a must.
Well, it is time to summarize a bit. The complete package becomes almost 1200 eur worth or whopping up to 1500 eur for a version with 8GB RAM and 256 SSD. That’s a lot! But you get the latest technology in an original package for that money. Is it worth it? Difficult to measure. I won’t be earning it back by using the device itself, but I hope enjoying using the device will pay back indirectly.
To be followed.