This month (yesterday, actually) marks 3 years since we started Love My Surface and, lately, it seems more and more people keep asking me the same question… “how can you keep being a proponent of the Surface with all of its problems?”
Well, it’s simple: every system has its problems, you just have to find the one that works best for you and where its problems don’t bother you as much as the others. It just so happens, that the “growing pains” the Surface has experienced throughout the last three years, annoy me less than other systems’. And yes, this includes other Windows-based systems.
We all know that Apple fans are “die-hard loyal”. I know many of them believe the Macs are “better” or more reliable than Windows PCs but they’re not. From years of experience in both Apple and Microsoft worlds, I know that Apple products have just as many problems as PCs, it’s just that they’re different types of problems and the Apple “Fanbois” can usually live with them.
Don’t get me wrong, like most of you, I have moments that make me love my Surface a little less when they happen. For example, right now, I’m typing this on my venerable Surface Pro 2 because my, only a couple-months-old, Surface Book will not start immediately and, instead, it comes on at some random time (30-60 minutes) after I press the power button (and it goes straight into the UEFI settings).
You better believe that’s going to be a trip to the Microsoft Store for an exchange.
However, I don’t blame the Surface Book or Microsoft because I live very close to the ocean (my choice) and I know the constant humidity (not to mention salt air) plays havoc on consumer electronics and appliances. I mean if I look at the top of my refrigerator, it’s totally rusted out. Another example, we bought a new bathroom scale less than 6 weeks ago and it, too, already has some surface (no pun) rust on it.
How can I blame Microsoft for that?
And, you know what? I often have frustrations with other computers here, as well. For example, I was helping a neighbor with a computer problem a few months ago. Her several-years-old laptop was simply on it’s last leg and was dying a slow death. It wouldn’t turn on all the time, attached devices would just stop working, things like that…
So, I helped her pick a better HP laptop with a nice set of specs – she was not comfortable with a tablet yet. The HP was actually overpowered for what she needed but the price was right.
When she got it, there was a hardware problem right out of the box. The included webcam and microphone array were defective. Since one of the things she uses her computer for is Skyping with distant family, that was unacceptable.
After hours of going around with HP support about it, we finally just exchanged it and picked a new model. It took hours and a lot of frustration and neither of us were happy about it. So, can computers really piss me off? Absolutely!
And by the way, I’ve had similar experiences with Apple computers and iPads in the past, so… no, it’s not a just a “PC problem”. But I digress, back to the topic of this post…
Do I Still Love My Surface: The Good Points
Frustrations aside, the Surface offers a lot of features and advantages I really like.
- One Device: Just a couple of years ago, I had a desktop, a laptop, and a tablet. Frankly, the “transition costs” of switching back and forth were killing me. For example, it was a PITA just to keep them all patched. As a result of that, and other transition problems, I lost productivity by having 3 different “purpose-built” devices that were each intended to be the “best at a specific set of tasks”. With the Surface Book (or a Surface tablet with a keyboard cover) and a monitor/mouse/keyboard setup, I have a device that can give my 85% – 95% of the functionality/performance of the 3 purpose built devices without the overhead of switching between them or needing to separately maintain them.
- Portable and Powerful: No one can argue with the portability or the power of an Intel Core processor in a Surface. This superb mix of portability and power, make the Surface an excellent all-around device.
- No (or very little) Bloatware: I hate it when PC manufacturers “improve” on Windows by writing their own subsystems (for example, replacing the default networking stack with some flashy monstrosity that doesn’t work half as well). Since the Surface is made by Microsoft, they use the “stock” components. So, when something goes wrong, I only have to look to one manufacturer for help and avoid the “finger-pointing game” that happens with other manufacturers. (This is also why Apple has been so successful)
- A Real Operating System: Whether you love Windows or hate Windows, you have to admit that the ability to run pretty much any program written in the past 30 years (even if you have to emulate another device) is pretty appealing. Right now, Windows-based tablets/hybrids are the only option in town if you want to run a real OS on a tablet and, in my opinion, the Surface is the best among them.
- Take your office with you: No matter where I am, standardizing on one device means that I get to take my home office with me everywhere. And, that I always have everything I need at my finger tips. This is huge if you’re running a business. I recently had an experience with a client that asked me for some older (more than 2 years) data, I was able to find it for him within seconds from my Surface – no multiple copies and versions between different devices any more.
Do I Still Love My Surface: What About The Bad?
Of course there are some issues with the Surface. Right now, the main one seems to be all of the (annoying) problems plaguing the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4, such as the long-standing battery drain issue (recently patched) and the new screen flickering issues that have re-appeared.
I don’t know how many times someone has contacted me privately and told me that they would NEVER get a Surface because of all the problems they read about on this very website.
However, many of those folks don’t realize, there’s a few things going on that tend to make everything look worse than it really is:
- The Media: The tech news outlets (myself included at times) tend to only report on problems. Why? Because people don’t go looking for information on the internet about their Surface when everything is working fine – at least not usually.
- Basic Psychology: When is the last time you were really happy with something and went out of your way to tell someone you were happy? Oh, it happens, don’t get me wrong, but, think about it.. Maybe 1 out of 10 times? OK, now, think about the last time you were unhappy. Did you keep it to yourself or did you complain to everyone who would listen? Of course you complained until it got fixed. This tendency makes the problems seem worse than they really are because you hear far more complaints than praises.
- Many “Surface Issues” are really “Windows Issues”: Now this one is a bit less forgivable then the others. Despite my positive point on bloatware, this is a Microsoft problem where the Windows team and the Surface team aren’t or can’t always effectively communicating with each other. As a result, sometimes the problem isn’t with the Surface but, instead, it is with a driver or the like that’s part of Windows. In my opinion, if Microsoft was a bit better (funny enough, like Apple) about making sure the Windows and Surface teams were working together, the Surface would be (and be seen as) a rock solid tablet.
- Many other “Surface Issues” are really “User Issues”: At the risk of alienating you, you’re not perfect. Neither am I. In my experience, I’ve seen (and caused) my share of PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard) errors. Sometimes, when your Surface “is a piece of crap and won’t do what it should” it’s because YOU don’t know how to make it do what you want. There’s no shame in this, you can’t know everything. Fortunately, you have a bunch of wonderful sites in the internet like this one to help you learn.
Once you understand the above points, it’s easier to “look past the noise in the data”.
Once I factor in the positive points about the Surface, it becomes clear to me that the Surface is an awesome little machine with lots of good features and that simple reason is why I still love my Surface. And it’s only getting better!
I feel that the number and type of problems I have with Surface tablets, is relatively minor and acceptable, and that Surface tablets are as close to a perfect device, as it gets. I say this even despite the problem I’m having with my Surface Book now – ha ha.
Your opinion may vary and that’s OK, after all I can’t force you to be right (just kidding).
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.