This review was written by Cary Weston. Cary is a partner in Sutherland Weston, a marketing & communications firm in Bangor, Maine.
6 Months In – 5 Ways The Surface Pro 3 Has Worked For My Small Business:
If you’re looking for a computer and considering the Surface Pro 3, online reviews and videos are abundant. But they seemed a little “techie” to me and not really relatable to my day-to-day concerns. I’ve had Macs for a decade, so this was a different path for me.
I decided to share my experience as a small business owner after using one for six months. I’ll try to add value to the following questions:
- Is it worth the investment?
- Does it allow you to do anything special or different?
- Will it be something you’ll use and find valuable?
- Is it better than a Mac?
- Is it just a fad and I’m better off buying a laptop?
Quick background for context:
I’m a small business owner and I juggle tasks, deadlines and responsibilities every day. Sometimes I do it well, other times not so much. In my business we have many projects and clients at any given time and deadlines, milestones and tasks are abundant. My main role in the day-to-day operations is finding and nurturing new business and managing employees through the project development phases.
My Surface Pro 3 Review:
The truth is…I fell for the advertising. I was intrigued with the look and idea and that’s what took me to Best Buy – six times. I’d play with the Surface Pro 3 and come up with reasons why I needed to take it home that day. And then I would walk away empty handed because the last thing I needed was a computer with Windows on it.
I’m a Mac guy. I’ve had my Macbook Air for a few years and before that, a few Imacs and Macbook Pros. I have an Ipad and my iPhone is with me at all times. I have an office full of Macs. We build stuff on Macs. We talk on Macs. We share on Macs.
But….I bought a Surface Pro 3 anyway.
For the first month, I used the Surface Pro 3 (SP3) tentatively and kept my Macbook Air on the desk just in case. It took me a few weeks to get used to it not being a Mac.
About a month in, I had the courage to empty my Macbook Air and take on the SP3 full time. I have not regretted this move at all – in fact, I’m thrilled with SP3.
I’m now six months in and I’ve recommended it to others. I’ve had three clients leave my office and call me from Best Buy an hour later telling me they had joined the club. It’s a good machine and there are many tech reasons why it makes sense to purchase, but to me, I think being relate-able on a day-to-day basis is more important.
So, below are 5 specific reasons why I’m thrilled with the product and a few recommendations from what I’ve learned to help you make the most of your Surface Pro 3 should you decide to take the plunge:
1. NOTES WITH THE PEN
Using the SP3 with OneNote has been the best thing I’ve ever done from an organizational point of view. I can take notes using a keyboard or with a pen. I can organize my notes by week, day and year. And the best part for me is everything I add to OneNote is searchable – even the hand-written notes using the pen. I no longer have yellow legal pads that I have to shuffle through to find something. I have a note-taking system that has changed my day-to-day workflow.
2. THE $100,000 NOTE
Expanding on the first point, this is my go-to story on the benefits of the pen and OneNote. I took a phone call from a prospective company that was interested in sending out RFP’s. During the phone call, I screen captured their website and their LinkedIn profiles, added them to my OneNote and took a bunch of notes with the pen. During the call, he had mentioned a specific goal three different times, so I used the pen tool to highlight the handwritten note in yellow.
Six weeks later, I received the RFP by mail and started to craft my reply. As I was getting ready to send, I went back to OneNote and used the search function to pull that note back up. I had forgotten about the phrase I had highlighted. I used the phrase in my cover letter and sent it off. We landed the account and in the follow-up it was mentioned that we were the only pitch that referenced that phrase and the work to be done around it.
That was a major factor in getting the new business and it never would have happened using legal pads.
3. WORK TO RELAX
I’m a Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime fan. But I’ve always had an iPad for movies and playing and my laptop for work. It’s been a pain to have multiple devices to carry with me for trips and such but I’ve tried the iPad for business and it just didn’t work. And watching movies and TV on the laptop left something to be desired. Now, with the detachable keyboard, I can switch from laptop to tablet with a click and have all the benefits of a tablet when it’s time to relax. The screen size and resolution is amazing and the kickstand is genius. It makes for an amazing device to wind down with – which is important when you’ve had one of “those days” at the office.
4. REMOTE PRESENTATIONS
Using the SP3 for presentations has really created a wow effect that was missing when I used traditional laptops. And when you’re looking to stand out and make an impression during a presentation, anything that helps you stand out and get noticed can go a long way. I use the pen with PowerPoint presentations and am able to circle points of interest, highlight words and draw in front of the audience. This is especially key if there are points resonating with your audience that I want to emphasize. As much as you can prepare, you never know what one thing is going to make the difference in a room and having the ability to customize the impact in the moment with a pen tool is fantastic.
5. MARK UP PRESENTATIONS & PDF’s
My business is advertising and along with creating websites and print work, we manage a lot of budgets. Having the ability to use the pen to mark up drafts of website interfaces and print pieces and share them via email has helped me be more productive with project management. Having the ability to open a spreadsheet and make pen notes adds a visual aid to the email discussions. Circling, highlighting and adding color and notes creates a more powerful way to ask questions and get work done.
A few recommendations:
1. The only thing I’ve been disappointed with is the touchpad. Coming from a Mac, I was used to using the laptop without a mouse and doing very complex work. On the SP3, the touchpad is not as responsive as mouse, but with a mouse the SP3 became my friend again. Because of the small menus, having the detailed dexterity of a mouse helps a lot. And I found a skinny mouse that lays flat when not in use so it packs well and doesn’t add much bulk at all. I would highly recommend getting a bluetooth mouse to make the most of your experience.
2. Don’t pay more for the added storage space – use the cloud. Microsoft has a cloud storage system called OneDrive which I find to be incredibly useful. I have found that files added to OneDrive are accessible almost instantly, which is not the case with Dropbox or some other cloud storage tools. Using OneDrive has enabled me to keep my client files, proposals and documents off my computer without needing to buy external drives or occupy the USB port. To me, paying more for an SP3 with added storage space wasn’t worth the money. Not only are my files available from any device (iPhone included) but I’m not decreasing the speed of the SP3 by bogging it down with stuff.
3. I don’t use the Microsoft mail or calendar features as I find them limited. I use Gmail and Google calendar so I can easily view and synch all data across any device I’m on. I found the Microsoft calendar app to be a lot less robust and clunky, so I simply use the browser for all my calendar and mail activities on the SP3.
Kent Beck link to his wiki