Well, I’ve been in college for a month or two now (currently on spring break) with just the Surface Pro as my main desktop, console, media box, tablet and laptop. The only other computer in my life while at university is my smartphone from 2009 that’s on PagePlus cellular that needs to be charged 2x a day to stay alive. (I pay around $5 – 10/month for it, I use VOIP and internet texts lol)
I have an IPS LCD monitor at my “dorm/apt” thing. It has a built in powered USB hub. I plug in the USB to the surface, connect it to power and the mini-displayport, wallah full desktop PC with 2TB of storage. (2 1 TB USB drives 1 plugged in 1 self powered) The USB hub is only 2.0, but for my tasks I don’t need 3.0 speed really.
It feels like I’m on a high end PC from about 2006 or 2007? Something like that. It’s faster in general though, just because of the SSD. The specs (performance wise) I think are nearly identical to the computers we program on in my Java 1 class. The video card is more like 2003ish but, it’s still pretty good considering.
Desktop mode is for programming, essays, math work, etc. Works great. I feel almost like I’m at home. I do a little PC gaming in this mode as well, mostly CS:GO and CS:Source. First encounter assault recon runs relatively well but it does lag a little bit and gets annoying for me.
I plug in a 360 controller to the monitor, flip the monitor around to face my bed, plug in my headphones and bam. I can play basically all PC games from the Xbox 1 era and a little beyond. I’ve mostly been playing Halo 1 and Halo 2. Some of the older racing games and GTA’s also run fine. Roms would work in this mode as well I’m sure, but I haven’t really messed with it.
Media Box Mode
This is rather similar setup to the console mode, with flipping stuff around etc. I have XBMC setup on windows 8 with the Touch cover plugged in and I can control XBMC from there. XBMC can also be controlled from the Xbox 360 controller if I want. Hulu, Youtube, Netflix, crunchyroll etc at my fingertips.
I mostly use this in between classes if I happen to have the Surface on me. (I don’t always have it due to weight, even though it is only 2lbs, I don’t like lugging it around some days) This is in situations where I take the “keyboard” off and mostly rely on the touch interface. So for the most part what I’m doing here is looking at youtube videos, netflix, or playing some tablety type game from the windows store.
There is some productivity going on here though – I use this “mode” in class a lot – pulling up PDF documents of readings and marking them up with the WACOM pen is awesome. Sometimes I bring essays to class and just have the professor mark up my Word document with the pen.
It’s also my “digital scrap paper”. If I’m sitting in front of a computer and I happen to have my Surface Pro with me, I write out my math equations etc in One Note on the Pro. No wasting trees.. It’s also handy because I can copy the necessary information and just paste it into the onenote page. ( I got thrown into pre-calc even though I took Calculus 1 in high schoool oh well I’ll probably take Calculus 1 over the summer. It’s all review till I hit Calculus 2) I love the WACOM display on the Pro
Laptop mode sees very little use – in fact probably the least use out of everything. It just doesn’t make for a good laptop to be honest. The screen size is too small and due to me not wanting to shell out for the type keyboard, I rarely use it. The touch keyboard is fine to use here and there, but really – this thing is not a laptop.
I use this mode at the library when I’m doing some work, while it’s okay in a pinch, I don’t really enjoy it too much. Sad thing is I tried taking my Yoga 2 Pro around and man.. that size doesn’t work for bringing it to class, just doesn’t really fit in my backpack well and seems like it could easily be damaged, it just doesn’t have the build quality of the Surface…
This is really where we start to have problems… A laptop, even an Ultrabook is generally too big to haul around campus, yet I need the screen size and full keyboard of a Laptop to get any major work done.. (Programming, essays and such..) The compromise would be dealing with the Pro’s small display and funky keyboard which I’ve had to do for now.
I would generally advocate getting both a laptop and the Surface Pro, because while you’ll be mainly using the Pro, the laptop will come in handy if you need to work in the library often. Pro’s are only $400 and going down, why not get both? $400 tablet + $400 laptop and you’re set. The android/ipad tablets that cost $400 are not nearly as useful.
As a college student, I don’t find the battery life that big of a deal, I’m around an outlet a lot of the time. That, and I go back to the apt/dorm all the time to cook my food and watch some TV, so I just charge it up. No big deal. I never really run it down to more than 50% which means I’m generally not without an outlet for more than 2 hours usage time. That said, there’s power outlets all over campus, though I don’t even carry the charger.
This was the biggest complaint on the Surface Pro 1 and I’m just not seeing the problem in day to day use. Obviously, usages differ, but I’m specifically talking about college/university use.
In college, light and small is always going to trump everything else. The bigger and more weighty it is the less likely you are to haul it around with you. Even though the Yoga 2 Pro weighs about 0.5 pounds more than the Surface, I didn’t end up using it due to the form factor. It’s being sold. I will pick up something cheaper for library use later on. I am definitely a future buyer of Surface Pro’s and I hope Microsoft continues to make them.