I switched from a MacBook Pro to a Surface Pro 3 – One Month In

One month ago, my wife’s laptop died overnight with no sign of life. Both my wife and I have been using MacBook Air or Pro for the last 5 years. She usually gets a hand-me-down when I upgrade every 2 years. The most recent set up prior the incident was my wife using a 2013 MacBook Pro 13″ Retina, with my system being a 2015 MacBook Pro 13″ Retina (MBP). This has now changed.

The MBP that died was around 2 years and 2 months old, in superb condition, no damage, or ‘malicious’ use. I thought this would be a simple take it to Genius Bar and get it fixed for free. But alas, no! They said the logic board is faulty and it will cost AUD 750 to repair, as it is two months out of warranty. Needless to say, I was not happy with this decision, especially after buying new iPhone, iPad and MacBook frequently over the years (we are definitely an Apple family!).

The economics of repairing did not make sense. Looking at faulty unit prices on eBay, and factoring in the Apple repair cost, it would make better sense to sell faulty and buy used, or buy a new (or refurbished MBP). Or look for a third party to repair (still looking into this). But there was one more crazy option: use the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 that I have spare and awaiting use in a future project.

So I switched away from the world of MacBook and OSX and into Windows. Here are my thoughts one month in of solid usage.

My Usage Case

For background to get an idea of what I do in the day to day of my device usage:

  • Use in my day job in an advertising agency (I am a digital producer here), with lots of web-based apps, Office documents and email.  This also involves taking notes at client meetings.
  • Light HTML and CSS work, using Sublime text.
  • For my business ventures, once again Office documents (mainly Excel) and email (all Google based email accounts).
  • General bits of software used daily such as Chrome, Skype, Telegram, Slack, Adobe suite and Todoist.
  • Probably worth noting that I don’t currently dock my system (MBP or Surface) into a monitor or keyboard.

What’s Great

  • The screen – high resolution and a touch screen. Did not think a touch screen would be that useful whilst using a keyboard, but often find myself using it for scrolling or when showing other people work on my machine.
  • The pen – the Surface Pen is fantastic, and has made me do a partial switch away from Evernote. My poor handwriting is easily recognised by OneNote which makes it easy to search through handwritten notes. I find myself taking all meeting notes directly on the Surface, along with jotting on PowerPoints during presentations. This has really changed my workflow.
  • Portability – it really does feel lighter in the backpack and a lot more portable. Thinner and lighter, I often think I have forgotten to take the device of the office. Noticeably lighter and smaller than the MBP 13″.
  • Cortana – sits in the left next to the start button. Seems to be better at searching for files than Spotlight, but sometimes a bit slower at maths.
  • Hybrid (tablet) – It is good enough as a tablet, and great at being a laptop. I haven’t used my iPad Air since beginning to use the Surface.
  • Window management – I find the window management easier in Windows 10. You can easily go full screen (not OSX full screen which hides the dock) and also place apps side by side (Windows key + left, or Windows key + right). In OSX, this functionality was available by using a free app called Spectacle.
  • System tray / menu bar / dock apps (what is it called?) –  Functionality to manage these tray apps in Windows 10 is built in, you can hide them until you expand the tray. This functionality is not built into OSX, however, can be solved by a paid app, Bartender 2.

What’s Not Great

  • Sleep / turning on issues – Occasionally, the Surface does not want to wake after being sleeping for a few hours or overnight. For example, two days this week, between leaving the office and coming home and attempting to use the Surface (a few hours afterwards), it just shows a black screen. Need to hold the power button for about 10 seconds to force a reboot. Very frustrating (Excel auto-save for the win).
  • Driver issues – I upgraded from the Surface 3 Type Cover to the Surface 4 Type Cover (much nicer typing experience on the 4). The 4 cover is compatible with the Pro 3. But when I received the 4 cover, it didn’t work on my Surface. After a few calls and remote desktops with Microsoft support, they sent a replacement. This also didn’t work. More calls with support, and the only solution was a factory reset. Not ideal! Also had an instance where Bluetooth devices didn’t work, luckily a reboot fixed this.
  • No Quick Look – the select a file and press space bar to preview the file is fantastic on OSX. This does not exist in Windows 10 (is it a patent issue?), instead there is a preview pane on the right of the File Explorer. Some other apps try to mimic the functionality of Quick View, but do not quite make the cut (Seer is okay and free).
  • Screenshots – OSX screenshots are great, can save to clipboard or desktop, and get full screen, part of screen or select an app, all using some simple key combos. This doesn’t exist on Windows 10, there is the PrtScn button (taking the whole screen), or the in-build Snipping Tool, both not as useful.
  • Not being a laptop – Sometimes I feel like I am missing the laptop form factor. But I think this is psychological, and the further I got into the one month change, I feel less like I am missing a ‘proper’ laptop.

Noteworthy

  • MS Office – Much nicer on Windows (I guess they should be). The recent upgrade of Office on OSX was great, but still feels to not come close to Office on Windows.
  • Apps – Have not had any issues switching from OSX to Windows as almost all the apps are on both operating systems (apps I use are noted earlier). The only app not available was Mailplane, have switched to Mailbird instead (no unified calendar is a bit of a bummer). Another minor app not available is Fluid App, but Chrome has similar functionality.
  • Kickstand – I thought the kickstand would be an issue for using the Surface as a laptop. At home on the couch, I always used a pillow to sit the MBP on, and can still do exactly the same on the surface. Typing ability still seems the same as a traditional laptop. So the lap-ability test passes for me.

What’s Next

As mentioned, this Surface Pro is destined for another use (a photo booth). This means I am going to have to make a decision on whether to buy a Surface Pro (maybe a Surface Book perhaps), or switch back to a MacBook Pro. This decision won’t have to be made for a few months, which suits perfectly as the Buyers Guide suggests to not upgrade yet. A blog post will coming up in the future with my decision! Sign up to my newsletter below if you want to receive future posts.

Have you switched over from a MacBook to a Surface? If so, let me know your thoughts! Did you last? Or did you switch back to the fruity side?

  • Get my new posts via email.



13 thoughts on “I switched from a MacBook Pro to a Surface Pro 3 – One Month In

  1. you can screenshot just the active window with Ctrl-PrtScn, maybe Alt and Shift are other useful modifers.

    nice comparo, thanx for making the effort to share

    1. Thanks Leif. Cntl+PrtScn and Shift+PrtScn don’t seem to do anything different, but Shift+PrtScn takes a screenshot of active window only – thanks for that!

  2. This was an interesting read and im looking forward to what you decide. I switch after using a macbook then macbook pro for the last 8 years, to the surface book. Theres a lot I love about it. What a great concept, however its too plagued with issues. I miss my dependability of my rMBP and plan to go back to it. Already have an ipad pro on order to see how that does as well.

    1. Hi Shane. I think if I do switch back to a MBP, it will be due to the sleep and similar issues. Today I struggled to get the Surface on.. took about 5 minutes. Very frustrating. Hoping it gets fixed in updates soon.

  3. Sleep / turning on issues. I often have that problem after rotating the screen a lot (I use it mainly as a tablet) – I used to kill the device as well (autosave is great, isn’t it), but I found out that a quick CTRL+ALT+DEL would give me the login screen. Maybe that helps.

    1. Hi David. Thanks for this tip, I will give it a try next time. I forgot to mention the rotating issues in my post, I get it sometimes too. Someone on Reddit suggested changing to Hibernate instead of Sleep. Have changed this setting so will see how it goes! Owen

      1. I can confirm this works for me every time. If you don’t have a keyboard press volume up+power key (or maybe the other way around, i don’t remember).

  4. I’ve had the power issues myself and yes, have to hold the power button in to do a full reboot also as sometimes it seems impossible to wake the device.

    I dock mine (Toshiba DynaDock) to 2 external screens and I was blown away that this device has the ability to basically run 3 screens. That still amazes me. What happens though (minor annoyance) is when I undock and work only on the SP3 screen, when I redock the main taskbar is still on the SP3 screen. I have to go into display settings and switch the primary monitor back to my external so that I get all my task bar icons (clock, Lync etc).

    Great read. My boss uses a Macbook and I’ve been trying to convince him for 2 years to get a Surface Pro :-p

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *