I’m a long-time gadget-head, but I must admit I’ve been a bit put off by today’s crop of tablet devices. All these devices are pretty good for consuming content, browsing the web, playing games, or doing light email work, but what if you need to create content and write .NET code? Today, only the Surface Pro can really accommodate my requirements. I’ve owned a Surface Pro for a few months now, and I'm finding a lot to love—but a lot that frustrates me. Microsoft is getting ready to release a new Surface Pro 2, but if I were in charge of the company, here are the top 10 things I would do to fix the Surface Pro.
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- Make it thinner and lighter—Although it is thinner and lighter than most laptops, the Surface Pro is noticeably thicker and weightier than either the Apple iPad or the Surface RT. It’s certainly more powerful than either of these tablets, but it really needs to match the portability factor. Weight might be the main selling point of these types of tablet devices.
- Give it a bigger screen—Yes, I know there’s a trend toward smaller iPads, and there are rumors of a smaller-form-factor Surface on the horizon. But that’s not what I want. After working with the Surface Pro for the past few months, I often find that I want slightly more screen real estate, not less. But remember that I create content. A larger screen helps me to be more productive. I’d like to see something closer to a full 8"x11" form factor.
- Beef up the screen resolution—While I'm on the subject of screens, the Surface Pro is not shabby in this regard, providing 1080p (1920x1080) resolution, but it competes with the iPad 4 and Nexus 10, which provide 2048x1536 and 2560x1600 resolutions. No one is really sold on how ClearType evens this out. The Surface Pro is more expensive and needs to compete better in the screen-resolution numbers game.
- Provide more disk capacity—I definitely love the SSD in the Surface Pro. It’s high-performance, and it boots and resumes very quickly. However, at 128GB I do wish it were bigger, especially considering that after the OS and the recovery portion are installed there’s only about 83GB of useable storage. A 250GB SSD option (or larger) would help solve this.
- Give it more battery life—I have no complaints about the performance of the Surface Pro. However, there are times when I wished it offered more battery life. Currently, the unit lasts about as long as a laptop—not as long as an iPad. The more power-efficient Surface RT lasts quite a bit longer than the Surface Pro. The Surface Pro needs either a more power-efficient processor or a higher-capacity battery.
- Put an Insert key on the keyboard—I really like the magnetic clip-on Touch and Type keyboards, but why did Microsoft omit a key? The compnay can get away with this ommission on the Surface RT, which doesn’t have backward compatibility, but many existing applications actually use the Insert key. While I’m on the subject of the keyboard, the optional Type cover could really be sturdier. I broke some of the keys off mine just by carrying it around by itself in my computer bag.
- Give us at least one more USB port—Although this is an area where the Surface beats the port-less iPad hands-down, it could still do better. One port is the absolute minimum. Most Surface users I know carry around a USB hub to help address this shortage. The bottom line is that you wind up wanting a USB port on each side, and more than one would be better.
- Make the magnetic charge port wider—The Apple magnetic charge port is brain-dead simple to use. Whenever you get the charger close to the port, it simply snaps into place. Not so with the Surface Pro. It’s hard to get that narrow attachment in correctly. This might seem like a small point, but the Surface competes with the iPad, and because it's number two (or three)—and more expensive—it needs to do better or at least work well in every area that users will notice. And they will notice.
- Offer more apps—Perhaps this is a bigger weakness with Windows Phone, but it’s a weak point for the Surface and Windows 8 in general. Apple and Android devices can get 800,000 or more apps. Optimistic estimates put Windows Store apps at about 160,000. That's not a tiny number, but it's nowhere near what the other tablets offer.
- Revamp the Windows 8 Metro/Desktop—Maybe Microsoft should have watched that commercial with Paul Masson, in which he said they release no wine before its time. It seems to me that Microsoft released Windows 8 before it was ready. The hybrid touch/desktop experience is hard for users to grasp, and Microsoft didn’t help them by jettisoning the familiar Start button. That said, Microsoft has shown an ability to rectify these types of shortcomings. Windows 7 was a terrific replacement for the widely reviled Windows Vista release. Perhaps Microsoft can repeat this magic with Windows 9.
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