I like gadgets, and my daughter needed a new machine to play Minecraft on which would also run Visual Studio, so I took a risk and bought a new Surface Pro 2, 256 GB SSD. The red Alienware machine many would recognize from my speaking engagements is now helping my 10 year old learn HTML5, CSS, and Asp.Net MVC 5.
Despite being in much better shape than I was in my 20s, I've steadily downsized laptops. From giant 17" desktop replacements, down to 15", down to the 13" Alienware, down now to this 10" 2lb tablet/laptop combination.
Since I was just at the 2013 fall Global MVP Summit in the Seattle/Redmond/Bellevue area I had a chance to live on this device for a week. How did it go?
Generally speaking, I like it. The wifi seems to have some odd slowness on my at home network despite no other kindle/iPad/Kindle Fire/Windows Phone/Nest thermostat/Playstation 3/Xbox 360/laptop ever having had issues. Once I got past that, I got Visual Studio 2013, SQL server 2012 and my other tools install and threw some real projects onto it. Ok, I also put Diablo 3 on it...
The machine is quite usable for medium-sized project development with the new backlit type keyboard. The keyboard itself has a different key layout than the Microsoft Natural ergonomic keyboards I've been using for 10+ years so some of my muscle memory for Visual Studio chords is thrown off. There is also the known "doesn't rest well on my lap" issue but I was mostly using this on tables and airplane tray tables. In addition to the keyboard shortcut re-learning, I had to adjust my standard Visual Studio layout to auto-collapse most of the panels in order to be able to have more code on the screen. VS 2013 makes it slightly easier to run tests without the full Test Explorer panel open.
Battery life was a concern, particularly when traveling, at a conference, or in a crowded Starbucks with only one outlet. I've never owned a laptop I could do development on with even remotely satisfactory battery life, and indeed the Surface Pro 2 was given mediocre marks by both Anandtech and Jeff Atwood as soon as it came out. Your mileage may vary, but I was impressed. In one completely unscientific experiment I opened up the Surface Pro 2 with a full charge to see how close to a full day it would last:
- Running Visual Studio 2013 doing active development, compiling code and running unit tests
- SQL 2013 in the background
- Wifi on at all times reading Newsblur and checking email with Outlook 2013
- Bluetooth off
I was also in sessions this day, so it may not have been the most keyboard-banging intense development possible, but I booted up at 9am and at 4pm when I was ready to head back to the hotel I had 10% battery left. Not bad at all.
All in all, I'm pretty happy with the device. I can do real development on the road, it's small and light, and it works great as a tablet at home. I would be interested to see a slightly larger model: allowing for a larger screen and also a larger Type Cover with a more standard keyboard layout.