What Does Surface Need for You to Buy In?

So, reading Beneath a Surface has gotten me very nastalgic for Windows 8/8.1.

I’m still one of the few that thinks Microsoft were actually onto something. I’m still a bit irritated it was massacred in the tech press. I agree that there were some systemic problems. But man…it was really a pretty nice first attempt at a touch-first conversion.

So, I’m sure there are many here who have and love various Surface lines. But for the rest of us, what is your major “sticking point” preventing you from pulling the trigger?


Surface Go – currently overpriced for my perceived value (may not be actually true)

Surface Pro – probably the most likely to be useful for me, concern about reliability

Surface Laptop – kinda going out of my “laptop phase”, also alcantara

Surface Book – see “laptop phase” above, but otherwise this would probably be the winner

Surface Studio – currently overpriced for my perceived value, but tempted to get for my wife

I consider myself a good “target” customer for Surface as a premium brand. I honestly don’t mind paying “overpriced” margins for a product I love (or am at least confident in). But I’m just not quite there yet with Surface.

Conversation 36 comments

  • PeterC

    30 November, 2018 - 3:04 am

    <p>My wife and I are a house of “pros”. <img class="emoji" draggable="false" alt="?" src="https://s.w.org/images/core/emoji/11/svg/1f600.svg"&gt; have been for years. Theres no sticking points for us.</p><p><br></p><p>It’s portability and usability is remarkable. My wife does a lot of train travel and it’s the best portable computer in our opinion. We have docks and monitors at home and work too. I’m more docked these days but next year I will be back on the move more. Nothing comes close to its usability and form factor. Nothing.</p><p><br></p><p>Reliability issues were notable for us in the early days, but have been very good since the surface pro 3 got its battery and sleep of death issues sorted. My current model is a surface pro 5 (2017) i7 8gb model. Unlike others, I need the extra grunt of the albeit dual core i7 and fan cooled chip with 8 gb, less throttling for my type of work and it’s noticeably different to the i5 non fan cooled variant, and yes Ive compared them directly. Most reviewers tell you the i5 8gb is the sweet spot but really you need to think about what work you do. In my experience bench tests and reviewer opinions do need to be taken with caution. The fan cooled i7 leaves the others for dust and the fan is not audible. I compared my old SP3 to sp5 and the differences are quite remarkable. Battery life is good but again what will you be using the surface for kinda affects battery. My usage is focussed on large spreadsheets of interconnected data that need daily review and recalculating, with on average a couple of million re-calculations per work book.</p><p><br></p><p>The graphics are way better too with the i7 variant. Surface docks have been hugely challenging though, MS really should have done better especially for the prices they charge. With the intel upgrade in the current sp6 Versions you may not want the i7 variant, but for me I will always buy it. The surface pro line is all about maximum portability and power. </p><p><br></p><p><u>If there are any sticking points</u> as you put it then ……. they’re Windows and office related (Microsoft 365 basically) ….. <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent;">The problems I have with surface now ARE NOT hardware related. </span><em style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent;">The hardware is great</em><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent;">. </span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent;">This whole 365 as a service stuff is vampirical and SUCKS THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF YOUR PERFORMANCE . Ive just had enough and scaled down my cloud and one drive usage massively, returning to more local back up and local solutions etc. Its like someone just gave me 30% performance back. </span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent;">If I were Panos I’d be giving the "Microsoft 365 team" a piece of my mind.</span></p><p><br></p>

    • curtisspendlove

      02 December, 2018 - 1:11 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#375228">In reply to PeterC:</a></em></blockquote><p>Interesting. It all depends on use-case I suppose. </p><p><br></p><p>I find for my work a mid-level i5 is fine. But most of my work is bursty: compiles, transpiles, etc. Some spreadsheets, but not huge ones. I do invest in RAM and drive speed, though since I’m dealing in small, continuous changes across tens of thousands of files. </p><p><br></p><p>Also interesting about the “cloud” performance you’ve noticed. You’d think the code would prioritize local resources to cloud ones. :: shrug ::</p>

  • hrlngrv

    Premium Member
    30 November, 2018 - 3:36 am

    <p>For me it's the hardware, for which I have no interest. Why? The keyboard layout, more specifically the lack of inverted T arrow keys and the lack of separate PgUp/PgDown keys. Little stuff, but for the same reason there's no way I'll ever buy an HP laptop.</p>

  • crp0908

    30 November, 2018 - 7:13 am

    <p>I have used the Go, Pro 6, and Laptop 2. Here's a quick summary:</p><p><br></p><p>Surface Go – great secondary device for travelling. Not good to use as a primary device or staring at that tiny screen all day with old tired eyes. At least it has USB-C. Believe it or not, it is my 2nd place of the Surface line.</p><p><br></p><p>Surface Pro – concern about reliability / serviceability, No USB-C. Low end is economical but with higher specs it becomes pricey. Not my preference to use as a primary (or even secondary) device. </p><p><br></p><p>Surface Laptop 2 – alcantara, No USB-C. But my favorite of the Surface line. Read Paul's review for the SL2 to see why.</p><p><br></p><p>Surface Book – currently overpriced for my perceived value</p><p><br></p><p>Surface Studio – currently overpriced for my perceived value</p>

  • Daekar

    30 November, 2018 - 7:59 am

    <p>I'm not the target audience for any of the devices except the Laptop and Book, because I place a huge premium on the quality of a keyboard (rigidity! key throw!) and lapability. When I sit down with a Windows or Linux device, I want the hardware to get out of the way and let me be productive, and as much as my wife loves her Surface, all devices in that category make too many compromises in usability for the sake of the form factor – in my opinion, anyway.</p><p><br></p><p>The biggest problem I've seen with Surface devices (and the ones I've seen are admittedly older) is unpredictable behavior. My wife is always saying things like, "why isn't it waking up?" "what is it doing now?" or "why did this change?" I have to admit, a significant portion of the time, I am completely mystified. Her Surface Pro 3 does unpredictable things on a relatively routine basis and has issues that I have never observed with other brands or even with cobbled-together homebuilt PCs. Most of the time I can fix whatever it is, but the consistent weirdness is definitely a downside.</p><p><br></p><p>That said, the only way I'd ever get a new Surface is if I was issued one at work, because I'm not willing to spend a lot of money on a secondary machine… and to me, that's all laptops/tablets will ever be suited for. Having seen how much my wife and other family members are limited by choosing a portable device as their primary machines, I can't imagine making that choice.</p>

  • Jeffery Commaroto

    30 November, 2018 - 9:11 am

    <p>Price. The form factors and aesthetics are all nice. They definitely have the "I want one" factor. The "I need one" factor at the price points just isn't there. I feel like I can get so much more in a laptop for a lot less. Even when I started a new job and the company was willing to consider just about anything for a new machine I ended up going with a Dell XPS. I couldn't justify having them pay for one or a Macbook Pro even though either of those were on my "want" list. I got so much more machine for the price.</p><p><br></p><p>Secondary is software. I love the iOS app ecosystem and I cannot replace it with Windows. I actually pulled up the Kindle eBook to "give it another try" on Windows yesterday and I ended up going right back to the iPad. I have tried several times to make Windows 2 in 1's work for me and I just can't. If I could go back I wouldn't have ever bought one for myself and stuck with a cheaper basic laptop.</p><p><br></p><p>Those two things together make Surface a no go for me. I would rather use an iPad and a laptop than try to replace both with a Surface Pro/Go and I cannot justify the money on the Surface Laptop or Book when there are other laptop options.</p>

  • Polycrastinator

    30 November, 2018 - 9:32 am

    <p>Thunderbolt. Lack of thunderbolt is a deal breaker for me at this stage, because my office is standardizing on Thunderbolt docks. Really that's the thing.</p>

  • justme

    Premium Member
    30 November, 2018 - 9:43 am

    <p>Nostalgic? Hehehe, I still run 8.1 as my primary OS. It took me a while to get there, but once I tweaked it to my liking, it has served my needs.</p><p><br></p><p>But to the question at hand. I have an SP3 running 8.1. When I do eventually upgrade, it will likely be a Book. If there is a sticking point anywhere, its price. The form factor is there for my needs. I just feel there are other laptops out there for less, with newer technology (USB-C/Thunderbolt). A charger that keeps up with battery drain (*cough* book *cough*) would help. The dedicated graphics in a portable form factor is big for me. </p><p><br></p><p>Secondarily, it software. Not a fan of Windows 10. Once I upgrade, I will (unfortunately) have to give up 8.1 in anything but a VM. I also am not a fan of Microsoft trying to force you to the cloud with everything.</p>

  • waethorn

    30 November, 2018 - 10:22 am

    <p>Save some money and get a different OEM clone model if you're looking at the Surface Pro.</p><p><br></p><p>If you're worried about any kind of reliability or internal build quality, get a cheaper laptop that has accessibility for the components. Looking pretty on the outside means nothing about reliability on the inside – you're just spending more money on it cuz these custom integrated systems are poorly built.</p>

  • harmjr

    Premium Member
    30 November, 2018 - 10:27 am

    <p>For me buying a Surface branded device is buying a sports car when I could get a sedan. It needs to be cutting edge **cough** USB C. It needs to just work – no bugs flicker gate. It needs to be sleek and sexy. It needs to turn heads when I show it off. Other wise why not get a dell or hp. Its got to scream I have money to burn and this bad boy has a star menu and the close X button in the correct spot. So why don't you go choke on that apple.</p>

    • remc86007

      30 November, 2018 - 12:19 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#375380">In reply to harmjr:</a></em></blockquote><p>Funny, I think of it the other way around. If I'm buying a family sedan, I'd want it to have all the newest tech. If I'm buying a sports car, it is purely because of the experience of driving it.</p><p><br></p><p>Having owned several laptops and four Surface devices; Surfaces are like sports cars to me, they are just better to use.</p>

      • curtisspendlove

        01 December, 2018 - 1:38 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#375483">In reply to remc86007:</a></em></blockquote><p>Car metaphors are always a bit tricky. I get both of your points. </p><p><br></p><p>I gather he’s still buying a luxury sedan. A desktop or laptop with all the bells and whistles. And when you have that, Surface devices do have some compromises. </p><p><br></p><p>I do consider the look of Surface devices to be premium and gorgeous though (well maybe not the Go). </p>

  • evox81

    Premium Member
    30 November, 2018 - 11:00 am

    <p>Outside of a Surface Go to replace an aging Surface 3, I don't see myself buying in to any of the other product segments in the Surface line. I definitely champion them and recommend them to others, but outside of media consumption, I've never been a big fan of any of the portable form factors. Portable devices generally, and the Surface line in particular, just don't offer the value I'm looking for. In the desktop space, I value the modular nature of the traditional desktop/monitor/peripherals paradigm too much to consider an AIO/Studio type device.</p>

    • ChiWax

      01 December, 2018 - 8:02 pm

      <p><a href="#375395"><em>In reply to evox81:</em></a><em> </em>I'm in the same boat. My Surface 3 isn't my only computing device by far. But the size and kickstand(WHICH NO BLOGGERS MENTION ANYMORE) keep me wanting to just order a Surface Go. It's something between a phone/Echo Show and a full computer for me. I'd probably use an iPad the same way but it doesn't have the kickstand(and some other stuff). But for me size/kickstand. If it can open a webpage and play video/music then I'm not sure what else I'm looking for in such a device. Also, and I shouldn't mention it on this site, but I LOVE the pen.</p>

  • rob_segal

    Premium Member
    30 November, 2018 - 11:05 am

    <p>Intel's inability to scale down their processors hurt Surface Go. I'm not as sold on Windows 10 on ARM as I used to be. A few years down the road, maybe, Windows 10 on ARM will be great. Unfortunately, the Surface Go exists in the present. There is a market for this device. I'm just not a part of that market.</p><p><br></p><p>It would be great if Microsoft reintroduced the battery cover for Surface Pro. It would help balance the weight, especially with how thin Surface Pro has gotten. Now would be a great time to release it again. That would put Surface Pro over the top for me (along with USB-C thunderbolt 3, of course).</p><p><br></p><p>There are so many great laptops out there. I'm not sure there is a place for Surface Laptop, especially with the Huawei MateBook X Pro. Premium ultrabooks are strong right now.</p><p><br></p><p>Surface Book is interesting. I'm not sure it would wise for Microsoft to ever sell the clipboard section separate from the base. Stability is the most important thing to continue to improve here. A new hinge could really help.</p><p><br></p><p>Surface Studio is drool-worthy. I like Microsoft's current future plans for it. Way out of my price-range, but again, I'm not the intended market.</p>

    • curtisspendlove

      01 December, 2018 - 1:32 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#375397">In reply to rob_segal:</a></em></blockquote><p>All solid points I agree with. </p><p><br></p><p><em>Surface studio is drool-worthy.</em> </p><p><br></p><p>Indeed. I wouldn’t use it much. But I’ve gone the rounds a couple times, nearly pulling the trigger on one for my wife’s painting studio. For me it just isn’t quite where I want it to be. </p><p><br></p><p>I have my toe in both the Microsoft and Apple worlds. And it entertains me when I hear the pleading tone in voices calling for Apple to make an iMac Studio or whatever it would be called. Thoough I have to admit, if Apple ever figured out the touchscreen thing and released a Studio competitor it would definitely add another choice to my already huge freaking list of possible choices. </p>

  • Patrick3D

    30 November, 2018 - 1:12 pm

    <p>The only Surface device I would be interested in would be one that I get for free as the result of a giveaway or contest. I've owned tablets and laptops, as well as manage 13 Surface tablets at work, but I have zero need for them in my personal life. A self-built desktop PC and an affordable smartphone are the only 2 devices I need and use daily. Surface Studio looks like a neat device but I never spend more than $500 building a PC of my own.</p>

  • lvthunder

    Premium Member
    30 November, 2018 - 1:36 pm

    <p>It all depends on what you are using a computer for. Somehow I managed to talk my boss into buying me the Studio2 and I use the original Surface Book at home. The features that make them unique is what I enjoy most.</p><p><br></p><p>For work I use AutoCAD a lot and using the Studio with the screen all the way down with the pen reminds me of the hand drafting days. I actually wasn't around for those except in my high school drafting class. This computer is great. AutoCAD needs to make some changes for it to be the ultimate experience, but it's really close.</p><p><br></p><p>At home my hobby is photography. Fashion and glamour specifically. So I really like using Photoshop with the Book with the screen attached backwards. It's the best way to use Photoshop in my opinion. I never noticed the sleep problems with the Book because I always shut down when I'm done. The idea of putting a computer to sleep just doesn't feel right to me. Why would I want the ruminants of yesterdays memory leaks and crashes impacting me today.</p><p><br></p><p>The one thing that makes Surface devices unique (I think) is the 2:3 display. I really enjoy that.</p>

    • ChiWax

      01 December, 2018 - 7:57 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#375567"><em>In reply to lvthunder:</em></a><em> </em> Use case is the biggest topic. Don't forget, if you are a successful tech blogger you are going to need an overpowered 15 inch laptop and the latest Google phone that's been released. Your needs may differ.</blockquote><p><br></p>

  • MutualCore

    30 November, 2018 - 2:21 pm

    <p>Surface Studio with swappable computer part is something I would be very interested in. I can imagine getting a new compute module every 24-30 months, no need for upgrading the display more than 7-8 years.</p>

    • curtisspendlove

      01 December, 2018 - 1:25 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#375587">In reply to MutualCore:</a></em></blockquote><p>Agreed here. I consider this a pretty brilliant idea. </p><p><br></p><p>I just cant bring myself to pull the trigger on a $3000 computer knowing it is already behind the “spec” curve. This would help solve that, since you could re-leverage $2000 of it. Man that gorgeous monitor. </p><p><br></p><p>It would be even more awesome if the compute module had standard video ports so you could pass it down to a kid or whatever and hook it into a standard monitor. </p>

    • ChiWax

      01 December, 2018 - 7:54 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#375587">In reply to MutualCore:</a></em></blockquote><blockquote><br></blockquote><blockquote><em>If the display on the Surface Studio could actually last 7-8 years….that would be an amazing accomplishment by the screen maker. I don't think such a screen would last that long. Would love to be wrong about that.</em></blockquote><p><br></p>

  • jimchamplin

    Premium Member
    30 November, 2018 - 8:11 pm

    <p>I want the 8.x UI to replace Windows 10's fucking awful "tablet mode."</p><p><br></p><p>I loved the ability to pin 2, 3, even 4 apps side-by-side on the screen. 10's pitiful rendition of Windows 7's side-by-side snapping to me is a regression bug. </p><p><br></p><p>It's pretty sad that during the 10 betas, one of the highest-upvoted topics was "bring back the 8.x UI for tablet mode" and Microsoft straight up ignored it. They saddled Windows 10 with the downright awful thing it has now. I mean… Christ! The full-screen Start still has a bug where regularly, it'll just display <em>BLANK TILES</em> with no iconography or live content.</p><p><br></p><p><em>What are these people doing!?</em> They're doing crap that breaks software, but for some reason not fixing their unfinished crap.</p><p><br></p><p>If they made getting back the Windows 8.x UI an exclusive feature of Surface devices, I'd lie, cheat, and steal my way to purchase one.</p>

    • curtisspendlove

      01 December, 2018 - 1:21 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#375782">In reply to jimchamplin:</a></em></blockquote><p>I hear you. I feel like I’m one in a very small minority who loved the potential of Windows 8 on touch-first devices. </p><p><br></p><p>It is the main reason that an iPad is still at the top of my list to replace my iPad. Their touch UI/X is simply great. I *want* to love touch Windows, but there are just a bunch of quirks that get irritating. I’m sure if I bit the bullet and purchased one I’d get used to the quirks though. </p><p><br></p><p>:: sigh ::</p>

    • ChiWax

      01 December, 2018 - 7:52 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#375782"><em>In reply to jimchamplin:</em></a><em> Have to agree with TABLET MODE. I use an aging Surface 3. Every time I detach the keyboard I allow it to ask me if I want to switch to TABLET MODE. I'm not sure why I participate in that joke. I honestly feel the current TABLET MODE is less appealing now than when I first upgraded the device to Windows 10. It may be my perception but I feel like they actually made TABLET MODE worse during the dev cycle of Windows 10 up until this point.</em></blockquote><p><br></p>

  • dcdevito

    30 November, 2018 - 9:06 pm

    <p>It needs to break my absolutely-fine-nothing-wrong-with desktop PC so I can justify the purchase :)</p>

    • curtisspendlove

      01 December, 2018 - 1:16 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#375799">In reply to dcdevito:</a></em></blockquote><p>Heh. Yeah this is part of my problem. I’m coming off of having 2 personal laptops and 2 work laptops. </p><p><br></p><p>I was going to replace my aging MacBook Pro, and couldn’t decide between a very expensive new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or Surface Book. </p><p><br></p><p>While trying to decide I realized I hardly ever take my personal laptops with me nowadays. Honestly, the work laptops are almost always used in a “docked” mode (either in my home office or my work office) as well. </p><p><br></p><p>So instead of buying another $2000 laptop, I bought a much more powerful, better value desktop. </p><p><br></p><p>Hence my “laptop phase” coming to and end. It is still handy to have one for work in case I need to travel. But I’m never going to have a personal emergency that requires me to have a “real computer” to get something done. </p><p><br></p><p>I'm definitely still interested in Surface though. I do actually want to replace my aging iPad Air 2. I’m not sure if that replacement is going to be an iPad Pro, Surface Go, or Surface Pro. </p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    01 December, 2018 - 2:25 am

    <p>I had a Pro 3, which my old employer bought off me, so I could use it for work.</p><p>When I left the company, I looked at my usage and decided that the form factor didn't make much sense for my use, I used it 90% of the time docked and 19% of the time mobile with the keyboard attached. I replaced it with an HP Spectre X360. </p><p>My next device will probably be another X360 or a Yoga like device.</p>

    • Simard57

      01 December, 2018 - 1:57 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#375837">In reply to wright_is:</a></em></blockquote><p>hey – you got 109% usage. how great is that ;)</p><p><br></p>

  • Winner

    01 December, 2018 - 8:17 pm

    <p>Re laptop: I have oily skin and don't want cloth on my machine.</p><p>Also, I don't want to support products that are unserviceable re: all glued together (I realize this is becoming more difficult)</p><p>Other Surfaces: Not really lapable.</p><p>Microsoft in general: Don't trust their long term support nor hardware reliability.</p>

  • Dave

    02 December, 2018 - 2:34 am

    <p>Price first and foremost for us in the UK. At the time of writing 1 dollar is worth 0.78 pound sterling. The cheapest surface go is priced at £379. This is for 64GB storage and 4GB RAM, with no typecover or pen. This is equivalent to you guys over the pond paying $483. You just wouldn't would you?</p><p><br></p><p>For £319 I can buy an ipad 9.7 with 32 GB storage or £419 for 128 GB storage. </p><p><br></p><p>So my strategy will be to run my windows desktop (4 years old) and laptop (2.5 years old but under-powered and struggling) until they become unusable and then review the situation with the possibility of moving over to apple.</p>

    • curtisspendlove

      02 December, 2018 - 1:04 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#376132">In reply to Dave:</a></em></blockquote><p>I have heard electronics prices are kinda insane at the moment. I thought they were bad in America, sounds like we might be the lucky ones at the moment. </p>

  • Tony Barrett

    02 December, 2018 - 6:25 am

    <p>Surface is a brand – nothing more. It's priced accordingly to make it seem premium, where margins are higher, but in reality, the components are pretty much off the shelf, wrapped in a 'pretty' coating. MS are just going after Apple – at the high end. When we're talking Windows here – bog standard Windows – that runs on everything. Why would I spend well over a thousand pounds – sometimes over £2k, for a WINDOWS device. Come on! Very few need a top end i7, or 16GB RAM, or a super high res, mega colour, hyper refresh display, but some are completely suckered into buying them – at whatever the cost. I've also always built my own PC's, and saved a fortune in the process. Sure, you can't 'build' a laptop, but you can certainly get a much lower cost device that does what you need.</p><p>Surface is nothing special. Being made to look premium on the outside doesn't mean it's doing anything special on the inside, and don't even start me on the firmware issues, Windows 10 stability, data collection, crapware etc.</p>

    • curtisspendlove

      02 December, 2018 - 1:02 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#376142">In reply to ghostrider:</a></em></blockquote><p>Yup. I get your perspective. </p><p><br></p><p>I actually do think there is actual premium in the Surface brand. However, the build quality does imply a standard that the internals may not live up to (haven’t owned one, so I can’t give personal evidence either way). </p><p><br></p><p>It is interesting to me though, since Microsoft is essentially trying to directly compete with Apple in the premium space. Google is too, but arguably less successfully. </p>

  • matsan

    02 December, 2018 - 9:58 am

    <p>I bought the 1st gen Surface Pro. My pre-ordered 128GB was DOA and had to be replaced with the 64GB model due to shortage of 128 GB model in Sweden. I don't think they managed to ship the 128 GB version in volumes here before the scrapped the 1st gen, it was always out of stock. Had to replace power-supplies three times. Bought it to have a decent machine for travelling but the unreliable power-supply made my buy a Dell XPS 13 after the first and only trip with the Surface. After that no more Microsoft hardware. They are probably better now, but first impression lasts.</p><p>Then came Windows 10 1709… and after that I moved to Mac OS. I'm on a heavily overpriced MBP 15" (2018) but it is rock solid, nothing I experienced with 1709.</p>

  • Jhambi

    02 December, 2018 - 1:18 pm

    <p>Surface Pro – almost there just need usb-c and maybe longer battery life</p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Surface Laptop – I dont like Alcantara. Remove that option please.</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">The rest – no thanks.</span></p>

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