The BIM9 team was lucky enough to get a Microsoft Surface for AU this year to show off in the booth. Our intention is to show it connecting to our Private BIM Cloud. I can say it does that quite well. No issues or custom apps to get to connect it, just use the Remote Desktop Connection software that is built in. The coolest thing is you can use a mouse, and use the mouse in Revit via a Private BIM Cloud!
My unscientific testing start by deciding not to read any of the documentation or watch any of the tutorials. I wanted to see if what I have learned about using computers starting in the 80’s, and my experience using tablets starting with the first iPad would carry be though.
Tablet or Netbook?
First impression is it a nice tablet. My second impression, after using it, its a nice netbook. Because it’s built on Microsoft Windows 8 it still feels like a PC. My first try turning on the tablet I pressed the volume button, holding in the volume button in for a few seconds for some weird reason did not turn it on. Then I figured out it was not the power button. Ok, first thing I felt dumb about, but that’s not Microsoft’s fault. One thing of note the volume button is not a rocker, its actually 3 buttons, Volume UP, Down and Mute.
Next was setting up the device and trying to connect to remote desktop. I first tried to use the device without the keyboard/cover. I needed to find Remote Desktop Connector, I know that in Windows 8 I just simply type “Remo” and search would find it. Trying to find the on-screen keyboard in the interface formally know as Metro was note as easy as I would have liked . You see when in Metro you simply type what application you want to use. Typing does not bother me a I came from the world of AutoCAD and would type chamfer and redraw many time a hour.
Once found the all applications tile I was able to find Remote Desktop Connection, then it took me to the previous Windows interface, or the classic interface if you will. There I found the on-screen keyboard button. The Surface would play a different tone then you type, which became quite annoying, weird part was it played the sounds with the type cover. Good think I found the volume button earlier.
Now I have tools I need to connect to the Private BIM Cloud; A Mouse, A Keyboard and the Remote Desktop software. Connecting to the Private BIM Cloud was exactly like connecting from my Windows desktop, in fact all the setting and options are the same. Once connected the remote experience was quite good, I would say very good in fact, almost perfect. Just had the normal cursor lag in AutoCAD, Revit worked great.
Now let talk about the Surface itself. I decided to write this review using the surface so I could experience it in all its glory. I attached its keyboard, I did not get it connected right the first time, I am now wondering how many tablets they broke making the TV spot we have all seen. Once the keyboard connected, I popped the kickstand out no click, more of a ping than a click. The keyboard itself is rather difficult to get used to, you want to press hard on the keys but the lighter you type the easier it is to type. At this point in the review my fingers hurt. So I a going to take a break.
I noticed that the type cover has the fuzzy cleaning stuff on the outside. Which is a good idea but in practice it just collects dust and other stuff. The magnetic charger as difficult to attach it, the fit was too tight for the charger attachment to just simply fit in. Over all I would rather have a more plastic type outside on the cover. Also the felt on the working side looks to me like it would get dirty fast from the oil in your skin.
Enough if the negative stuff. lets talk about what Microsoft did right. (switching to real keyboard now)
Comparing surface to the iPad and Samsung tablets, I would put the surface right in the middle of the two. It’s much better that any android table I have used, but not quite as easy to use as the iPad. If you are trying to decided between an ultrabook or a tablet, then the surface is for you. If you want a pure tablet then you may want to look at the iPad.
- The build quality of the surface is very good, much better than the samsung. It’s not quite as good as what Microsoft states, the connectors are too tight and for magnetic connectors you need to guide them to get them connected correctly.
- Computing speed. The Surface is a very snappy little computer. I was surprised how good it’s performance was. I did not run in to any speed issues or did I wait longer than I expected to start any applications.
- Office 2013. Microsoft has included a preview version of up and coming version of Office 2013. A nice touch is Microsoft will be updating your Surface to the shipping version of Office 2013 when it’s ready. What makes me wonder is why the Office team at Microsoft could not ship Office with Windows 8.
- Windows Logo is the home button. I guess if I would have read the instructions I would have know that.
Bring it to the Surface
Overall, I like the surface but I would still use my iPad for twitter
. But I would sure use a Surface to use it to connect to a Private BIM Cloud
and run Revit. Would I purchase one? If my iPad and MacBook Air were long in the tooth and needed to be replaced I would really thing about getting one. Of all the negative and positive things I have said about the Microsoft Surface, the biggest missing feature is LTE or any form of mobile internet. Without LTE its very hard to recommend Microsoft Surface.