Looking Good on the Surface

Looking Good on the Surface

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Surface 3 Unveiled

Microsoft unveiled the Surface 3 today. It’s powered by Intel’s Atom line-up and features a $499 USD price tag which seems like a incredibly bad deal at first glance but I’m warming up to it.

  • Display: 10.8″ 3:2 ratio 1920 x 1280 touch screen
  • CPU: Intel’s quad-core Atom x7-Z8700
  • Memory/Storage: 2GB/64GB or 4GB/128GB
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Battery life: Up to 10 hours (video playback)
  • Camera: 3.5MP front facing, 8.0MP rear facing
  • OS: Windows 8.1
  • Weight: 1.37lbs
  • MSRP: $499 USD for 64GB & $599 USD for 128GB

And all of this comes with Surface’s trademark kickstand. It’s also compatible with their pens and keyboard covers.

I paid $750 CAD or so for a 64GB iPad Air 2 and I love it for media consumption and the occasional iOS game. At $599 USD for the 128GB model, this could be a very compelling product for that exact use case. The Surface 3 also has the added of advantage of running a real operating system that can run full blown applications like Office. It’s not as light and I’ll likely miss out on great iOS only experiences but if I wasn’t into mobile gaming and was looking for a tablet for light work and media consumption, I’d consider the Surface 3.

Windows 10’s Technical Preview Impressions

I’ve been running the Windows 10 Technical Preview builds on a work laptop. Normally I’d try this kind of thing at home but I hardly use my home PC for anything other than PC games.

If you’re curious, the laptop is an old Dell Latitude from 2008. I wish I could install an SSD in it but that’s the least of this laptop’s worries.

General Look & Feel

At a very high level, Windows 10 is a revised version of Windows 8.1. Anyone who spent time using Windows 8 will feel right at home. Anyone who rejected Windows 8 will notice this OS is Windows 7 with a funkier Start Menu. Windows 10 isn’t trying to force new concepts down people’s throats. It’s not hiding the Shutdown menu, the Start Menu button or the Search bar anymore; everything is visible and easy to understand.

There was serious identity problem Windows 8’s visual make up. The Modern apps and old applications often clashed with each other visually and philosophically. Modern Apps loved to occupy the entire screen and hide menus in Charms whereas classic Windows applications behaved like normal applications would. Windows 8.1 rectified some of those issues and Windows 10 completely fixes it.

Now Modern Apps behave like classic Windows applications with visible menus and resizable Windows. They continue to look a little awkward beside older applications but at least they behave the same. With menus returning to the forefront, the Charms bar on are dead on desktop. Now I’m wondering to myself how long before I stop running my mouse along the edge of the screen to shutdown my PC. Silly habits are still habits.

Cortana

I like the idea of Cortana/Siri on the desktop. I don’t need to launch an app or have the weather constantly displayed. I like being able to ask digital assistants what the conversion is between USD and CAD and Fahrenheit and Celsius. It seems like a no brainer for Apple that I’m surprised Cortana may beat Siri to the desktop.

Since this is a work laptop, I haven’t been able to use Cortana beyond the rudimentary weather inquiries. I also don’t want to be that guy who’s talking to his laptop all day in cubicle city.

I wonder if Cortana will be more of a laptop or Surface centric feature because I don’t know many people who have a standalone mics on their desktops. This may change for Windows 10 desktop PCs though.

Spartan

The latest addition to the Windows 10 Technical Preview is Microsoft’s take on the modern web browser codenamed Project Spartan.

It’s a standalone web browser with annotation capabilities. It also comes with a Reading Mode. I haven’t used it enough to formulate a real opinion outside of this simple observation:

The default tab and menu bars consume the most space compared to Internet Explorer 11 and Google Chrome 41 in maximized mode.

I hope there’s a way to adjust the icon and menu sizes in the final version.

Project Spartan is more of a work in progress than Windows 10 itself. There’s currently no way to change your default search engine or browse with Private Mode. Google’s websites don’t even recognize it properly and will frequently tell me to download a modern browser.

Solid Start

Apparently Microsoft are aiming for a summer launch and I can could certainly see the operating system meeting that deadline. Cortana seems ready for prime time but Project Spartan needs more time in the oven. Will it all make it for the summer launch? I think so. Microsoft have been releasing builds at a rapid pace with each build shoring up the operating system in noticeable ways.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3

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I’ve been eying the Microsoft Surface Pro tablets from a while now. I’ve always wondered if it could truly replace my iPad and MacBook Air combination.

96% of people who own an iPad also own a laptop

Microsoft pointed out that fact today and it’s true. I own both but I don’t think everyone owns both for the exact same reason as me. I own a desktop, laptop and tablet. The desktop is for gaming, and Windows exclusive work. The MacBook Air is pretty much my general usage machine. I do everything from word processing, remote administration of my home server and even some light gaming. The iPad is for watching shows, listening to music, browsing and bite sized games.

I have all three in order to maximize their strengths. However, I believe most households these days have laptops as their central computing device and forgo the desktop. So it makes a whole lot of sense when you consider the fact that iPad owners also have laptops.

I can see myself enjoying the Surface 3 Pro (Core i5, 128GB) but I don’t see myself utilizing it as the laptop replacement that Microsoft says. The new flexible stand is nice but it will never replace the sturdiness of a laptop for me. And while the pen is great for taking notes, I cannot remember the last time I was yearning for pen input.

So why would I want a Surface Pro 3 when I’m not going to take advantage of the tablet’s greatest strengths? For curiosity’s sake. Unfortunately I don’t have a grand just to satisfy curiosity.

New iPads, Macbooks & Mac Pros. Oh my!

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apple-logo.pngThe autumn leaves have revealed themselves which means it’s time for another round of hardware updates to the Apple lineup.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Apple had in store for this event. And just like with every event, most of the rumors were spot on while a handful omissions were disappointing.

Macbook Pro w/ Retina Display Haswell update

The first generation Macbook Pro w/ Retina Display was a solid effort for the 15″ but the 13″ was lagging behind due to Ivy Bridge’s relatively weak integrated GPU solution. The Haswell update and its Iris Pro offerings seems to be the missing pieces that will help Apple properly bring their high density Macbook Pro into reality.

Mac Pro Update

At $1999, it’s pricier than what I would normally pay for a desktop but then again I am not the target audience for such a machine. I don’t mind admiring exquisite design but I love tinkering and upgrading too much to give that up — especially a machine that costs $1999 or more.

iPad Air

I don’t quite understand why Apple decided to add the word “Air” to their latest 9.7″ iPad. They didn’t introduce a direct replacement to the thicker iPad 4 and they are phasing it out as well. So why did they? Why did they feel the need to the emphasize the the thin and lightness of it with the moniker?

I’m also confused by their continued use of the A7 in the full sized iPad. Historically, Apple took their latest SoC added additional GPU cores, bumped clock speed and slapped on the X suffix. They didn’t do that this time around. I doubt the A7 is running at the same clock speed but what about the number of GPU cores?

iPad Mini w/ Retina Display

The mystery behind the A7 continued when Apple revealed the iPad Mini w/ Retina display. The iPad Mini has the same number of pixels so the A7 is required but will it be running at the exact same speed? Apple is promising the same 10 hour battery life for both the 9.7″ and 7.9″ tablets, so either Apple engineers are wizards or there are some compromises that we’re not aware of.

Perhaps both are running at the exact same speeds and by doing so, Apple was able to get the weight of the 9.7″ down to 1 lb. I’m very curious how it all pans out.

The lack of Touch ID and gold color options for both iPads were disappointing. I don’t necessarily need the Touch ID for my iPad because I just leave that unlocked at home. It makes sense on a phone but not as important for me on the tablet. The lack of gold option though? I don’t understand why they wouldn’t offer that. Too gaudy to have a solid gold back? Or perhaps all of the above was held back due to supply and manufacturing concerns? After all, the gold iPhone 5s was (is?) a bit tough to acquire.

OS X Mavericks Is Free

So this is it. The end of charging for the operating systems from Apple. We’ve all come to expect free iOS updates from Apple, so this is just an extension of their philosophy of giving users software to keep them in the ecosystem.

I didn’t mind paying $20 for a yearly update but I certainly don’t mind free.

About the Nexus 7 (2013) & Chromecast

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google-logoA couple of notable Google products were announced last week, the Nexus 7 (2013) and the Chromecast. With reviews hitting today for both products, I thought I would share a few opinions on what Google brought to the table and whether or not I would buy them today.

Nexus 7 (2013)

At $229.99, the new Nexus 7 is a tough tablet to beat if you have no ecosystem bias. I’m very impressed with the specifications bump Google & ASUS pulled off. More memory, faster processors and dual band wi-fi are all appreciated. I didn’t feel the increase in screen resolution was necessary but I will take it nonetheless.┬áThe old Tegra 3 Nexus 7 felt sluggish at times but I never complained about the screen.

Some pitfalls with the latest Nexus 7 is the smaller battery. With everything else being bumped up, something had to give and Google & ASUS chose battery size which ultimately resulted in lower battery life. It’s slightly disappointing.

Chromecast

The only reason I would get an AppleTV is for AirPlay. And what would I be doing with AirPlay? Not playing games but watching videos on the big screen. The $35 Chromecast will give any HDTV with an HDMI port the ability to accept wireless broadcasts from any Chrome web browser. Google maximized their potential audience by enabling this dongle for Chrome and not just Android. A very wise move.

While Google should be lauded for their newest piece of hardware, I am waiting for 2014’s model. Early reviews have pointed out some performance issues and the highest resolution to be 720p. I don’t necessarily need my YouTube videos to render at 1080p but I would like a smoother experience.