Why I Wanted a Surface and Why I Was So Wrong

As a student and a writer it can be a challenge to find the right tool for my writing needs. I need something that I can take anywhere, but that can also make my documents available from anywhere if the device battery dies. I like my laptop, but it probably won’t be long before it kicks the metaphorical bucket and needs replaced. For this reason, I started experimenting.

First, I started with a Nexus tablet. It was lightweight, small, and easy to carry around wherever I went. With a 7″ screen, it was compact enough to carry in hand, in my purse, or in my backpack. The problem was finding a keyboard that I could actually type on. A width of 7″ doesn’t leave my hands much space to move around comfortably to type. After a few weeks of finger-typing instead of normal typing, I had enough. It was great for taking certain needed apps (Google Docs, Kindle, My Fitness Pal, Binder) to class with me, but it was horrible for the writing process.

Next I decided to try out the Surface. It seemed like the logical choice. The battery was good enough to last me the whole day without needing the charger (unlike my laptop), the app capabilities were equal to my tablet, and I could use Word and a normal keyboard to type up documents. So I picked on up used at a great price.

The device itself works great. No signs of wear from the previous user(s). No mechanical or technical issues. It was a bit of a learning curve to move from Windows 7 to Windows 8, but I would have to make that transition at some point anyway. It seems like the perfect compromise between a laptop and a tablet, until I started to really use it.

The first time I tried to do any real typing on the keyboard it would glitch out on me. Either one key would lock up and fill the screen, or the connection between the keyboard and the device would sever even if it was still connected. I was able to write one paragraph before I finally got frustrated enough to quit. While writing that paragraph the following happened:

  • The screen filled up with the hyphen. I had to take the keyboard off the Surface to get it to stop.
  • I attached the keyboard again and it wouldn’t “connect” so that I could actually use it.
  • When the keyboard did finally establish  the Surface, it lasted for half a sentence, then stopped working again.
  • I reconnected the keyboard and started typing, then the screen started to fill up with the letter “I”.
  • I disconnected the keyboard and attached a different one. It wouldn’t establish a connection.
  • I disconnected, checked to make sure everything was clear and there was nothing interfering with the connection, then tried again.
  • It worked for one sentence, then stopped working.
  • I reconnected it and had to fiddle with it to get it to work.
  • It stopped working again.

This time I just gave up. If I couldn’t complete one paragraph, there was no way I was going to establish a connection long enough to write anything longer.

Another issue I ended up having was the lack of ability to actually create documents with Google Drive. I could upload, view, and edit anything that was already there. But I couldn’t create a new document from scratch like my tablet or PC could do. This was frustrating and meant making the annoying switch of everything in my Google Drive to One Drive. Thank you to Microsoft for being a proprietary bastard.

Another issue I ended up encountering was the games. Not that they didn’t work. The games I downloaded worked great. The problem was, something I wanted to have just to fill in extra space when I had nothing to do ended up being too much of a distraction. Anyone who does get a Surface, avoid downloading games.

In all, my biggest frustration is that Microsoft couldn’t just create something that was like a tablet and PC that would actually use the keyboard properly when attached. If not for the major glitches I had with the keyboards I used, I would love this product (though I am still a little miffed about Google Drive).

I would like to tell Microsoft what I tell my toddlers: Keep trying. You’ll get better.

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