Microsoft Surface Pro Works Great – as Long as You Have a Surface
Roopinder Tara posted on April 10, 2018 |
Tablet-keyboard combination is small, light and has a terrific screen. Hard to use in flight, though...

Using the Microsoft Surface Pro is like being thrust warp speed into the future. Instead of having to enter a password or PIN, its camera detects your face. Its touchscreen will have you wondering if you can ever go back to an ordinary laptop. It also looks pretty stylish under your arm when you walk into a meeting. It is able to hold its own next to MacBooks, practically a requirement in San Francisco coffee shops. (Pretty sure my ThinkPad was costing me style points).

Set Up

The Surface Pro is a joy from the very opening. It’s packaging maximizes the “out-of-box” experience—all white with nice cutouts and everything in its place. Engineers, never ones to admit to liking a computer for its looks, will break down. Freed from its package, I have to admit the Surface Pro looks beautiful. There, I said it. With an optional keyboard that snaps into place and a spiffy little AC adaptor (with a USB port—nice!), you are ready to set it up.

The voice of Cortona, Microsoft’s answer to Siri, quite capably guided me through the setup, though she’s a little too chummy for the office environment. It took a couple of hours to get through the Windows 10 updates.

Setup included a quick photo session. After that I was identified flawlessly, even at an angle, with and without glasses, and even yawning. That was before a cup of coffee.

The unit shipped with an Alcantara cover and keyboard. A keyboard is a must have if you are going to use the Surface Pro in an office. You will want to add a wireless mouse. After years of using a TrackPoint, the touchpad is a little hard to get used to.

Traveling with the Surface Pro

Working on the Surface Pro in flight turned into an exercise in frustration. It doesn't fit on the seat back tray.
Working on the Surface Pro in flight turned into an exercise in frustration. It doesn't fit on the seat back tray.

Will the Surface Pro function as well as your trusty laptop on a business trip? Its compact size and a fast Intel i7-766OU CPU will make the Surface Pro easy to pack and go and deliver once you get to your destination. The clear, sharp screen and keyboard will let you see your email and spreadsheets or bang out a report or article with no problem. But using it in transit can present some challenges.

Engineers who don't spend so much time in flight will want to check out our more grounded review of the Surface Pro here


The keyboard must be compared to the ThinkPad, which is constantly held up by reviewers as the gold standard of keyboards. The Surface Pro keyboard, with its square, short travel keys, has good tactile feedback, fits my hands and doesn’t seem to make me any worse of a typist. The thin keyboard does have some flex but not enough to matter.

Installing the keyboard was literally a snap. Magnetic catches secure the tablet and keyboard. It integrates completely. Keyboard and tablet work so well together that in the four weeks I’ve used it, I have not needed to separate the two.

Screen and Accessorizing

The intensely bright, clear screen of the Surface Pro is only 12.3 inches diagonally but packs a 2,736 x 1,834 resolution. Chances are this is a better display than the one on your laptop.

You can run a second screen off the Surface Pro, and some CAD users are doing that. However, the Surface Pro sports only a single USB port. If you are using a wireless mouse, you have no ports left for anything else. A multiscreen setup will require a USB hub.

Literally Not a Laptop

The Surface Pro is great on desks and tables. On laps and my airline’s seat back trays… not so much. The kickstand falls off the back of the tray. Keeping it on the tray is giving me alligator arms. So is trying to keep the screen/keyboard combo on my lap.

I see a clip on the seat that would accommodate the tablet and let me use the keyboard on the tray or my lap. Alas, the keyboard doesn’t work unless it is connected to the tablet/screen.

I hope the next version of the Surface Pro will have a Bluetooth connection for the keyboard and additional USB ports. That would complete what already is a svelte, sexy and fashionable computer that comes close to replacing most everybody’s notebook.

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