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The Surface Pro 2 Experiment - Getting to Know My Surface Pro 2
Tom Neilly

My name is Thomas Neilly and I am a second year student at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford majoring in Computer Information Systems and Technology. For the Fall 2014 semester, I’ll be using a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 to assist me in my studies – whether it be mobile, in the classroom, or at home. I will be writing a weekly blog about my experience and how it affects me. For my first two semesters, I had no form of laptop of tablet for computing - I relied on my home desktop, the CIST lab computers, and my smartphone. The Microsoft Surface Pro 2, (which I will from this point on shorten to Pro2), is the first “real” tablet I’ve used. I’ve had a Kindle Fire for a couple of years which I use on occasion for reading and Android based games, and I must say that the Pro2 is a totally different animal.

First I’d like to talk about some of the hardware that the Pro2 is using. The Pro2 is armed with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid state drive. If you aren’t familiar with computer specifications, all you need to know at this point is this tablet is powerful and can handle a solid workload. A 10.6 inch 1920x1080 full HD display, an 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi adapter, Bluetooth 4.0, a full-size USB 3.0 port, microSDXC card reader, headset jack, and mini displayport makes the Pro2 extremely versatile. I have yet to really put it to the test, but so far it has not gotten hot or given me any concerns on whether it needs a break or not. It came with a full QWERTY detachable keyboard, which, in my opinion, is absolutely necessary for doing anything other than web browsing. The keyboard conveniently folds up and connects magnetically, which I love. No fumbling with a cord or pronged adapter, you just align the keyboard anywhere remotely close to where it connects and the Pro2 sucks it right in. Fold up, fold down, snap on, snap off – it is very nice. 720p HD front and back facing cameras makes taking pictures and Skyping very practical. The battery seems durable (currently 41% remaining and 3+ hours of use left) – more than enough life to get through a few classes. The stylus combined with OneNote and Windows Journal seems like an interesting way to take notes, and the built in speakers with Dolby stereo sound great.

For those unfamiliar with the Pro2, this is not another Android based tablet. This computer is full blown Windows 8.1. Any Windows user that reads this might be rolling their eyes right now or shuddering in disgust at the semi-confusing Windows 8.1 interface – but after playing with the Pro2 for about an hour, Windows 8.1 suddenly makes a lot of sense. But don’t let me misguide you - I’ve come to really appreciate the Windows 8.1 interface on my desktop as well (as I use Windows Server 2012 Datacenter on my workstation at CTM), but after using it on a touchscreen, I find the metro screen (the tiled start menu) to be very user friendly. Navigating applications and programs is simple, and the metro screen is completely customizable to make things more efficient, which is the first thing that I did.

Equipped with Microsoft Office 2013, which I’m using right now to type this, it conveniently gives me the ability to write papers and Excel spreadsheets. After ditching Internet Explorer for Mozilla Firefox (sorry, Microsoft), one of my first downloads was Microsoft Expressions Web 4 - an excellent free tool for building websites in HTML5. Between my Advanced Web Design class this semester and posting my blog to my personal website, this will definitely come in handy.

So this is my out-of-box experience with the Pro2 thus far. I may find things I wish were different about it, but as of now I am extremely impressed with the comfort, versatility, and performance that the Pro2 offers, and I look forward to finding more interesting ways to use it.