Microsoft Surface (2015 and onwards?)

As it turns out, I had completely lost track of what Microsoft was doing with their Surface lines and how the Windows hybrid tablet landscape was evolving. The short of it is that the Surface lines moved away from what I was looking for, and the last iteration I currently own (perhaps for not much longer given my current computing situation) is a Surface Pro 2.

I’m very particular about my computing setup, especially the number of devices and what purposes they fulfill in my life. Under normal circumstances, I never considered buying the higher-specced Surface Pros; I usually have a powerful gaming desktop PC and a mobile computer where battery life, size, and weight are the most important factors. Since I had a gaming PC, I stuck with the Surface RT and 2 for my mobile computing needs, and those devices served me well since I knew exactly what I wanted and what I was getting. There simply was no need for a second high-powered computing device, which tend to have poor battery life in exchange for such power.

Then I lucked out upon receiving a brand-new Surface Pro 2.

Now, since I still had my gaming PC and Surface 2, I marveled at its engineering and then let it sit there for a few months without getting much use. (Yes, I know…) But then fate decided to trash my parents’ Windows XP computer, so I gave them my old PC so I could build or buy a new one. At that point, I broke out the Surface Pro 2. Then shortly after that, a friend indicated she needed a mobile word processor/Skype machine, and I figured I might as well sell the Surface 2 since I’m now using a tablet PC with virtually the same form factor. And that’s how the Surface Pro 2 suddenly became my only computing device.

It’s been great for my purposes and fulfills the “only computer” hybrid scenario quite admirably, though I can’t run my games at high graphical quality, and it stutters in particularly intensive tasks like audio/video recording and editing. Still, these earlier generation Surfaces were the exact form factor I wanted. But the Surface Pro 2, as expected, never had the battery life I dream about for a mobile computing device (Panasonic’s Japan-only offerings seem to have that in spades, but of course the import costs are astronomical).

It’s now 2017, and I finally have a new gaming PC in the works (a custom mini-ITX build, if you must know). I’ve started to look at my Surface Pro 2 and am considering replacing it with a “true” lightweight mobile PC where I can get back to a word processing/surfing setup with all-day battery life. But the third generation and newer Microsoft Surface keyboards now have the “chiclet” island keys that I hate and an altered form factor. So what about other hybrid tablets?

Just browsing around recently, I was pleased to see other viable alternatives like the Lenovo Miix 310 and Asus Transformer Mini, all with their own pros/cons, but in particular the battery life ratings for these newer and smaller Windows hybrid tablet PCs are surprisingly good to me. Yes, it’s too bad that these have permanently sealed batteries so I can’t just buy a spare battery to continue using the device a couple years past its commonly accepted life expectancy, but there are two mindsets for mobile devices, either of which I can easily adopt: Either you pay a premium for a premium device (e.g. Microsoft Surface) and get solid use out of it for years, or you go to the entry-level cheap side of things with the expectation to upgrade within the typical two-year window. I usually go with the former, but I may very well go with the latter once my gaming rig is completed. Fortunately, there are more choices now with solid battery life.

Thanks to Microsoft for starting the device niche, even while taking beatings by reviewers and consumers who didn’t understand the whole “hybrid” concept.