My family and I, from grandpa to grandson,  have been Apple fans – starting out with the Apple and onwards through the various Mac, iPhone, & iPad generations. But from a law practice perspective, loyalty always came at a price.

Apple hardware just doesn’t cut it as a law practice tool. Ongoing challenges include accessing enterprise VPNs with the Safari browser, particularly when the current trend is to rely heavily on Internet Explorer. Microsoft Word has managed to become the de facto business standard. Even on the Mac, unfortunately side-lining Apple’s own Pages, an application that is truly rejoiced by designers, artists and other creative folks. Regrettably, both Word and Pages each has its own document integrity formatting difficulties. It makes me nostalgic for the days when lawyers rejoiced in the use of WordPerfect 4.2 and 5.1, where you had absolute control over the formatting and reformatting. Have you ever thought about the time wasted in trying to reformat Word documents?

And so, given that the Mac is capable with some tweaking, of also operating Windows in parallel with Mac’s OS, I thought that I might try out the new Windows 8 and Office 365 on my Mac’s Windows partition – they both worked reasonably well, but also operated kind of sluggish, which I attribute to the overhead of running in the virtual confines of Parallels. Now don’t get me wrong, it worked reasonably well, but it wasn’t spiffy, and hung at times. I suspect that the requirement of continual Web access to the Office 365 cloud where both Windows and Office validation occurred, didn’t help the situation.

And so, enticed by an ad for Microsoft’s recently released and powerfully fast Surface Pro computer (not the lower powered Surface RT), I decided to try it out. It came with Windows 8 Pro already installed and I could then authorize it to access and use one of the 5 installs for Office 365 – yes, you pay for it annually and can install on a maximum of 5 computers – that is cool.

It’s been about two months since I acquired the Surface Pro and must admit that I’m really surprised by its capability – in truth, I expected to return it within the 30-day return window. Pre-installed with Windows 8 Pro and authorized as a device under my Office 365 licence, I’m quite pleased with the interface and most of all, the amazing speed – particularly given its consistent Web interaction.

Out-of-the-box, it’s quick in both operation and in saving work product to the accompanying SkyDrive complimentary 7 GB cloud service. Although promoted as having a 128 GB storage capacity, in point of fact what remains after accounting for OS overhead, is the hard drive capacity of somewhere around 84 GB. Other than installing Office 365 and a couple of apps, namely Mindjet & Dragon Dictate, the remaining storage memory appears to be quite sufficient – as well, there is the ability to include an additional 64 GB of storage via USB flash drive as well as a further 64 GB by way of a microSD card.

The enhanced Microsoft keyboard is quite simple to use and with a magnetic lock and fits quite securely to the Surface Pro. My only complaint is the touchpad that I find too much of a constraint – I preferred navigating with an external USB mouse.

As currently configured, the Surface Pro is amazingly fast, with a very crisp, easy-to-read screen. It can also be used as a tablet, complete with an included stylus that actually enables you to angle it the same as you would with a pen or pencil and thereby enabling you to write in a comfortable position – quite a relief from the typical alignment of having to write in the awkward perpendicular position that is so commonplace with tablets.

I’m really pleased with Word 2013 as well as PowerPoint 2013 – these are two Office products that I use most often. Excel seems to work as in some of the earlier versions, but I’ve not had occasion to really get into it.

Word enables me to literally zip through an immediate conversion from PDF to Word 2013 (or earlier) format while preserving the full integrity of the PDF document and which is a welcome addition as there is no longer a need to separately purchase any of the PDF to Word document conversion products.

So my grandson can keep on using his iPad. For me, I’ll be relying on the Surface Pro to operate my law firm.

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  • Lance Stern

    Hoping more and more this becomes the standard for computer users. It really is a work of art and I’m waiting for #2 for more battery life.

  • Thanks for the great review. Though I thought I would be an early adopter and purchase v. 1 of the Surface Pro the issues with battery life and hard drive space were the two major things that kept me away. I have really been thinking about the iPad but I feel like I would be caving in and relegating myself to owning a device that really is geared towards consumption. I’ve looked at the other Windows 8 tablet devices but really am taken with the Surface. Like Lance Stern, I’m waiting on v. 2 (c’mon Microsoft – get it out already!). In addition to improvements to the battery and hard drive a few other lesser improvements I’m hoping for are a more versatile kickstand, a better way to store the digital pen, and a better charger connector. I would love to see the price come down and hope MS will include Office or the keyboard. But if they make the improvements noted above and don’t change the current price point I’m still in.

    • Lou MIlrad

      Hi Rick,

      Am also an avid iPad fan and user but find that it’s not quite what I need for document drafting and editing. Great for emails, document review, reading, social media, news, etc. but have found it lacking (even with 3rd party cloud apps) for my needs which entails heavy duty document drafting with lotsa formatting challenges. That’s where the Office 2013 and Surface Pro combo really shine.

  • Bill Cat

    became a windows pro fan and don’t use my ipad much since I got it. Can do real work on the go. Pounding the table for this product, so tired of the limitations of normal tablets, this is a real laptop computer on a tablet and I can make stuff. Should people wait a year for it to get inevitable improvements? Depend on if you want to be productive and mobile now or if you can wait.

  • François

    I have been using it for 3-4 months now and I simply LOVE it!

  • ron

    Thanks Lou,

    Good review and I can only confirm what you say. I own the RT from the day it was available (knowing what I was buying of course) and loved it right away. I had the touch keyboard and had the same as you. It works but it’s not really for me. On the day the PRO came out I had that one too (pre-ordered from MS) and have since then almost not touched my GREAT desktop pc. When I come home I turn it on but next to my two 27″ screen s my surface PRO and I still keep working on my pro

    Love this machine and can’t wait for pro 2 (haswell processor). with better battery life. I manage with this version but the extra battery life would be very welcome
    Would I recommend to a friend? ABSLOTELY!!!
    Its a great, great device. Nobody will regret it I am sure
    regards
    Ron

  • Any comments on the keyboard Lou? Did you go with touch or type cover?

    • Lou MIlrad

      Went with the Type cover which works well except for the touchpad which I find a bit cramped which is no big deal as am used to working with external mouse.