Windows 10 and Surface 3 – Turn to the dark side

With all the buzz of the Windows 10 launch a few weeks ago I decided that I wanted to experience it for myself, rather than throw it on a virtual machine on my Mac I decided that I’d replace my iPad Mini and opt for a Surface 3 for my light commuting and travel needs, the idea of a full OS on tablet was a huge draw. I even got a twitter mention from the official Microsoft account.

I took advantage of a 10% off deal from Microsoft directly and within a 24 hours I had a Surface 3, Keyboard and Pen in my possession. I really liked the hardware, perhaps a little thicker and heavier than I’d ideally like but thats the cost of a 10” screen and keyboard I guess. The Keyboard was fairly good as travel companion (The F key seemed to stick a little, but I hoped it would free up in use) and the Pen was excellent.

I’d already decided that I didn’t want to experience Windows 8.1 as I thought that would just muddy the water and I was going to upgrade to Windows 10 from the start. The upgrade wasn’t offered to me through the OS (It’s based on a queue system I think) but after a quick google found a way to jump the queue. I had to logon onto Windows 8.1 to do the upgrade so it did install many updates before I could actually begin the update proper.

Upgrading from 8.1 to 10 took the grand total of 28 hours. Perhaps if I’d sat with it I could have saved some time with a key press or something? This seemed a very long time even considering the millions of other Windows user doing the same thing, but I won’t dwell on this as software distribution to millions of people is hard I imagine.

There is was Windows 10 in all it’s glory and I started to use it for the 1st time.

2 things became apparent very quickly, first it’s not nice to use it as a tablet, it’s too heavy and screen dimension feels ‘odd’, the oversized bezels add considerable height and width to the screen and it felt unwieldily in my hands. When I used it on my train commute and was able to place it on my fold away table I did like the kickstand and found the limited 3 angles ok to use. The 2nd problem I found was with Windows 10 itself, desktop mode is too small in on a 10” screen for me and Tablet mode felt like a stripped down version of Desktop mode, i.e. same apps at full screen makes a tablet app for Microsoft. I found lunching apps difficult even when using Cortana (who wasn’t always responsive… rude lady!) swiping from differing sides to make things happen, struggling to find application settings became a good game also!

I downloaded a few titles from the very sparse Microsoft store, this device was going to replace my iPad after all. Flipboard, Plex, an RSS Reader and few other items. Flipboard looked pretty good, problem was still I found the device too large to use as a tablet. Plex was able to stream content from server ok, but it was not able to sync any content for offline use. (Actually even worse it said it had but then decided that it hadn’t!) The Office suite were top quality…. shame I’d probably never use them! I had a number of freezes and had to perform 3 or 4 hard (power off) resets which concerned me… I thought I was using a Microsoft reference device, surely it would be more stable than this?

I read that the 1st update for Win10 was available which I thought may improve things so headed to the Update Centre in the settings and started an update, within a few minutes I go back an update failed message and KB number… helpful.

A bit of search later I found that some parts of my installation/update files might be missing or corrupt. The instructions detailed how to find them using another tool…. after a LONG time of running this no problems were found…. more searching and the best suggestion was to restore your device.

After a long time the restore to factory settings was completed…. but imagine my surprise, the update gave me a new KB article to hunt down! Grrrrr. It’s about now that the very slightly sticking ‘F’ key really started to annoy me!

Rather than mess around again, this time I thought I’d go for a fresh install, so downloaded Windows 10 image from Microsoft and put it on a USB. Once up and running I was now available to update the device. The freezing and resets were a lot less frequent but still happened occasionally. The apps I was using still had the same issues also. (Hopefully with some extra development time they are all working)

Then I read about the Microsoft Updates potentially using my bandwidth on a number of tech blogs, no big issue for most people (if they are feeling generous) however this is a commuting device for me and it spends a lot of time tethered to my iPhone by Wifi Hotspot….. a quick check of my data allowance confirmed that it did look to be using more data than I’d expect.

And then finally, another standard update failed with another mysterious KB article.

I decided that Windows 10 and the Microsoft Surface 3 just isn’t going to cut it for me and arranged a return.

Overall I am hugely disappointed, the hardware wasn’t underpowered for me but it is a little too big for a tablet and too small for Desktop. I imagine the 13” Pro version just can’t be used as a tablet!

I opted for a Microsoft device to avoid potential issues (Same reason I’d prefer to opt for a Nexus Android device if asked), people tell me that Win 10 on their non Microsoft devices experienced none of the issues I had. But issues I did have. Windows 10 maybe an improvement over Windows 8.1 but my experience reminded me of my old Windows days, having to google seemingly random KB numbers to try to get things to work.

Perhaps another 6 months of Windows 10 development (+ app updates) and the release of the Surface 4…. I think I’d try again.