Posey's Tips & Tricks

My Wish List for Microsoft Surface, Revisited

Where the Surface Pro fell short, the newer Surface Book 2 more than makes up for it.

Last summer, I compiled a wish list of what I would like to see in the next Surface Pro device. At the time, Microsoft had just announced the next Surface Pro devices, and my wish list was a discussion of the features that I would like to see on subsequent releases.

I had assumed that I would probably revisit my wish list some time in the distant future, following the eventual release of the sixth-generation Surface devices. I never expected to be revisiting my wish list quite so soon.

As a result of an unforeseen chain of events, I ended up getting one of the new Surface Book 2 devices for use on an upcoming project. The Surface Book 2 actually addresses almost all of the items on my wish list.

Before I talk about which wish-list items the Surface Book 2 addressed, let me quickly give you a run-down of the hardware. The Surface Book 2 is actually available in several different hardware configurations. The model that I am using has a 15-inch detachable screen, an 8th-generation quad-core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of solid state storage and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of graphics memory.

The first item on my wish list was more display real estate. In that earlier article, I speculated as to how Microsoft might be able to create a multi-monitor version of the Surface tablet. Although the Surface Book 2 is not a multi-monitor device, you can get it with either a 13.5-inch display or a 15-inch display. The extra inch-and-a-half of display space might not sound like much, but the 15-inch model seems positively massive when used as a tablet. Furthermore, you can use a docking station to attach multiple external monitors.

Another thing that I wished for was a better keyboard. The Surface Book 2 uses a keyboard that is completely different from the Surface Type Keyboard. I have not gotten to spend much time typing on the new keyboard, but my initial impression is that the Surface Book 2 keyboard is far superior to the Surface keyboard.

I also mentioned in the article that I wanted to see better support for the Surface Pen. I have always thought that the Surface Pen was a great idea, but that it lacked the software support that it needed in order to be truly useful.

There is good news and bad news when it comes to using the Surface Pen with the Surface Book 2. The bad news is that the pen is not included with the device. With a retail price of $3,000 (for the top-end model), you would have thought that Microsoft could have thrown in a Surface Pen rather than charging $100 for it, especially since Microsoft used to include the pen with Surface Pro devices.

The good news is that Microsoft has completely redesigned the Surface Pen. The new Surface Pen has hardly any lag, and it recognizes 4,096 different levels of pressure, which is great for making handwriting look more natural or for adding texture and shading to drawings.

One last thing that I mentioned in my original wish list was that I wanted to see better support for the Surface Dial. In the original article, I made an off-handed remark that the Surface Dial was a good idea, but that it has been collecting dust on my desk because it isn't widely supported. Since the time that I wrote the article, a couple of things have changed.

First, I figured out how to custom-tailor the Surface dial's behavior. A few weeks ago, I talked about how I was able to adapt Surface Dial for use with video editing. In doing so, I am using the Dial as a jog dial, and have programmed the dial's push feature to split a clip at the current frame.

The other thing that has changed is that Surface Book 2 allows the Surface Dial to be used on screen, just as the Surface Dial can be used on screen with the Surface Studio.

In retrospect, I never imagined that so many of my wish-list items for Surface would come true, let alone so soon. Although I have not used my Surface Book 2 enough to be able to write a comprehensive review, I am very happy with the device so far, and I think that Microsoft has done a great job on it.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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