Switching Teams: Macbook Pro to Windows Surface Pro 4

Microsoft Surface Pro 4
If you’ve been following this blog, then you know that I’m the type to adapt to new technologies [Switching to the Darkside (Canon to Nikon) and Switching from DSLRs to Mirrorless.] When you work and live in an environment that is constantly evolving, welcoming change makes life a lot easier. Currently I’m working and living as a creative nomad, which means my environment varies from day-to-day. That being said, I’ve switched teams again. This time from my Macbook Pro to the Windows Surface Pro 4.

 

What’s Wrong With My Current MacBook Pro?

Windows Surface Pro 4, 2012 Macbook Pro, and Wacom Intuos Bamboo Tablet
I’ve been an avid and loyal MacBook Pro user for about 10 years now. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my darling 2012 i5 MacBook Pro 13″ and frankly I wouldn’t be switching over if I wasn’t traveling so much nowadays. What I love about my old MacBook Pro is that it’s the last model in which the user can make their own hardware modifications such as swapping SSDs, RAM, battery, etc. With the help from the hardware mods my Macbook Pro is a fast, powerful little machine and has plenty of restate to work with when paired to a second monitor. However, this setup is not conducive for travel. For a photographer traveling with a laptop isn’t limited to just the laptop. Accessories such as backup hard drives, charging cables, a Wacom tablet, and camera equipment would also be tagging along. Collectively these items take up space and their weight adds up.
Surface Pro 4 size VS 13″ Macbook Pro 2012
Since I’m currently in New Zealand and about to embark on a 3-4 month trip through Asia while simultaneously producing content along the way, I’d like to make carrying my baggage and workflow as efficient as possible. I love you modified 2012 MacBook Pro, but I’m going to have to send you back to Los Angeles for the time being.

 

What I Love About the Windows Surface Pro 4

It Has Touchscreen and Stylus

Microsoft Surface Peo 4
This is the #1 thing that initially drew me to the Windows Surface Pro 4. A stylus pen is an integral part of my creative workflow. Although the same tasks can be completed using a touchpad or mouse, accuracy and productivity will be compromised. The Surface Pro 4 includes a stylus with 1,024 levels of pen pressure and the hardware to operate as a tablet, which eliminates the need to carry a separate Wacom tablet. That’s one less thing to carry and one less thing to worry about.

The stylus pen itself is powered by a single AAA battery and magnetically sticks to the side of the Surface when not in use. It has two buttons: an “eraser” button on top and a discrete right-click button on the side of its body. There are even different pen tips available to switch between.

 

It’s Tiny

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

I will let the stats speech for themselves.

 Windows Surface Pro 4 (i5)Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (Mid 2012)
Dimensions11.50 x 7.93 x 0.33 in (29.21 x 20.14 x 0.84 cm)12.78 x 8.94 x 0.95 in (32.5 x 22.7 x 2.41 cm)
Weight1.73 lbs (786 g)4.5 pounds (2.06 kg)

 

It Runs Full Programs

When I was in the market for a travel-friendly work station, a few of my friends recommended the Apple iPad Pro. This would be the perfect travel device to fit among all my other Apple products, except that it doesn’t support full versions of software that I frequently use such as Adobe Photoshop and CaptureOne. The Surface Pro 4 is more than capable of handling and processing RAW photos through both of the respective software.

 

The Keyboard Feels Amazing

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

I cannot tell the difference between my old 2012 MacBook Pro’s keyboard and Microsoft’s Type Cover keyboard (sold separately.) The Type Cover is a thin, back-lit, full keyboard with moving keys that magnetically attaches to the Surface Pro 4.  True to its name, the Type Cover indeed acts as a cover for the screen of the Surface Pro 4. When you’re done using the computer you can flip the Type Cover up to put it to sleep –just like a traditional laptop.

 

Built-In MicroSD Card Reader

Located under the kickstand of the Surface is a MicroSD card reader. This is convenient for transferring files to the device without the use of a separate card reader or to simply use as additional storage with a larger card.

 

USB 3.0 Port

There’s a USB 3.0 port! Meaning you can plug in external hard drives and other things! Let’s see an Apple iPad Pro do that without the help of a silly lightning cable to USB dongle.

 

Multitasking

The Windows Snap feature is very, very useful as it allows me to view multiple screens at once. Switching between applications and multiple desktops is smooth and effortless.

 

What I Don’t Like About the Surface Pro 4

Windows Operating System

This is more of an inconvenience than an actual flaw with the device. I’ve been using Apple products for so long that I’m currently in the process of getting reacquainted to windows. This involves learning new keyboard shortcuts and gestures.

I also have to say good-bye to one of Apple’s most convenient features: Airdrop.

 

One USB Port

Why is there only one USB 3.0 port? I personally feel two should be standard on all devices. The inconvenience can be alleviated with a USB hub.

 

Battery Life

Microsoft makes the bold claim that the Surface has a battery life of 9 hours, so far I’ve yet to experience this. On average the battery life on my device lies somewhere between 2-4 hours. The nearly halved life span is probably due to my heavy usage. I typically have an external hard drive connected to the Surface while working on files simultaneously on Photoshop and CaptureOne.

Considering that an AC outlet won’t always be available, I picked up a giant 27,000 mAh external battery pack by ChargeTech to recharge the Surface on demand. It’s one of the few external batteries that’s equipped with an AC outlet (up to 85w) in additional to fast USB ports.

 

Accessories are Kind of Necessary

As I mentioned earlier, the keyboard is amazing! Minus the fact that it’s considered as a separate accessory that you need to buy separately. I love having a USB port built into the side of the device, but I’d like to have a second one as well. Two USB ports is more efficient for transferring files across multiple hard drives. There are a number of accessories available to remedy almost any fussy situation, however it’s cumbersome to buy extras to resolve common occurrences. For instance, why do I have to buy USB hub in order to transfer files across multiple hard drives? Why couldn’t Windows give us two ports?

 

You Can’t Upgrade Anything

This is more a general frustration I have towards the newer and slimmer laptops rather than a specific Surface Pro 4 complaint. The build design of these newer computers discourages its user from future upgrades and modifications. This is also the reason why I’ve been holding on to my older MacBook Pro for so long. It’s the last version of the unibody MacBook Pros that you can open up and modify yourself. The following models after it are all solder together. If you’re artist that utilizes the computer often for photo or video editing, in a way these slim designs forces your hand to purchase the highest (which often is the most expensive) model of the computer.

 

 

Final Thoughts

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

It’s been about a month since I’ve switched to Surface Pro 4 and I regret not buying sooner. Admittedly, there are things that have to be sacrificed in order to take full advantage of this device. Since I’m treating this device as my travel companion rather thana stationary, powerhouse computer, I opted to purchase the mid-range version of the Surface Pro 4 (256 GB, 8 GB RAM, Intel Core i5) over the pricier i7 model. As a result the Surface Pro 4 processes photos slower compared to my modified MacBook Pro (dual SSD drives and 16 GB of RAM.) Additionally my personal workflow is also a bit sluggish as I am readjusting to a Windows ecosystem. Despite these initial hindrances and drop in processing speed, what I give up from switching from a Macbook Pro is made up by the Surface’s design, size, pen, and touch screen. These elements are the bare essentials needed to conduct work while traveling. There simply isn’t another device currently on the market that is balanced for mobility and performance.

If you’re constantly on the go and need a device that can keep up with content creation, I’d highly recommend the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

 


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