One month ago, I switched from a MacBook Pro with Touchbar to Surface Book 2. Short of a miracle, I won’t likely be going back any time soon.
My wife and I have owned Apple devices exclusively since 2012 when she got her first MacBook Pro. Since then, we’ve at some point owned pretty much everything: MacBook Air, the new MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Pro with Touchbar, 27” iMac, iPads, iPad Pros, iPhones, and heck even our router is the Airport Extreme.
We really like gear.
But during the last year and a half (since High Sierra), Apple has delivered us one gut punch after the next in issues. It started with High Sierra burning up my wife’s MacBook Pro hard drive. To be fair, it was older so we replaced the hard drive and didn’t think too much of it until about a month later the hard drive started burning up again. Since then, its been one thing after another:
- 2 burned up hard drives on the MacBook Pro
- 1 burned up hard drive on the 27” iMac (seriously AFS?)
- Stuck keyboard keys on my MacBook Pro with Touchbar
- Graphics display issues with my MacBook Pro (twice)
- Multiple Apple BSODs - that’s apparently a thing
- Graphics display issues with my MacBook
- Solid green bar down the side of my iPhone
Don’t get me wrong, Apple’s customer service has been AMAZING through all of this. But call me crazy, I would rather not need them that much. Quality has gone way downhill and combined with the lack of innovation it is hard to justify the price.
So when the issues became too much, we made the switch.
What I Like
I opted for the 15” Surface Book 2 with 16GB of RAM, i7 processor, and 256GB hard drive. Everything was pretty much on par with my Mac though I did take less hard drive space figuring I’d rely on OneDrive (also switching from iCloud).
My favorite part is of course the detachable touch screen. Yes, I absolutely use it, all the time. The main uses are browsing the web, reading the news, and whiteboarding (sketching UI designs, architectural designs, etc). With Apple, I had to have an iPad Pro for this purpose. With the Surface Book, though, I only need one device.
I’ve also found little joys in how even as a tablet, I still have the full Windows OS. This means I don’t lose my AutoHotKey macros just because I’m using a tablet. And I have a web inspector on my tablet!!!! No matter how many times I’ve tried to switch to using an iPad Pro as my main computer, it would never work due to these sorts of OS limitations (well, unless I used it as a thin client for another computer).
I can reasonably get in an 8hr work day without charging. I haven’t pushed this to the limits because the only time I am truly away from a charger is on an airplane. But I am confident that this machine has plenty of battery power to get me through a day of travel without much issue - maybe a midday top off on longer trips just to be sure.
Most days I have my charger plugged in but not connected to the computer until I need it. So the battery handles multiple WebEx / Zoom meetings, lots of development, and a bunch of drawing and image editing (have I mentioned that I love to draw on the screen).
Power, Raw Power
Before the Surface Book, I tried a lighter weight detachable (HP Elite X2) but ultimately missed having a fast laptop. The Surface Book has proven every bit as fast as my Macbook Pro. The one thing I haven’t tested yet is video editing but it has handled everything else I’ve thrown at it. Keep in mind, my wife is the heavy gamer in the house (not me) and she opted for a special edition HP x360 in part due to the Surface Book’s known power supply issues in high performance settings.
But for me, the Surface Book has proven to be more than enough and I’ve yet to encounter the power supply issues in day to day use.
I love that even aside from the detachable aspect that I can draw on the screen. When attached, I primarily use this during design sessions. A quick double click on my pen and I’ve got a screenshot that I can happily markup to capture requirements. It has been so much easier than using the mouse cursor to point things out while taking notes separately. I’ve been able to create stories by simply marking up a screen in “red ink” and attaching the marked up image to the Story record.
Communication is so much easier when everyone can visualize the same result.
I also harass some of my coworkers by drawing on their Slack screen share when working together. I don’t know if that’s a “valid use case” but it is amusing.
Sharing Folders in the Cloud
I know this will seem silly for anyone using ANYTHING other than iCloud but with the OneDrive switch… I can share folders with people. Entire. Stinking. Folders. Folders of folders even. Just piles and piles of files shared with a couple clicks. Seriously, Apple, where are you on this with iCloud Drive?
Magnetic Power Connector
Bring it back, Apple. Enough said.
What I Don’t Like
My experience with the device so far has been fantastic but there are still a few shortcomings:
Power Cord is Too Short
I really miss the 100 mile cable Apple provides on the MacBook Pro. Even with tabletop outlets right behind my couch, the Surface Book cable can barely reach my coffee table (to be fair I do have a deeper than average couch). I would really like to see a longer cable.
Windows just overlooks countless little details in the OS that are annoying. Nothing show stopping, just annoying. The fonts don’t look as crisp. The default font sizes leave me squinting, they are so tiny. Some of the UI proportions just feel weird. A month later and I still miss how much attention to detail there is in MacOS.
I also miss other details from MacOs like the universal menu bar and the fact that the OS pretty much never locks up. I’ve had a few apps lock Windows up and as I wait all I can think is “I could’ve Force Quit this app by now”.
Logitech Bluetooth Headset
My Logitech Bluetooth Headset has some major issues with garbled audio. It worked flawlessly with Mac but so far has been awful on Windows. Using the USB connector that came with it instead of Bluetooth seems to have solved the issue but it just seems unnecessary to take up a USB slot when the headset works over Bluetooth. Again, minor annoyance.
Screenflow is the only app I used that was Mac exclusive and I miss it dearly. Maybe once I get my hands on Camtasia this will work itself out. But for now, it is a little like missing a limb with how much I used that app.
Using the Surface Book 2 has been an absolute pleasure and I am definitely keeping it. Could Apple win me back? I’m sure they can but I won’t be settling for the “why buy one when you can buy two for twice the price” model… the MacBook Pro needs a touch screen of its own or the iPad Pro needs to be capable enough to be a development machine. Neither of those seem very likely at this point.
But if you have been considering the switch yourself, my experience has been great and I definitely recommend it.