Which Microsoft Surface Do You Need?

Which Microsoft Surface Do You Need?
Chapter 1
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AL
Which Microsoft Surface
Do You Need?
TE
In This Chapter
▶ Selecting the right Microsoft Surface
MA
▶ Choosing between a Microsoft Surface and other tablets
▶ Understanding the difference between the regular and pro Surface models
▶ Identifying the different Surface models
TE
D
▶ Understanding your Surface’s storage space
M
GH
any people stay tied to a desktop PC at work. They sit in front of a
deskbound workhorse that lets them create documents, spreadsheets,
and whatever other humdrum files their boss requires that day.
PY
RI
When it’s time to relax, however, many of those same people reach for a
tablet. Lightweight and portable, tablets make it easy to watch videos, listen
to music, browse the web, and check e-mail.
CO
But what if you had a tablet that did it all? You could create files when work
called but consume files during your leisure.
That’s the promise of a Microsoft Surface tablet. Its finger-friendly Start
screen lets you switch between videos, music, e-books, e-mail, and the web.
And, come Monday morning, you can switch to the Windows desktop, fire up
Outlook, Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and get to work.
This chapter explains Microsoft’s four models of Surface tablets: The two
older models, Surface RT and Surface Pro, and the two new models, Surface 2
and Surface Pro 2. I describe them each in detail, highlighting their features,
their strengths, and their weaknesses.
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Part I: Introductions
Why Buy a Microsoft Surface?
Most computer manufacturers create computers, including Windows tablets,
as cheaply as possible. By coming up with the lowest price tag, they hope to
undercut their competitors. Instead of taking the same road to the bottom,
Microsoft created its line of Surface tablets as a showpiece, designed to show
off Windows tablets at their finest.
To do that, Microsoft designed the Surface in-house with a large budget and
engineering team, a luxury not available to most computer manufacturers.
Competitors cut costs by wrapping their tablets in cheap plastic. Microsoft
Surface models, by contrast, come sheathed in a magnesium alloy. The
rugged but lightweight casing gives the tablet a solid feel.
The Surface includes a built-in kickstand, shown in Figure 1-1. An optional
attachable keyboard doubles as a cover when not in use.
Figure 1-1:
Every
Surface
model
includes a
kickstand to
prop it up at
a comfortable viewing
angle.
Photo image provided by Microsoft
Why not just buy an iPad? Well, they’re attractive tablets that excel at what
they do, but they’re limited. Without a built-in USB port, iPads don’t let you
transfer files easily between your tablet and desktop PC. Every Surface tablet,
by contrast, includes a full-sized USB port, making it easy to swap files through
flash drives or even portable hard drives.
Chapter 1: Which Microsoft Surface Do You Need?
When iPad owners need to work, they usually reach for their laptop. Surface
owners simply flip their keyboard into place, load the familiar Windows desktop, and head for the mainstays of Microsoft Office: Word, PowerPoint, Excel,
and OneNote.
When you’re ready to hit the road again, flip back the keyboard and run,
taking all of your files with you.
Your Surface strips computing down to its essentials, creating a lightweight
and mobile workstation that lets you add on accessories when necessary:
✓ Fingers: Your fingertips may be the only accessory you need. Touchscreens
simplify many mobile computing tasks. It’s easy to scroll through large
documents with a flick of your finger, for example. Plus, touchscreens
often seem more natural, especially when paging through digital books,
maneuvering through maps, or resizing digital photos.
✓ Keyboard: A pop-up touchscreen keyboard works well for light typing.
For heavier work, the optional keyboards add about a half-pound of
weight and double as screen covers.
✓ Monitor: When you plug a monitor into your tablet’s video port, you’ve
created a two-monitor workstation. You can view your notes on your
tablet but compose your document on the second, larger monitor. (I
explain how to manage two monitors in Chapter 6.) Or, you can extend
your Windows desktop across both monitors, doubling its size.
Understanding the Unique
Features of a Surface
Microsoft Surface tablets introduce several features not found in other tablets:
✓ Kickstand: Place a tablet on the desk, and its screen faces the ceiling,
not you. To solve the problem, each Surface includes a built-in kickstand
that lets your tablet sit upright like a laptop’s screen. The kickstand on
the newest models, the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, adjusts to provide
two viewing angles, handy for typing in different situations.
✓ Keyboard cover: Most tablets don’t include a case or a keyboard. You
can buy them as accessories, but they’re two more items to carry around.
The Surface, by contrast, offers a keyboard that doubles as a cover. When
you’re done working, flip up the keyboard, and it becomes a cover to protect the screen.
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Part I: Introductions
✓ USB port/memory card slot: These items come built into every Surface
tablet, but you won’t find them on any iPad. Ask any iPad owners how
they move information to and from their iPad. Most of them get an uncomfortable expression on their faces while explaining their workarounds.
✓ Windows desktop: Nearly everybody has grown fairly used to the
Windows desktop, a staple around offices for two decades. All Surfaces
include the Windows desktop, but with one caveat: You can’t install traditional desktop programs on the Surface RT or Surface 2.
✓ Microsoft Office: The Surface RT and Surface 2 include a copy of
Office Home and Student 2013 RT. That gives you Outlook, Word, Excel,
PowerPoint, and OneNote, ready to create your own documents or
touch up those that arrive in e-mail. (Microsoft Office isn’t included on a
Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2, but you can purchase and install it yourself
if you want.)
Deciding between the Microsoft
Surface Tablets
Microsoft has sold four types of Surface tablets that look and behave very
similarly. (A fifth Surface, available sometime in 2014, will have cellular
Internet access.) All of them share many features:
✓ The tile-filled Start screen introduced in Windows 8
✓ The Windows desktop
✓ Downloadable apps from the Windows Store
✓ A USB port and memory card slot for adding storage
✓ The ability to create different accounts for different users
Yet the tablets differ in subtle ways that let them each serve different niches.
The following sections explain how the models differ so that you can figure
out which Surface meets your needs.
Not sure which Surface you’re looking at? Look for this chapter’s “Identifying a
Surface Model” section. It explains how to tell each model apart simply by
flipping it over and reading the wording hidden on the back cover.
Note: I describe the first two Surface models, the Surface RT and Surface Pro,
in the adjacent sidebar, “Upgrading first-generation Surfaces to Windows 8.1.”
Chapter 1: Which Microsoft Surface Do You Need?
Upgrading first-generation
Surfaces to Windows 8.1
Microsoft’s first two Surface models, the
Surface RT and the Surface Pro, didn’t fare
well in the market. The Surface RT boasted a
long battery life but ran at a fairly sluggish pace.
The Surface Pro was speedy and powerful but
lacked a long battery life. And Windows 8 was
too new to gather much enthusiasm.
Microsoft replaced the two older Surface
models with the much more capable Surface 2
and Surface Pro 2.
If you own the Surface RT or Surface Pro, by
all means, take advantage of Microsoft’s free
upgrade to Windows 8.1. To upgrade, visit the
Store app with your Surface (as explained in
Chapter 7), search for Windows 8.1, and choose
to download and install the upgrade.
After you upgrade your Surface RT or Surface
Pro to Windows 8.1, nearly all of the instructions in this book will also apply to your older
Surface. (The older tablets just run more
slowly or with less battery life.) If you own a
Surface RT, look throughout this book for the
Windows RT icon. That icon points out where
the Surface RT and Surface 2 work differently
than the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2.
Microsoft no longer sells the Surface Pro, and
Microsoft’s website now refers to the original
Surface RT as simply “Surface.” You might
find the “Surface” still available on Microsoft’s
website or at some stores for an exceptionally
low price.
Surface 2
The Surface 2 works best during your leisure time, letting you watch movies,
listen to music, browse the web, and connect with your friends.
Should you need to work, open the Desktop app. There, the built-in Microsoft
Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote apps should carry you
through until you can get back to the office.
The minimalist Surface 2 doesn’t run Windows 8.1 but an operating system
called Windows RT 8.1. In plain English, that means that the Surface 2 can’t
run traditional Windows desktop programs. Like the iPad, it’s limited to apps,
small programs downloaded from the Windows Store.
Although it can’t run traditional Windows programs, the Surface 2 offers
these perks:
✓ Low price: The Surface 2 comes in a 32GB version that costs $429;
adding a Touch Cover keyboard adds another $79. (The newer Surface
keyboards cost more, and I describe the differences between all of the
Surface keyboards in Chapter 5.)
✓ Long battery life: Depending on its use, the Surface 2 averages between
eight and ten hours of battery life.
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Part I: Introductions
✓ Thin and light: The Surface 2 weighs less than 1.5 pounds and is 8.9mm
thin. That makes it easy to toss into a backpack or keep by the bedside
table.
✓ Better camera: The Surface 2 sports a 3.5-megapixel camera in front
and a 5-megapixel camera in back. (The Surface RT also includes that
camera, but the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 include only 1.2-megapixel
cameras for the front and back.)
✓ USB 3.0 support: The Surface 2 works well with natively recognized USB
gadgets. That means you can plug in storage devices (flash drives, portable drives), USB hubs with more USB ports, mice, keyboards, cameras,
some headsets, and some USB printers. Because it uses the new USB 3.0
standard, your information transfers much more quickly with USB 3.0
gadgets.
✓ Bluetooth support: Nearly anything that connects wirelessly through
Bluetooth works well with the Surface RT and Surface 2. Your wireless
headsets, mice, keyboards, and other Bluetooth gadgets should work
without a hitch.
✓ Memory card slot: To add storage, slide a memory card into the built-in
microSDXC slot. That slot works with microSD, microSDHC, or microSDXC
cards, which let you add up to 128GB storage space.
✓ Microsoft Office RT: The Surface RT and Surface 2 include Microsoft
Office RT, a suite of programs including Outlook, Word, PowerPoint,
Excel, and OneNote. That’s one less thing to buy to stay productive.
✓ OneDrive: Your Microsoft account gives you 7GB of free storage on
OneDrive, an online cubby hole for files. (OneDrive was called SkyDrive
until early 2014, when Microsoft changed its name.) The Surface 2 contains a certificate to increase your OneDrive storage to a whopping
200GB, free for two years.
✓ Apps: The Surface 2 can run only apps downloaded from the Windows
Store. The Store doesn’t have as many apps as Apple and Google offer,
but the stock grows larger every day.
The Surface 2 differs from the Surface Pro 2 version in many subtle ways too
numerous to mention here. If you own a Surface 2 or Surface RT, keep an eye
open for this Windows RT icon, like the one in the margin. Paragraphs with
this icon explain other ways Windows RT differs from traditional Windows.
Surface Pro 2
Whereas the Surface 2 aims to meet the consumer’s needs, the Surface Pro 2
gives you the power of a desktop PC in a rugged tablet. You could say that it’s
two computers in one. On one hand, you have the Start screen apps for casual,
on-the-go computing and staying connected while traveling.
Chapter 1: Which Microsoft Surface Do You Need?
What can’t the Surface 2 handle?
Because the Surface 2 runs Windows 8.1 RT
instead of Windows 8.1, it brings some unique
compromises. Those compromises will be deal
breakers for some people. Other people will
say, “Who needs that, anyway?”
Here they are, in no particular order:
✓ No desktop programs: Surface 2 can run
only apps downloaded from the Windows
Store. You can’t install desktop programs
like you can on a desktop PC.
✓ No Windows Media Center: Unlike
Windows 8 computers, Surface 2 won’t
let you install Windows Media Center for
viewing DVDs and watching or recording
TV shows.
✓ No Windows Media Player: The Surface 2
desktop doesn’t include Windows Media
Player. To watch movies and listen to music,
you must use the built-in Music and Video
apps or download replacement music and
video apps from the Windows Store.
✓ Can’t start a homegroup: When connected to a network, the Surface 2 can join
homegroups and access files from other
networked computers. However, those
computers can’t access your files. To share
your files, you can upload them to OneDrive,
copy them to a portable flash drive (or hard
drive), or send them through e-mail.
✓ No driver support: Windows RT relies on
its own set of built-in drivers — special
software that lets it communicate with
plugged-in accessories. Because you
can’t install drivers, the Surface 2 won’t
work with some USB gadgets such as TV
tuners, barcode readers, GPS units, and
other devices that require you to install a
program.
✓ No GPS: Lacking a GPS chip, the Surface 2
relies on Wi-Fi to estimate your location. That
narrows down your location to within a few
hundred feet. (Surface 2 with a built-in 4G LTE
cellular data plan also lacks a GPS.)
✓ No NFC (Near Field Communication): Too
new of a technology to disappoint many,
NFC lets two devices exchange bursts of
information when they bump into each
other, a feature much-welcomed by business-card swappers.
And, when work calls, you can load the full-powered Windows 8.1 Desktop
app to run the same Windows programs you run on your desktop PC.
Windows 8.1 Pro also lets you pony up an extra $15 for the Windows Media
Center Pack. This pack lets you play DVDs if you plug in a USB DVD drive.
Plug in a TV tuner, connect a TV signal from cable or an antenna, and you’ve
turned the Surface into a complete digital video recorder, ready to record TV
shows for watching later.
The Surface Pro 2 comes with all the perks given to Surface 2 owners, including the 200GB of free OneDrive storage for a year.
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Part I: Introductions
I won’t list all the advantages here because the Surface Pro 2 is basically
a powerful desktop PC flattened into a tablet. Any software that runs on a
Windows 8.1 desktop PC runs on a Surface Pro 2.
The same holds true for gadgets you plug into the Surface Pro 2’s USB port:
network ports, bar code readers, scanners, MIDI gadgets, and other specialty
items.
But all that power brings a few compromises:
✓ Battery life: You can expect six or eight hours of battery life, perhaps
more, depending on your use. But the battery probably won’t last as
long as it does on the Surface 2.
✓ Higher cost: Surface 2 pricing begins at $449 for a model with 2GB of
memory and 32GB of storage. The Surface Pro 2 begins at $899 for 4GB
of memory and 64GB of storage.
✓ No Microsoft Office: Unlike the Surface 2, the Surface Pro 2 doesn’t
include Microsoft Office. If you need that program, you must buy and
install it separately.
✓ No connected standby: When the tablet’s asleep, it’s really asleep. It
won’t collect your e-mail in the background.
Summing Up the Differences
between the Versions
Sometimes numbers mean more than words. To satisfy the other side of your
brain, the specifications in Table 1-1 show exactly how the Surface 2 and
Surface Pro 2 differ from each other.
Table 1-1
Differences between the Surface 2
and Surface Pro 2
Item
Surface 2
Surface Pro 2
Operating System
Windows RT 8.1
Windows 8.1 Pro
Processor
NVIDIA Tegra 4 (T40) 1.7
GHz Quad Core
Fourth generation Intel
Core i5-4200U Processor
with Intel HD Graphics
4400
Memory
2GB
4GB or 8GB
Weight
1.5 pounds
2 pounds
Chapter 1: Which Microsoft Surface Do You Need?
Item
Surface 2
Surface Pro 2
Thickness
0.35 inches (8.9mm)
0.53 inches (13.5mm)
Display
10.6 inches, 16:9 ratio,
1920 x 1080 pixels,
5-point multitouch, 1080p
resolution
10.6 inches, 16:9 ratio,
1920 x 1080 pixels,
10-point multitouch,
1080p resolution
Battery
31.5 watt hours
42 watt hours
Ports
USB 3.0 slot,
micro-HDMI port,
microSD slot, 1/8-inch
headphone jack, microphone, stereo speakers
USB 3.0 slot, Mini
DisplayPort version 1.2,
microSD slot, 1/8-inch
headphone jack, microphone, stereo speakers
Wireless
Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n),
Bluetooth 4.0
Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n),
Bluetooth 4.0
Storage capacity
32GB or 64GB
64GB/128GB with 4GB
of memory model;
256GB/512GB with 8GB
memory model
Cameras and
microphones
Two 720p cameras and
two microphones (one
each in front and back).
The front camera is 3.5
megapixels; the back is
5 megapixels.
Two 720p cameras (one
in front and one in back),
and one microphone on
top. Both cameras are
1.2 megapixels.
Price
$449 for 32GB, $549 for
64GB. Touch and Type
Covers sold separately.
$899 for 64GB, $999 for
128GB, $1,299 for 256GB,
and $1,799 for the 512GB
model; Touch and Type
Covers sold separately
Start screen
Yes
Yes
Office RT
Includes RT versions
of Word, Excel,
PowerPoint, OneNote,
and Outlook
No; Office must be purchased and installed
separately
Stylus
Not included, but supports capacitive stylus
Digital stylus included,
with built-in charger
OneDrive/Skype
Includes 200GB of free
OneDrive storage for
two years, one year of
Skype Unlimited World
calling to landlines in
over 60 countries, and
unlimited Skype WiFi at
over 2 million hotspots
Includes 200GB of free
OneDrive storage for
two years, one year of
Skype Unlimited World
calling to landlines in
over 60 countries, and
unlimited Skype WiFi at
over 2 million hotspots
(continued)
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Part I: Introductions
Table 1-1 (continued)
Item
Surface 2
Surface Pro 2
Sensors
Ambient light sensor,
accelerometer, gyroscope, compass
Ambient light sensor,
accelerometer, gyroscope, compass
Power supply
24 watts (included)
48 watts, with 5-watt
USB port for charging
accessories
Table 1-2 shows differences between the two original Surfaces, the Surface RT
and the Surface Pro.
Table 1-2
Differences between the Surface RT
and Surface Pro
Item
Surface RT
Surface Pro
Operating System
Windows RT, with
free upgrade to
Windows 8.1 RT
Windows 8, with free
upgrade to Windows 8.1
Processor
Quad-core NVIDIA
Tegra 3
Third-generation Intel
Core i5 Processor with
Intel HD Graphics 4000
Memory
2GB
4GB
Weight
1.5 pounds
2 pounds
Thickness
0.37 inches (9.3mm)
0.53 inches (13.5mm)
Display
10.6 inches, 16:9 ratio,
1366 x 763 pixels,
5-point multitouch
10.6 inches, 16:9 ratio,
1920 x 1080 pixels,
10-point multitouch
Battery
31.5 watt hours
42 watt hours
Ports
USB 2.0 slot, microHDMI port, microSDXC
slot, 1/8-inch headphone
jack, stereo speakers
USB 3.0 slot, Mini
DisplayPort version 1.1,
microSDXC slot, 1/8-inch
headphone jack, stereo
speakers
Wireless
Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n),
Bluetooth 4.0
Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n),
Bluetooth 4.0
Chapter 1: Which Microsoft Surface Do You Need?
Item
Surface RT
Surface Pro
Storage capacity
32GB or 64GB
64GB or 128GB
Cameras
Two 720p cameras,
front and rear
Two 720p cameras, front
and rear
Price
$349 for 32GB, $449 for
64GB and Touch Cover
No longer sold
Start screen
Yes
Yes
Office (Word, Excel,
PowerPoint, OneNote)
Yes, includes Home and
Student version
No, Office must be purchased and installed
separately
Stylus
Not included but supports capacitive stylus
Digital stylus included,
with built-in charger
OneDrive/Skype
Includes 7GB of free
OneDrive storage space
with your Microsoft
account, but no Skype
credits
Includes 7GB of free
OneDrive storage space
with your Microsoft
account, but no Skype
credits
Sensors
Ambient light sensor,
accelerometer, gyroscope, compass
Ambient light sensor,
accelerometer, gyroscope, compass
Power supply
24 watts (included)
48 watts, with 5-watt
USB port for charging
accessories
Identifying a Surface Model
Not sure which Surface model you’re viewing? You can find out by lifting the
kickstand on the back of the tablet and peeking underneath. There, you see
the word Surface, as well as this identifying information:
✓ Surface RT: These all-black, first-generation models list the term
Windows RT beneath a Windows logo. You’ll also see the amount of storage listed as either 32GB or 64GB. The kickstand’s visible side shows a
Windows logo.
✓ Surface Pro: These first-generation models list the term Windows 8
beneath the Windows logo. You’ll also see the amount of storage, 64GB
or 128GB.
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Part I: Introductions
✓ Surface 2: These look much like the Surface RT tablets, down to the
term Windows RT listed beneath the Windows logo. However, these
second-generation tablets have a black front with a silver back. Beneath
the kickstand, the amount of storage is listed as either 32GB or 64GB.
Models with a 4G LTE data plan have a SIM card slot on the left edge
below the volume rocker.
✓ Surface Pro 2: These second-generation models list the term Windows 8.1
beneath the Windows logo. You also see the amount of storage, 64GB,
128GB, 256GB, or 512GB.
The serial number of your Surface, needed for warranty and service information, is printed directly beneath the word Surface under the kickstand.
The serial number of a Surface keyboard is printed on the right edge of its
spine — that raised edge that clicks onto the Surface when attaching the
keyboard.
Before buying a used Surface on eBay, make sure the seller posts a clear photo
of the information printed beneath the kickstand. That way you know exactly
what’s being sold.
Understanding Your Surface’s
Storage Space
Microsoft sells its various Surface tablets with up to 512GB of storage space.
However, Microsoft tosses some of its own software onto the tablet, which
reduces storage space for your own files. Windows consumes some of that
space, for example, as do the bundled apps and troubleshooting tools.
That means you can’t copy 32GB of music onto a 32GB Surface. So, how much
information can you store? Table 1-3 explains exactly how much storage
space you’ll have on each Surface model.
If you need more storage, you can always slip a microSDXC memory card into
the microSD memory slot of any Surface.
The Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 come with 200GB of free OneDrive storage
for one year. I describe how to activate it in Chapter 3.
Chapter 1: Which Microsoft Surface Do You Need?
Table 1-3
Surface Storage Space
This Surface Model . . . . . . Contains This Much
Storage Space
Surface RT, 32GB
15GB
Surface RT, 64GB
45GB
Surface Pro, 64GB
30GB
Surface Pro, 128GB
89GB
Surface 2, 32GB
18GB
Surface 2, 64GB
47GB
Surface Pro 2, 64GB
37GB
Surface Pro 2, 128GB
97GB
Surface Pro 2, 256GB
212GB
Surface Pro 2, 512GB
451GB
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Part I: Introductions
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