About 1.5 years ago I needed something ultra portable. I am a web guy, so even when I am on the road, I need to do occasional website development or server maintenance, thus I need something that is compact, reliable and has a good battery life. It would also be useful if the device could double as a media consumption device (Netflix etc.). So I bought a Surface Pro 3, which turned out to be a big mistake.
While the Surface Pro product line is a marvel of modern personal computer engineering, the concept has serious flaws. Microsoft advertised the device a tabled that can replace your laptop. In real life, it is a bad laptop that can't replace your tablet.
The cons of the Surface Pro 3:
- It is not a laptop. It does not rest comfortably on your lap. It is very cumbersome to use when travelling by car/train/bus/whatever.
- While the Type Cover is another engineering marvel, it is terrible to write with. The body of the keyboard is too flexible, which combined to the bullet 1st bullet point makes it a terrible experience on the road.
- Windows 10 is lame duck. The UI is not ideal in tablet or desktop modes. The tablet app ecosystem is still a desert, even two years after it's public launch, with the exception of some games. And the updates...oh my gosh. Please do not turn off the computer, Windows is doing something. I seemed to get that every time I was in a hurry.
- Even without the keyboard, the Surface Pro is too big and bulky for a couch potato surf session.
The operating system issues were improved with the Linux support (read about it here), but as I saw a big easter sale at a local electronics market, I decided that it is time to eBay the SP3 and get something else.
I opted for a touch enabled Chromebook, an Acer R11 to be exact. This is a cheap and somewhat under powered Chrome OS laptop with a touch screen and a 360-degree hinge. And now after few months of daily use, I am loving it.
The pros of a Chromebook Acer R11
- It is rigid and robust. It sits on your lap comfortably and the keyboard way better that the Type Cover. You can actually do serious work with this and write lengthy articles. No problems using while on the move.
- Android ecosystem is a great addition. One can use streaming services, along with most other apps, just like on a real Android device. With the 360 hinge, this works great as a media consumption device - just bend it over and you have a (heavy and oversized) tabled or use the tent mode.
- Chrome OS is a zero maitenance operating system. Updates take 10 seconds and are a matter of a simply rebooting - no wait games here.
- Fanless construction. Use it where you like and it will not suck in dust and dirt and there is no fan noise when streaming TV programs.
Sure, this device is underpowered (Intel Celeron), and while one can install full Linux environment inside the Chrome OS, it is not well suited for desktop computing. But it is a fantastic Internet terminal for digital age nomads.
The Surface Pro line at it's best when used as a portable workstation with a docking station, as it does have serious horsepower in it. Also the display panel of the SP3 was something else - I developed a few raw DSLR photographs using it, with great results.
This is my first hand personal experience and your mileage may wary. My use cases are quite specific, as most people are not involved with web administration duties. In any case, if you are looking for a portable solution for your computing needs, I encourage you to get to know the potential of Chromebooks. You can get the hang of Chrome OS using your existing PC hardware by installing CloudReady (read more here), which is something I also strongly recommend.