Opinions on how well Surface Pros replace notebook and tablet?

Discussion in 'Mobile Computing' started by TheGardenTool, Nov 16, 2014.

  1. TheGardenTool

    TheGardenTool 2[H]4U

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    I'm looking for feedback from Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 users as to whether either device can actually replace the need for separate notebooks and tablets. More specifically, I currently use a 13" MacBook Pro and an iPad Mini for different tasks. I'm definitely not looking for a desktop replacement though.

    My 13" MBP (Mid-2009) is finally starting to show its age. When I bought it, it really was only second to a MacBook Air in terms of weight and bulkiness, at least in the general price range as the Sony's were way above the budget at the time. It is considerably more bulky and heavier to today's standards though. This makes it a drag on the days I'm at school all day and need to lug it around with those very heavy textbooks. It's also had some other issues that have been hard to try to fix, and the battery capacity is beginning to really become an issue. I'm just not sure I want to dump a lot of money into trying to fix a 5-year old notebook that I already do not want to carry around all day. And since I do not use it for anything when I'm at home, I'm hesitate to replace it with another MBP, MBA, or any other type of notebook.

    As far as the iPad Mini, I mostly wind up using it as a browsing device in bed or casually around the house when I do not feel like booting up the desktop. I did make an attempt to use it as an alternative to the MBP for taking to school, but it did not meet my expectations. It was great for browsing things I may need, using between classes to pass time, but as soon as I needed to use it to produce anything it fell well short of capable for me.

    There are a few reasons I'm not really interested in the Surface Pro 3, unless somebody can absolutely convince me otherwise. I would rather try to save a little bit of money going with a used SP/SP2, but it isn't entirely about money. I'm not completely sold on the larger dimensions. I do have an iPad 4 in the house as well and find it just at the verge of being usable as a tablet. I'm just not sure I could over the extra 2" on one side even though I do get it is a little thinner and lighter than the previous Surface Pros.

    I even did consider the $180 Nextbook tablet from Walmart and the $250 package with the Unbranded one from Best Buy. But the Nextbook only has 1GB of RAM, but even the 2GB with the Unbranded one seemed a little bit low. I'm also worried the 32GB of storage won't be enough especially needing to have Word, PowerPoint, and Exchange at a minimum. But the price is tempting enough for these to be essentially disposable devices and being 10" tablets also seemed like a plus. But then I saw the general going prices of the original Surface Pros on the forum and thought that might be a better direction to explore.
     
  2. Aurelius

    Aurelius 2[H]4U

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    I think you may have answered your question in the fourth paragraph.

    If you think a 9.7-inch iPad is bordering on too big, the Surface Pro line isn't going to do anything to make you happier. They all have not just larger screens, but much chunkier designs. I like the Pro 3, but it's noticeably bigger and heavier than a fourth-gen iPad.

    I would spend some time typing on the Pro 3 with Type Cover, because that keyboard will likely make all the difference in your experience. It's pretty good for something built into a cover, but your MacBook's keyboard and trackpad will still be better. Also, how often do you type on your lap versus a desk? The Surface line has never really worked well on laps.

    Personally? If I was in school, I'd get a MacBook Air -- preferably 13-inch, but you could go 11-inch if you're willing to trade resolution for weight. Either is far lighter than your MBP, boasts epic battery life and will have the software you need.
     
  3. Jay_2

    Jay_2 2[H]4U

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    The Pro 3 is a massive step up from the 2, we use them in work and I was never 100% on the 2 but the 3 is easily a laptop replacement with the type cover.
     
  4. heatlesssun

    heatlesssun [H]ard as it Gets

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    I just picked up the Nextbook 10.1 from Walmart last night. With what you get for $180 (and you can get them for $150 on eBay) this thing is insane. The total package with the keyboard is a bit heavy, there's a lot of weight in the docking hinge to keep it stable. At 3 lbs. with the dock it's actually about a 1/2 pound heavier than the Surface Pro 3 with the Type Cover and pen. But that's one of the drawbacks of a docking keyboard hybrid design as you need added weight in the bottom to keep the device stable.

    There's a lot being said about these 1 GB RAM Windows devices. Of course the low memory slows the performance but you have to consider what these devices are for. People looking for the cheapest of devices that will never get the best performance. But compared to a Chromebook or cheap Android tablet, you'll get rougly the same kind of experience. And this Nextbook can actually run desktop Officer apps pretty decently.

    With Office installed and a few of my favorite modern apps, there's 14 GB free on the drive of 24 GB available. 5 GB of which is the recovery partition that can be moved to Flash drive. And there's a micro SD slot to add up to an additional 32 GB ( I think that's the max these devices will take). So with that, use of OneDrive or other cloud storage, there's actually enough storage capacity for good number of medium to lightweight productivity desktop apps.

    The screen is solid, the battery looks to run between 7 to 8 hours for normal usage. One year of Office 365 Personal. Just a lot for the money here.
     
  5. lordsegan

    lordsegan Gawd

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    I have a Surface Pro 2, loaded.I use it every day at work.

    It's fast, and the screen looks good. In theory, it could be a great machine. In practice, the 11 inch screen is too small for anything other than note taking or casual typing. It's definitely not great for Excel work, and it's too small even for some web consumption stuff.

    The tiny trackpad is very limiting. I find myself using touch a lot because of how bad the trackpad is. I know the Surface 3 track pad is better, and the screen is higher res and slightly larger. But, I suspect still not as good as a top of the line laptop. Even if the Surface Pro fixes that, I still don't like using a two-piece device with a kick stand on my lap.

    I have an ipad for media consumption and very casual email at home.

    Bottom line I plan to get a Macbook Pro for my next computer. I was looking at the Yoga Pro 3 as well, but I think I want to play with the MacOS more.
     
  6. limitedaccess

    limitedaccess [H]ardness Supreme

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    What do you want out of a laptop? What do you want out of a tablet? And what do you want out of a replacement for both? And you need to be specific here.

    You mention trying productivity on the iPad, what are you specially referring to? Did you find the limitation due to output (screen size)? input (eg. no keyboard?)? software? performance?

    Also keep in mind the ecosystem change from OSX/iOS to win x86/64. Not sure if this would affect you or not.

    Regarding the SP2 vs SP3 size, the SP3 is much easier to handle. It's kind of hard to actually gauge this without them being side by side but a lot of stores near here had both on display (at the SP3s launch) so I have some first hand experience. Unless you have massive hands maybe (think NBA player) you are still going to essentially be at most holding the device with one hand and operating it with the other despite the narrower frame of the SP2. Also these devices aren't thin like ARM tablets (which are basically thin enough), so the thinner aspect of the SP3 does have a noticeable handling advantage.

    Also keep in mind the SP2 is a 16:9 screen, it will be a lot shorter than what you are used to with the Mac and iPad.

    The SP2s actual advantages are if you need the performance without throttling and price. Also the digitizer and related input stack is arguably better.

    In terms of the Surface Pro line overall, if you look at it simply it's a better laptop than a tablet but a worse tablet. It's a better tablet than a laptop/hybrid but a worse laptop. It also offers the somewhat unique advantage of pen input.
     
  7. 450

    450 [H]ard as it Gets

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    Get a Macbook Air
     
  8. geok1ng

    geok1ng 2[H]4U

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    i see no reason to go for a SP3 over, let's say, a Dell Venue or similar, lower priced, Windows machine. even more so considering that SP and ipad have integrated batteries, so in about 2-4y they are destined to the garbage bin, while some windows tablets have replaceable batteries without a major penalty on weight.

    Android is not stable enough.period.
    i do not believe a well rounded windows tablet can match the functionality of the iOS apps.On the other hand, running native x86 programs is a boon.
     
  9. heatlesssun

    heatlesssun [H]ard as it Gets

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    The Surfaces Pro 3 is a wonderful hybrid/convertible PC. If is more flexible than a conventional clamshell laptop or mobile OS tablet. It's not the fastest laptop for the money and there are obviously much cheaper tablets and it's possible to both a good laptop and tablet for the some or less money than an SP3. The SP3 and hybrid devices like it make the most sense when you use all of their capabilities routinely. If you use is as a laptop and dock it to external monitors and use the pen and use the stand and run desktop software and modern apps and use it as a tablet routinely and interchangeably then there's little that's comparable.

    I've been using convertible Tablet PCs for over a decade now so do all of these things with devices and love the flexibility. The SP3 comes as close to nailing it for the flexibility to me. If you don't want or need all of this then this and other hybrids probably aren't what you're looking for.
     
  10. wonderfield

    wonderfield [H]ardness Supreme

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    To avoid generalities, for your specific situation — coming from a 2009 MacBook Pro and what I presume to be a first-gen iPad mini — I think the SP3 would be well worth the investment. For the more general discussion of Surfaces as laptop/tablet replacements, I think we could debate the pros and cons ad nauseum, but those discussions tend to happen in the context of current hardware. The context here is old hardware.

    I think the only question is whether you would be better served by some other arrangement, and that's really much more difficult to answer. If the question is simply "would the SP3 offer good value to me?", I think the answer is a "yes".
     
  11. TheGardenTool

    TheGardenTool 2[H]4U

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    Lots of good discussion in here for me to ponder over.

    To hit a few points, no I will not use it in my lap at all. I remember the days of very warm and borderline burning notebooks so I never got into that habit. As far as notebook needs, like I said really it's Word, Powerpoint, Exchange, Internet browsing, and occasionally some video--including Flash encoded stuff, ugh. Hard to say if that would change to have a need for something like Excel. I imagine it would be very simple stuff or if absolutely needed I would just wait until I got home or find one of the many computer labs around campus. Tablet use is casual browsing and reading email. Rarely will I use the tablet to respond to things more than a few words and I'll just wait to get on the desktop to do it.

    Yes it is a non-Retina iPad Mini. It fits all my needs for what I use it for, and there are no killer must-have iOS only apps on it that I use. The biggest problem I had with trying to use it as a replacement for a real notebook was the lack of Office. I do not use Office 365, instead have a real 2013 license, so it does not seem like I can get the full features of the suite. I also did not like using a generic bluetooth keyboard with it because I just didn't like the keyboard not being securely attached to the device. Felt like it moved a lot while typing.

    The iPad 4 and a retina MBP would stay in the house regardless so I would still have access to an iOS tablet or OSX computer if I absolutely needed them. But also been maintaining a Windows desktop so I have enough licenses available for the software on each. I wish I could just take the retina with me but since my wife likes to use that as her main computer, and it is what she does all her school work on too, it just isn't a possibility.

    I'm not sure I would get a Macbook Air over a second retina if I did go that route. I know I would save more weight with the air. Might have to try to find some stuff that is closer to weight but I think it's a pound less for the retina, then the 13" MBA takes off another half pound. And then some for those days I do not need to take a charger too. I just know I was never too impressed with some of the original MBA models but I suppose things may have changed quite a bit with general improvements to the ULV CPUs and integrated graphics performance in general.
     
  12. heatlesssun

    heatlesssun [H]ard as it Gets

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    You might be well served by the Nextbook 10.1. I've pretty much done what you've described except Outlook but that should be no problem. Not sure how big your email boxes are but you should be able to store what you need by adding a micro SD card.

    For $180 it's an incredible value. At lot of people are concerned about to 1 GB of memory but I'm finding it to be quite sufficient for handling Word, Excel, OneNote and web browsing all running simultaneously.
     
  13. TheGardenTool

    TheGardenTool 2[H]4U

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    Well I did pickup one of the Unbranded Tablets with a keyboard from Best Buy over the holiday weekend. I took a chance because of the 45 day return policy. I imagine I will end up taking it back regardless because it has several areas where the display bleeds. I'm also not completely happy with the battery yet. Tonight was the second time the battery has been drained after sitting for a couple days even while it was shut down, not just put to sleep.

    I'll definitely keep reading up on some of the tablets, and use this one casually over the next week or two just to see. I think I still like iOS and OSX better for mobile platforms but Windows 8.1 wasn't that bad with a touch-enabled device.
     
  14. limitedaccess

    limitedaccess [H]ardness Supreme

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    LCD display quality control is really rather hit or miss regardless of the price point. The issue is the relative amount of people who care and/or are afflicted is rather small and does not generate enough of a controversy to draw attention to the issue. Compounding this is the issue of actually properly quantifying problems.

    A Surface Pro 3 (I think someone here was complaining about returning multiple Surface Pros for backlight bleed) or whatever high end laptop will possibly come with LCD issues as well. You can look in the display forum for example and see people complaining about QA issues even from high end models from brands like Eizo.
     
  15. heatlesssun

    heatlesssun [H]ard as it Gets

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    I guess not all of these devices is created equal. I've been very happy with the Walmart Nextbook 10.1 netbook hybrid. The battery life on this thing is quite solid, seems to drain pretty decent in sleep, about 1% to 2% per hour and actual runtime is a solid 8 hours+.

    What makes iOS and Android better as tablets are there much better app ecosystems. Windows works better as a hybrid solution though. This little Nextbook is essentially what netbooks should have been from the start. For a lot of people this would be all of the productive PC that they would ever need and while the tablet app library is significantly smaller there are enough apps to make the thing useable as a tablet. And it's a very good touch based web browsing device.

    It really is all about price with these devices. Sure nothing about them is fantastic, it's about what they can do for the money.
     
  16. heatlesssun

    heatlesssun [H]ard as it Gets

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    There will always be those that are not going to be happy about backlight bleed, it's pretty much visible one way or another on virtually any backlighted display if you look hard enough. I know there are those that complain about it on the SP3 but I've watched quite a bit of video in the dark with mine and in that situation I've not had any problems with bleed. It's very much a personal judgment that varies from person to person.
     
  17. jimh425

    jimh425 Gawd

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    First, you are going to have to get used to Windows 8.1. The Surface Pro 3 is going to be absolutely heavy compared to the mini.

    On the plus side, Surface Pro 3 is touch screen and Windows. It's a good choice if you need a relatively giant tablet and don't mind the weight. I prefer a separate tablet and notebook which gives the best of both instead of compromising both.

    I agree with buying an MB Air since you already have a mini and are already familiar with Macs.
     
  18. heatlesssun

    heatlesssun [H]ard as it Gets

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    It's a bit more complicated than this. The Surface Pro 3 with the Type Cover and pen weighs a grand total of 2.5 lbs. The tablet itself is about 1.8 lbs. Not light but the screen on this is close to the size of an 11" x 8.5" sheet of paper. If one is going to be doing a lot of reading or web surfing on their tablet, there's not really any tablet better for those purposes. Sure if one is holding something as big as the SP3 constantly a smaller and lighter device might be preferable. However if one is siting in a chair, on the cough or reading in bed, the size and weight aren't as big of a deal the large screen and performance might be more advantageous.

    Compromise is a word I think that's too often used in an absolute sense. A smaller tablet and laptop could also be considered a comprise as that's certainly going to be more than 2.5 lbs of total weight and you do lose a really wonderful screen in size and resolution for reading in a tablet fashion. You have to determine what's important because there's always a compromise in one way or another. It's a matter of what compromises one is willing to make given their needs and desires.
     
  19. -Dragon-

    -Dragon- 2[H]4U

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    I've had no desire for a laptop for the last decade, don't care for clamshell design, generally bigger than I felt they needed to be for what they offered.

    Also never desired one of these android or ios tablets, far too limited in capabilities.

    For me the surface line straddled the exact spot I wanted a portable computer to be. They're powerful, lots of input options, I can use a keyboard (or not), mouse (or not), pen (or not), and there's always the fall back to touch, all in a form factor not much larger than the limited consumption devices. To me the surface line has the fewest compromises as far as power and option go, granted the price reflects that, but all the options people will list, while cheaper, will be in every way less capable and often heavier and/or bulkier.
     
  20. heatlesssun

    heatlesssun [H]ard as it Gets

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    There aren't many devices on the market right now that can do everything the SP3 does at 2.5 lbs. including the Type Cover and pen. And in the power adapter and you're looking at a little over 3 lbs. If you're looking at the higher end SP3, that's a LOT of computing capability in a very lightweight package. An iPad Air 2 is a bit less than a pound, but that's with no cover or keyboard nor advanced pen capabilities and oh by the way, no laptop.
     
  21. mi7chy

    mi7chy 2[H]4U

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    Have owned numerous ARM tablets in the past because they were low cost, lightweight and adequate for consumption use. Surface Pro 3 now replaces all of the ARM tablets because it's as light and thin as an iPad2, equivalent in cost ($750 Galaxy Note 12.2 or $499 iPad Air 2 64GB vs $799 SP3 64GB) but is far superior for consumption, productivity and creativity with access to the largest selection of professional level software. 12" is the perfect balance of usability and portability while 10" is too small. Wait for good deals to pop up on the SP3 such as the recently expired Staples 20% off which makes the SP3 i3/4GB/64GB a steal at $639.

    If I were you I'd consider selling the MBP and iPad Mini to fund the SP3. No need to haul around several devices that do less than one.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2014
  22. Romale23

    Romale23 Gawd

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    as a tablet and tablet computer, its really good and awesome, as a laptop it sucks. You can't really use it in your lap
     
  23. mi7chy

    mi7chy 2[H]4U

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    Why not? I use it on my lap all the time. And, what's nice about the detachable keyboard is it can sit on my chest when using it lying on the sofa without the keyboard sticking in my throat.
     
  24. Romale23

    Romale23 Gawd

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    using it as something required as a "laptop" employs typing, you try to do work on a surface pro that requires typing with a detachable keyboard and only a kick stand holding it up. It just doens't work. You can't use a non hard surface to set it on either so if you put a pillow in your lap to elevate for example it doesn't work., like i said, its great for tablet work, which is what i would describe as something not needing a keyboard, very well
     
  25. -Dragon-

    -Dragon- 2[H]4U

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    I think the *ahem* "lapability" of the surface will vary from person to person but I don't find it too difficult to use in my lap with or without keyboard. The keyboard is a bit more springy than a normal laptop keyboard but still very usable.
     
  26. Romale23

    Romale23 Gawd

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    its true, i was literally trying to code on it and i found it maddening. Really cool to have a tablet that can run visual studio though
     
  27. -Dragon-

    -Dragon- 2[H]4U

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    I'd agree that I wouldn't use it for coding but then again I wouldn't use any keyboard in my lap for that unless I absolutely had to.
     
  28. heatlesssun

    heatlesssun [H]ard as it Gets

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    How well the SP3 works in the lap varies a lot from person to person. I find it ok but I don't use laptops a lot in my lap. I'm kind of digging the keyboard overall. It is a little springy especially when the second magnet is used to angle the keyboard but overall I actually like the feel of it, the key travel is perfect I think.

    The next steps in the evolution of the Surface design would be losing the fan, getting it a little thinner and lighter in the 12" size and some type of more traditional keyboard dock for those where the kickstand solution doesn't work. Standard docks are tricky, getting the weight balance without making the overall weight of the package too much is hard to pull off. But if the tablet can get to about 1.5 lbs which should be possible without the fan then a keyboard of 1.5 lbs should be possible. Add a battery to it help mitigate the additional weight. Of course the price of it would be tricky too. People already balk at the $130 for the Type Cover so something a lot more would be more controversial. Though if it came with a battery and substantially increased the battery run time it would be more palatable.
     
  29. mi7chy

    mi7chy 2[H]4U

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    I type 100+ WPM and have no issue typing on my lap. If anything there's a little more flex in the Type Cover keyboard when used on the lap so you have to be more precise with the integrated-into-touchpad mouse button.
     
  30. -Dragon-

    -Dragon- 2[H]4U

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    As far as the SP2 vs SP3 size wise, the SP3 is much better from a productivity standpoint if you intend to do any sort of content creation or work on it. It has a full 50% more pixels at practically the same dot pitch. From someone who had no interest in the SP3 over the SP2 I already had in the morning I heard they were announcing it to preordering it that afternoon I'd say the size increase is the selling point of it. Anything that isn't watching movies is much better on the SP3 than the SP2.
     
  31. Impies

    Impies n00b

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  32. buttons

    buttons [H]ard|Gawd

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    I have a surface pro 2, RT 2, and a SP3 here at work to look at / play with. I have to say for the money the RT 2 really impressed me. Ive seen them listed on cowboom for $179 and while your using it you would never know its not a fully windows 8.1 computer (until you try to install software) for general surfing the web, email, writing documents its great. Its very thin and light, performance is very fluid, screen looks great, good battery life and the touch cover not only protects the screen but makes a tablet functional to me.

    The surface pro 2 refurbs go for around $349 and its a tempting deal, but its twice as thick as the RT and quite a bit heavier. When you hold it for a few minutes i find it very fatiguing -- still a good laptop replacement perhaps. the surface pro 3 is the same thickness as the RT2, bigger beautiful screen, performance may not quite match the pro 2 because ive read heat and throttling issues under heavy load.

    Form factor makes the surface pro 3 very appealing to me, but ill wait until the price comes down.
     
  33. heatlesssun

    heatlesssun [H]ard as it Gets

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    I saw this when researching with what I was going to replace my 2011 Lenovo x220t. It doesn't seem to be anything that many notice in the real world and I've not either. I have the i7 model and the thing overall is so fast in normal desktop operation that it just hasn't registered with me as a problem yet.
     
  34. username00

    username00 Limp Gawd

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    Sounds like the tablet isnt turning off all the way... A parasitic loss. I dunno about saying iOS and android have better apps, mobile apps are straight trash... The ad supported ones even more so. Have you ever tried making a spreadsheet in android or iOS? What a waste of time lol.
     
  35. Grentz

    Grentz [H]ard as it Gets

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    The SP3 is a very nice machine, but not a laptop replacement for me. The keyboard and trackpad are just not good enough for extended use. Then again I am picky.

    As a tablet it is very good and probably one of the best you will find if you want note taking (the pen is awesome) and it is plenty fast spec wise. Photoshop, etc. no problem at all.

    Personally, I like Thinkpads and MBP Retinas. Both have great keyboards and screen options. I really like the retina as I can jack up the res for more real estate. (for reference I daily carry a rMBP 13" as my work machine and have a personal rMBP 13" as well, both with VMWare fusion and Win8)