Some years ago I purchased Microsoft's Surface 3 laptop as a convenient on the go amendment to my full sized laptop at home. Obviously something running an Atom processor with 4GB of RAM isn't going to be a heavy duty work machine I thought. It was more of a tool to take to meetings and to get some work done outside of the office. The Surface 3 runs the latest full Windows version so all of my software could finally travel with me in a neat little package.
Well, the Surface 3 has surpassed all of my expectations, and has somehow become my primary work machine to this day. It's slowly begun to take on my heavier work load throughout the months. To the point, where it's my 90% go to laptop now. So today I'll be discussing how the Surface 3 has become my primary work tool in running our startup company and in everything else that I do technically pretty much.
A brief history The Surface 3 came out in May of 2015, which is when my birthday is. So I picked it up as a birthday present to myself. The Surface 3 came out before the Surface Pro 3, which kind of makes sense. It made the Surface line more attainable to those that didn't want to spend the 800-1000+ that you would normally spend for the Pro models. Running an x86 based processor meant that the Surface 3 could run most if not all Windows applications, which the previous ARM based Surface models could not.
My day to day activities
As the full time CTO of Renly.co, a startup that I helped to co-found 2 years ago, and as someone who owns and operates several personal websites, my days are filled with replying to random strangers looking to partner up and programming, and data analysis, and design work, and things breaking. Etc. The list goes on and on. And all of that has slowly been transferred to the Surface 3 over the course of the past year. Visual Studio 2017 is running in full force along with SQL Server and other design tools which I'll get into down below. Communication tools are running constantly for meetings and interviews and business calls.
And Chrome is getting used. Heavily I will add. As is the case with most programmers. YouTube is constantly in the background and even Steam gets launched every now and then. And did I mention Chrome?
The official specs for the Surface 3 are not impressive and are as follows.
Not the most impressive, but not the worst. It's not running a Celeron processor or anything. And it does manage to pump out a fantastic looking 1080p display to boot.
This is what I need to run daily and hourly for the most part. And it is heavy.
- Visual Studio 2017 (multiple occurrences)
- Sql Server 2017 (multiple occurrences)
- Chrome browser (20+ tabs)
- Other browses (when testing)
- Amazon Music
And many times all of these at once. Closing and reopening apps that I'm going to use within 10 minutes isn't my thing, so I tend to keep everything up and running at all times.
Sure there's a hiccup here or there at times with resource management. But normally that's something that closing a few tabs takes care of. But essentially it runs any piece of software that needs to run on it and does it well enough that I'm still using it.
And it likes to travel
The major selling point for me when picking up the Surface 3 was indeed its size. I didn't want to carry a "laptop". I wanted something the size of a book that weighed what a book weights. And the Surface 3 matched that exactly. And I wasn't disappointed when it arrived. It's the perfect form factor and it goes to every meeting and business trip with me without a hiccup. It feels good in the hand. And because it is a somewhat cheaper machine, I don't feel like I need to protect at every corner. It rolls with the punches. It's one of the crew, as it were.
I've had it on a plane, in the train, and even in the rain. This thing has seen places. And it's not "pretty" anymore to say the least.
But that's the whole point I suppose. To be used as a valuable tool. To put the work in. To take a tumble to the floor, and to boot up just as fast as when new. There's a lesson there. If we can all be more like the Surface 3, we'd be portable and light work machines that run at 100% and keep going.
Sure, everything has a downside. You can't have good without bad. The Surface 3, due to it's lack of attention from pretty much everyone nowadays isn't the most stable. It crashes every now and then and the keyboard loses its connectivity from time to time which calls for a restart. Annoying? Yes. But manageable. Mainly because those occurrences are not too common.
Any real time video communication suffers on the Surface 3. Could be a driver issue, could be a hardware issue. But there have been a few meetings that had to be cancelled due to severe lag.
One can't forget that it is running a 1.6Ghz Atom processor with only 4GB of RAM and weighs in at under 2 pounds.
While marketing departments and media outlets still refer to it as a tablet and treat it as such, I do not. It is not a tablet. It is a tiny powerful computer and it can manage the technical needs of an entire company without a hiccup. A few hiccups maybe.
While I told myself that eventually I was going to go for the higher powered i7, 512 SSD Surface model some time ago, I just can't seem to let go of the Surface 3. Not only because it houses my work and because the Type Cover has the grooves of someone that's typed a million lines of code on it. But because of what it represents.
We tend to think that the more powerful the technology the better it is. But we don't know what better is. We're not using this powerful technology for anything more advanced or complicated as it were. So then it tends to become a trendy and niche thing to acquire. Something that we can show off to others, to say "check out my high powered laptop that I'm going to browse the web on". Well I say the opposite. Check out my incredibly low powered and low memory 299$ laptop. And watch what I can do with it. And watch what it can do.
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Walter Guevara is a Computer Scientist, software engineer, startup founder and currently mentors for a coding bootcamp. He has been creating software for the past 15 years.