On Thursday 12th November 2015, the Microsoft Store in Sydney opened. Located at Westfield Sydney on the Pitt Street Mall, this is the first flagship Microsoft Store to be opened outside of North America and is a wonderful commitment to the Australian market.
Along with the opening of the store was the Australian launch of the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book computers announced at the Microsoft Windows 10 Devices Briefing.
I had already planned on getting a Surface Pro 4 based on the leaked information and speculation I had heard prior to the Devices Briefing. But when Microsoft surprised us with the Surface Book (well done on keeping it secret), I changed my mind and ordered the top of the range Surface Book (i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, GPU) and Surface Dock the next day on the Australian Microsoft Online Store.
After owning a Surface Pro 3 for more than a year and loving it, my reasoning for wanting the Surface Book over the Surface Pro 4 was as follows:
- I found that I could not use the Surface Pro 3 easily on my lap. Once opened with keyboard and stand, it would not fit on my lap (something about short legs and fat gut).
- I liked the idea of a larger screen. The Surface Pro 3 screen was a bit small when travelling (and not using an external screen).
- I like playing FPS games (although I rarely have the time), and a discrete GPU would be useful.
- I used to have a much larger and heavier laptop and so a little extra weight was acceptable, especially when it gives a longer battery life and discrete GPU.
- OK, it is also freaking cool for a Microsoft Fan.
After waiting patiently while my friends in the USA got their Surface Books and posted on Facebook how much they liked them (looking at you Belinda), finally launch day in Australia came around.
I had received emails on the day before showing that the extra Surface Pen and the Surface Book & Dock where shipped “priority” (read as overnight) as a single consignment. So, I am working while waiting for the shipments to arrive. The door bell rings and I go to the door to find it was one of my son Rohan’s friends dropping in. Disappointed, I go back to my office. The door bell rings again and I go to the door to find it was one of my son Aaron’s friends dropping in. Grumpily, I go back to my office. Finally, the door bell rings again and Aaron shouts out that it is the courier. Yay, I think, my new
toy computer has arrived. However, it was just the spare Surface Pen (one of the two packages in the shipment) and the second package was nowhere to be seen. Oh well, the pen looked nice.
After most of Friday, I contacted the courier company to see where the other package had got to as according to the online tracking site, it had not been scanned since it supposedly left Melbourne on Wednesday. They initiated a search to locate the missing package. I was concerned that it might have gone AWOL by nefarious means. I also contacted the Microsoft Store support and let them know that the package was currently missing. I was also worried that if the unit needed replacing, I would have to wait a while as I knew they were out of stock.
After a weekend with no news and wondering what was happening, I received an email on Monday 16th saying the package was scheduled for delivery that day. Great News. Late in the afternoon, the same courier guy delivers the package and says “So this is the package you were waiting for.”.
So, it was finally here and now started the process of configuring the machine with all the software and tools I needed. This process takes about two days and I will not go into too much detail, but will list a summary of the software and files installed.
- Windows updates: Update to the Windows 10 Threshold 2 release
- Office Pro Plus 2016
- All my personal documents, media files and tools, including sync relationships with SyncToy
- Windows tools such as Acrobat Reader, WinZip, WinAmp, Java, PerfectDisk, etc.
- Microsoft Expression Suite
- SQL Server 2012 & SP2 (I still need to support Dynamics GP 2010)
- Dynamics GP 2010 & Dexterity to match
- Dynamics GP 2013 & Dexterity to match
- Dynamics GP 2013 R2 & Dexterity to match
- Dynamics GP 2015 & Dexterity to match
- Dynamics GP 2015 R2 & Dexterity to match
- Visual Source Safe
- Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 (I still need to support Dynamics GP 2010)
- Visual Studio Tools for Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010
- Visual Studio Tools for Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013
- Visual Studio Tools for Microsoft Dynamics GP 2015
- PoorMan’s T-SQL Formatter SSMS Addin
- And lots more
During the set up of the machine, I experienced a known reported issue (many times) where the video driver would continuously reset and cause the machine to be unusable for a bit. I did have the firmware update from 02-Nov-2015 installed, but the problem still continued. Not only did it make the machine unusable until it settled down, it changed the Windows Explorer windows to be really small.
Anyhow, by Wednesday morning, I finally had the machine fully configured and ready for use. On the morning of Thursday 19th Windows update installed another firmware update (18-Nov-2015) and the screen resetting issue is now fixed. My sons were happy now as it means that the previous machines shuffle down. Aaron now has my old Surface Pro 3 as his primary machine and Rohan has Aaron’s Surface Pro 2 as his portable device for university to compliment his gaming desktop.
Here is my final configuration: Surface Book with the screen reversed on a laptop stand, so that the keyboard is attached but does not take up much room on the table. Surface Pen magnetically attached to left of the Surface Book screen. The Surface Dock is connected to the external 27″ Dell monitor and Edifier Aurora speakers (under monitor, sitting on stand). The monitor has a USB 3.0 hub which connects to an external USB 3.0 WD My Passport drive and BluRay Combo Drive (below monitor on left). Rounding off the setup is Microsoft Designer Bluetooth Desktop and Plantronics Voyager Legend Bluetooth Headset.
Also in the picture, but a little difficult to see is the Microsoft Zune HD 64GB (below monitor on right) and the audio switch box (below monitor on left) which allows me to change audio signals sent to the speakers between 4 available sources (PC, Zune, HDMI out from monitor and DJ console – not in photo).
Final thoughts: I am really enjoying the Surface Book. It is faster than the Surface Pro 3 and has more storage. I don’t need to use a 128GB MicroSD card to store my media anymore. Having a full sized SD card slot and two USB 3.0 ports make connectivity easier. I have used the “clipboard” tablet by itself and it is incredibly thin and light. Adding the keyboard in reverse makes it heavier but works as a stand and gives much longer battery life. I have used it a little bit in laptop configuration and it has worked well. I was concerned about the screen resetting issue, but that has not recurred since the last firmware update so everything looks great.
PS: The Mini DisplayPort ports on the Surface Dock are very close together and close to the other ports. The Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adaptor barely fits between the audio cable and USB cable, in fact both cables are angled slightly and under pressure. I have ordered a different adaptor which has a short lead on it so will fit better.
This article was originally posted on http://www.winthropdc.com/blog.