Having been using the Microsoft Surface Pro for several years now, I was psyched to see the launch of the Surface Book, along with the Surface Pro 4. When I first heard about the Surface Book, I thought “here goes another laptop again”…until I saw the screen detach from the keyboard, revealing that it was a two-in-one hybrid machine. That was certainly unexpected. A laptop and a touchscreen tablet hybrid with a powerful 6th generation dual core Intel CPU, dedicated NVIDIA GPU, up to 1 TB of SSD memory and up to 16 GB of RAM. A true powerhouse in a very compact form factor, ideal for traveling and photo editing on the go. I knew it was something I had to test and review.
Along with the new Surface Book, Microsoft also revealed a highly anticipated update to the Surface Pro line – the Surface Pro 4. Being a huge fan of the SP 3, I have been patiently waiting to see what Microsoft would bring in the SP 4. Although the Surface Book sounds like a dream come true for serious work, it is both heavier and larger than the Surface Pro 3 once you add up the keyboard shell (which is what hosts an additional battery, external connectors and an optional GPU). My Surface Pro 3 is always with me and it fits nicely in the front compartment of my Think Tank Airport Commuter backpack (the best camera backpack I have used to date), so I will have to evaluate the size differences between the two to decide which one would suit my needs the best. Thankfully, Microsoft kept the Surface Pro 4 nice and compact. In fact, compared to its predecessor, the SP 4 is both thinner and slightly lighter at 8.45mm and 1.73 pounds (high-end models), vs 9.14mm and 1.76 pounds on the SP 3.
Today is a big day at Microsoft, because the company revealed the Surface Book, Microsoft’s first ever laptop. With its 13.5 inch display packing 3,000 x 2,000 pixels (3:2 aspect ratio, which is great for photography) the screen is very impressive with 267 pixels per inch. And since this machine just like the Surface Pro and Surface 3 can run the full version of Windows 10, you can run any calibration software to get the color precision you need. The cool thing about the Surface Book is that you can use it both as a tablet and a laptop – something Apple MacBook Pro cannot compete with. That’s a neat feature, because some tasks, like online browsing do not require a keyboard, so the ability to disconnect the screen from the keyboard is amazing. The keyboard module is not just a keyboard – it is actually another shell that hosts another battery and an optional NVIDIA graphics card (GPU), which is something I did not expect to see. This means that the Surface Book will be perfectly usable not only for gaming, but also for many challenging tasks, including 3D modeling. GPU speed was the weakness of the Surface Pro line and a lot of people have been asking for a way to hook up an external GPU. Looks like Microsoft listened and delivered. There is, however, a caveat with the tablet vs full laptop mode: since the larger capacity battery sits in the keyboard shell, the battery life is greatly diminished, with the tablet only being able to run for up to 3 hours. Still, that’s pretty darn impressive for such a small powerhouse. And speaking of battery life, once you hook up the keyboard, you will be able to get up to 12 hours of battery life!
Within the next few weeks, Microsoft will be releasing the new generation model of its successful laptop for professionals, the Surface Pro 4. Having been using the Surface Pro 3 since it came out, I have taken it all over – from the dusty Race Track playa of Death Valley to the red sands of Wadi Rum in Jordan. Being light and portable, it has been in my camera bag pretty much everywhere I go. I have always been a PC guy (although I recently bought an iMac), so I have had quite a bit of experience using all kinds of PCs for my needs. And although I have never had issues with PCs, my biggest struggle has always been laptops. Having tried everything from expensive Dell Precision models to lightweight ultrabooks, I pretty much hated them all for one reason – the amount of heat they generate, particularly when using them on my lap.
This week Microsoft released the long anticipated Windows 10, the latest, the greatest and the last “operating system of the future”. Why the last? Microsoft claims that Windows 10 will be the last operating system with a version number, so we won’t be seeing a Windows 11 or 12. Apparently, the company has no plans for future iterations of the operating system, and instead plans to focus on providing continuous updates to the Windows 10 platform. That’s probably why the company skipped Windows 9 altogether, since 10 sounds more “complete”. Microsoft is tired of trying to convince its customer base to buy the next version of the operating system every time it is released, and the costs of ongoing maintenance and support for each OS iteration has been getting out of control. So it makes strategic and business sense to move everyone to the Windows 10 platform, and focus on selling a single operating system instead. But how do you move everyone to Windows 10? Microsoft found an easy solution – to allow every licensed user of Windows 7 and Windows 8 / 8.1 to upgrade for free. A great strategy in my opinion, which I believe will work in Microsoft’s favor in the long run. And we get the best of the breed at no cost, so we cannot complain, can we? So if you have been thinking whether to upgrade to Windows 10 or not, I don’t think it is the question of “if” anymore, but a question of “when”. Microsoft’s generous offer has a time limit – you must upgrade before July 28th 2016, if you want to take advantage of the free upgrade offer. In this article, I want to provide some information on upgrading to Windows 10 from a prior version of Windows based on my last two days running the operating system on my main desktop and two Microsoft Surface Pro 3 laptops.
As some of our readers have found out, there is an issue with the high-resolution, high-density screen of the Surface Pro 3. You see, the more resolution you pack into a small screen, the smaller the elements then appear – buttons, text, just about any content on the Internet. I am certain that the issue is temporary – as high-density screens spread and become common technology, these issues are bound to be resolved at some point. Still, if you are using Lightroom with the Surface Pro 3 now, waiting is not really an option. And I have some good news – there is no need to wait. An issue is only an issue if you can’t solve it. Luckily, there are at least two ways to make the user interface of Adobe’s popular RAW converter more friendly to both mouse and touch input, and both are as easy to set up.
Before we start, thought, let’s see what the issue is all about.
Just like Romanas, I love my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (in fact, I was the one who convinced Romanas to get one after my experience with the Surface Pro 2 and eventually 3rd generation). Although Romanas has already put a lot of great information in his excellent in-depth review, there is one big reason why I personally strongly prefer the Surface Pro over a laptop – I can work with it on my lap and it does not make me uncomfortable, as it does not generate any heat. But despite all the good things about the Surface Pro 3, there is one issue that can be particularly problematic for photographers: to extend battery life, Microsoft actually modified Intel’s graphics card drivers and reduced the number of colors that can be displayed by the device. For most people this might not be a problem, but for us photo geeks, this “hack” is actually quite a big issue, as it introduces banding / posterization to images. It also makes it hard to distinguish between some shades of colors, which is rather sad, since the high resolution screen is the number one selling point of this device (turns out Apple employs a similar trick on its MacBook Air machines). Another inquiry we have received from our readers is on calibration – is it possible to calibrate the Surface Pro 3 screen? In this article, I will provide detailed information on how to fix the banding issue and provide detailed instructions on how to properly calibrate the Surface Pro 3 screen.
In my original review of the Surface, I mentioned it suits my needs very well when it comes to portability and writing. The Type Cover keyboard is exceptionally comfortable and the whole package fits very neatly into the tablet compartment of my Think Tank Retrospective bag. However, I did not yet have the time to thoroughly test the Surface’s performance with Lightroom and Photoshop, the two most popular editing programs among photographers. Since so many of you asked, I decided not to wait for the next time I was shooting out in the city to process new photographs “in the field” (not the best weather for street photography), but to turn off my PC at home for a while and instead work on images I’ve taken during my trip to NYC on the Surface. In this article, I will talk you through my experience from importing the RAW files to the Surface in Lightroom, to exporting them, all (hopefully) on a single charge of battery. Let’s see if it will manage.
Here I am, sitting at a cozy coffee house. Not just some coffee house, too, but a place where a lot of young people hang out – students, mostly. They come here for a cup of coffee much like people do at Starbucks overseas. Like me, they also come here to work – I’ve seen more MacBooks here than I did in iDeal (official Apple product distributor in Lithuania, similar to iStore / Apple Store). But I don’t have a MacBook. Perhaps that is why through the corner of my eye I notice a young girl looking my way. Now, my Julie has no reason to worry. The girl is not interested in me whatsoever. What caught her eye is the computer on my lap. She notices me noticing her and immediately says – “What sort of computer is that? It’s pretty.” Right. So this might not help my self esteem, but the girl is indeed correct. I appreciate a good design and, well, this thing looks the part. Coupled with the bright blue keyboard, certainly good enough to attract attention.
Whether you want it to attract attention or not is a different matter. More importantly, though, it’s not all looks and no substance. Quite the contrary, in fact – Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is ready to give someone a bloody nose.
Instead of dedicating a whole post to every news revolving around photography, we decided to write a weekly article, which will include some fun finds from the photography blogging sphere. Although we do our best to only post original content, we still see value in sharing important photography-related news and stories our team comes across, or receives from our dear readers. We hope you enjoy these series!