Surface Pro 2 or iPad Air?

Our family secondary computer has finally died. It was a 2007 Sony Vaio notebook running Vista. It had served us well. RIP.

This means we need a replacement, a new computer. So it was time to take measure of what is out there. The landscape has certainly changed since 2007. And my family’s tech has too. The Sony was replaced by a highly underrated Fujitsu Lifebook UH75 ultrabook (video) running Windows 7. It has lots of harddisk (500GB) and RAM (4GB) with a Core i5 weighing in at 1.4kg (3.08lb). It is a lovely computer to tote around – light, thin, battery life of 6-8 hours.

Anyway, as we both work we need more than one computer but not two computers. My partner doesn’t use her computer too often. So buying full spec computer seems silly. If we are going to plonk down this much cash we might as well get something which is going to be used more than just occasionally for work. So our two options were this – a tablet PC or a tablet. After looking at what was out there right now I came to the conclusion that it was either a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 or an Apple iPad Air. My reasoning was this: tablets are the way to go. The question left was do we need the full power of a PC for the two of us or can we get by with just a tablet. And this question can only be answered by weighing in our position now.

Two years ago I switched to an iPhone 4S from a (very cool but) not-so-smart phone. And my life changed. These things are in effect a very small iPads with phone and internet connectivity. I now use my iPhone as my primary tool for teaching using its camera, presentation app (KeyNote), connection to the web to show everything needed to the students. I do this for two or three straight classes with conservative battery use. It is a beautiful tool that I cannot live without now. The point is portable touchscreen tablets are the best things for teaching even if it is an iPhone.

And as you can see from my last post I also got more digital with the latest Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500. This scanner is amazing. Everything I need can now be digitalized quick and simple. It works really for my iPhone, so I can see it will work wonders with a tablet.

But the do I need PC power in this now my secondary computer? One option is to buy the Surface Pro 2 and use it as my primary computer relegating the Fujitsu to (a very good) second fiddle. But then I would ask why do I need two computers? I only need one and something else to let me write notes occasionally. And as I said the setup with my iPhone is incredible. Apart from not having a keyboard I have been able to do a lot of things including writing notes and reports on my 4S. And yes there is no way I will revert to non-tablet notebooks. Touch-screen enabled computers are definitely the way to go.

That is why I had a long look at the Surface Pro 2. The problem isn’t that it isn’t a great product. Microsoft has made a fantastic computer. Arguably it is the best what I call “ultrabook tablet” out there at Xmas 2013. But it isn’t worth it to spend that much to replace my perfectly good one-year old notebook. I can live without touchscreen on my computer for now. In other words a computer has its place and a tablet is in different place. They serve sightly different lifestyle uses. Do I want a PC which moonlights as a tablet or the other way around. My iPhone as a very “mini iPad mini” gets more air time than my PC. It is that useful.

And the winner is …

You may have guessed by now that I have opted for the iPad.

The pros were:

  1. very light and portable
  2. will use a lot for things other than productivity
  3. fits between my iPhone and notebook in terms of being a lifestyle tool
  4. cheaper than the Surface Pro 2 setup (by about half even after buying the wireless keyboard and stand/cover)
  5. iOS is a great operating system. The workflow is excellent but not seamless)
  6. my partner needs to be introduced to the world of tablets

The cons were:

  1. not as good as a PC for word processing or spreadsheet (even with keyboard setup)
  2. can’t use “legacy” software (though much of what I need can be found as apps)

After considering all this we (I) decided the iPad Air was the deal. Apple’s Pages seems to work fine with some minor text alignment problems (along with Numbers and KeyNote it’s free with new iPad purchase). I also went with the Apple Wireless Keyboard (which works with my iPhone as well) and Smart Cover (which doubles as a stand).

The Surface though a great computer will have to wait until my PC breaks down. If the last computer was anything to by that would be another four years (sorry Microsoft).

Now I just can’t wait for it to arrive in a couple of days. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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