For well over six months now I have been kicking around the idea of getting myself an ultrabook notebook computer, or as I prefer to call them an 'ultralight computer'. The last fully functional notebook PC I bought was my faithful old Toshiba Tecra A11 and I must have got that about five to six years ago just as the 1st Generation Intel i7 CPUs came out. From a performance perspective the old Tecra A11 is still a good unit. But these days a notebook computer that weighs 3+kg and has a best-effort battery life of about 2.5 hours is 'old'.
I waited until the Microsoft Devices Event so I could see what the new Surface Pro 4 was like and, as it turns out, the new Pro 4 is a great unit. The model I would go for has the latest 6th Generation Intel i7 CPU, is thinner and lighter than the Pro 3, and has a slightly better screen. Microsoft are saying it has a 12 hour battery thanks to the 6th Generation CPU. But I went right off it when the prices for Australia were released. The Pro 4 with i7 and the 256GB SSD comes in at $2,800 without the pen or keyboard. With pen and keyboard you will need to hand over $3,100.
So, like about five people I have since talked to, I went back to the Surface Pro 3 with 5th Generation Intel i7. This unit has a reported nine hours of battery life and in Australia you can pick this up with 8GB of RAM and the 256GB SSD with a pen thrown in for $1,856. And at JBHIFI, if yo haggle a bit, you will get the keyboard for half price (about $80). So Pro 3, pen, and keyboard comes in at $1,900—a whopping $1,200 less than the Pro 4.
I think, in Australia anyway, that the higher-end Pro 4 units are about $500 overpriced. For those that can wait I would expect that you will see these prices drop by about $300 after Christmas; after Microsoft have sold as many as they can to those that actually will pay that much for one.
The really hard work begins once you buy a new computer.
For someone like me, getting a new computer up to its 'fully functional' state can take days. Not counting doing the upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10 and then applying the Windows 10 updates; then you have to get all your software transferred over from you previous PC. In my case this includes: DxO, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Office 2016. Once you have the licensed software transferred over then you need to install all the other bits and pieces you use such as IrfanView, VLC, Adobe Reader, etc.
At this stage I have the Pro 3 connected up to all my peripherals. My plan is to use the Pro in place of my study desktop. Then I can carry my primary PC around with me. That's my plan anyway.
In the following picture you can see it connected to my main screen, keyboard, and mouse so it works just like a 'real' study computer.
I have a single USB connection going to my DELL U2410 monitor. The monitor then has four USB ports on it, two of which are being used for the keyboard and mouse. This leaves two USB 2 ports for other USB connections I might need.
The monitor also has a multi-format card reader on it. This allows me to use the SD Cards from my cameras.
The monitor itself is being driven via the mini DisplayPort on the Surface Pro 3.
When the new Surface Pro 4 docking-block becomes available I will get one of those—they are backwards compatible with the Pro 3. The docking-block connects to the Pro 3 via a single connection and jacks in all connected peripherals in one go, including providing a gigabit Ethernet port.
At this stage I am loving the performance of the Pro 3 compared to my previous 2nd Generation Intel i7 Hewlett Packard desktop PC (which you can see on the left in the picture above). The Pro 3 also obviously has an SSD whereas the desktop computer has a hard disk. I realise this this kind of gives the Pro 3 an unfair performance advantage but at this stage I am stunned by the performance improvement.
Well I have to get back to loading it up. I am just in the middle of getting Adobe Photoshop Elements moved over from my old PC. I still have Office 2016 and DxO to go.