Mid-December until the end of January is the busiest times for a school IT Department. For example, we had school notebooks, iPads and classroom lab devices to refresh, hundreds of them. We also had a new Junior School opening, plus seven other buildings getting renovated. I’m used to these holidays being busy but it was pretty insane this year.
On one of these crazy days, I sat down at 4 pm to check my emails before going home to see an email from Microsoft. ‘Welcome to the Early Adopter Program | Meet the New Surface Pro 7+‘ My first thought was awesome, always happy to check out a new device. But then I thought, ‘What the hell is a Surface Pro 7+?‘
Since I hadn’t really stopped all day, the idea of keeping track of my news alerts was not happening that day. So a quick google showed me that Microsoft had released a new Surface device, the Surface Pro 7+ for Business and Schools.
Now I’m no stranger to the Surface devices, it started over 2 years ago when we rolled out one hundred and forty Surface Laptops 2, a year later we went from one year group to two-year groups, this time with Surface Pro 7’s. And having just arrived in the first week of January another 200 Surface Pro 7’s arrived for another two-year group. And we also have 8 Surface Studios (love them).
So I replied YES happy to receive one and then did some research on where the Pro 7+ has improved on over the normal 7. And later that week a kit arrived, but I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s review what is new on the 7+.
So the main thing that the Pro 7+ has the none-plus doesn’t? Removable SSD, bigger battery and in some models LTE connectivity. Though there is one catch, it’s limited to education and business customers for now, though people have told me anyone can still buy it. For me, the biggest part here is the removal SSD; being able to swap out the hard drive is fantastic. I can’t tell you how often I tell people to back up their data not just to the Cloud (thank you OneDrive!) but also to back up to a second location.
And then a couple of days later a care pack arrived on my desk. Not only did they send me the Pro 7+, but they also sent an Ark Mouse, Pen, Dock and Type cover. The only thing they didn’t send me was a charger, which did seem weird but with CCGS being a Microsoft Surface Gold School I had a charger around.
Powering up the Surface I was amazed to see the power it had, Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD and the Intel Graphics Xe. Thanks, Microsoft for sending a beast of a Surface.
So I powered it up and I installed the normal things we all use on these devices, Microsoft Office, OneDrive, Chrome and 1Password (if your not using a password manager, stop reading this. Go get one and then come back). I’ve used it over the last 2 weeks, and it is a pretty amazing device. Even at times when I would normally find myself grabbing my MacBook or my iPad, I found I was still happy on the Surface, though on a couch where I need it to rest on my lap I just don’t find the Surface a comfortable device to use. But that isn’t really a problem for me in how I normally use a Surface.
Before I give my thoughts on the Surface Pro 7+, let’s check out what else they sent in the box.
The pen is awesome, as an Apple iPad Pro user I normally use the Apple Pencil Gen 2, but I love how the Surface Pen has 3 great features.
1) You can spin it around and it acts like an eraser. This is one of the greatest things. Apple you need to get this feature.
2) The eraser part is also a button you can use.
3) The button on the main body of the pencil. Seriously 2 buttons on a pen so you can use it as a remote when doing a presentation is awesome.
I’ve actually been using this on and off for the last four months. It is a fine dock though I have one big issue with it. I have found that in some cases if you don’t have active cables for your screens you can get display issues. I wish Microsoft had just included the Active port in the dock so it wasn’t an issue.
I’ve used this on and off since the first one came out, I even remember testing the one on the Surface RT that didn’t even have keys and was touch-sensitive. I like the design but I do find it a little flappy for my like unless you fold it flat. But still a great type cover. Maybe just reduce the clickiness of the mouse.
I have wanted to use one of these years, but never been able to bring myself to spend $119 (AUD Price) for a mouse that I don’t know about and having one arrive on my desk is awesome. It may be the part of the kit I was most excited to get. It is smooth and great to use with only two issues that I can live with.
1) To do some performance testing I threw GTA5 on the Surface, and couldn’t use the Arc Mouse to play with since you need to right-click and left click and once.
2) I wish it would have a few angles it could be left at when on, I would prefer a slightly lower option instead of the full ark.
That being said I love it, and even when I stop using the Surface Pro 7+ as much and go back to my iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard the Ark mouse will follow it.
The one thing I do hate about the Arc Mouse (sorry Microsoft) is that it can’t have 2 buttons pushed at once. Granted this is during gameplay, but I found that since it is a single panel of glass or plastic if I had left click down to aim I couldn’t then push right click.
And back to the Surface itself. It is awesome, when doing work on it I was getting around 7+ hours battery at full brightness. And even when gaming I still got a couple of hours. I wish it had come out a few months before, I would have brought 250 of them instead of the 250 Surface Pro 7’s I ordered in November.
Though it has got me excited for the Surface Pro 8 I hope comes out towards the end of the year, and hopefully, I’ll be able to get another Early Adopters kit sent out so that I can give it a full test.
My final test for this was to really make it struggle.
When I first sat down to write this I intended to do it over a weekend and despite hoping I would use it more I knew I would go back to my iPad Pro and MacBook Pro. Though two rather interesting things happened then.
- I had spare time in the evenings, the craziness of our holiday work, opening a new building and also overseeing the renovations of six buildings stopped taking over my evenings.
- And I sent my iPad Pro in for repairs, it had a weird screen issue so I thought why not get it fixed now. I have the Pro 7+ here while its getting repaired.
So instead of my final test which was going to be loading it with Virtual Machines until it couldn’t cope anymore I decided to test it in a different way, I installed Steam and loaded GTA V. Now I know GTA V isn’t a new game, but we are talking a small Surface Pro Tablet here so how would it go.
Well, I was rather impressed with how it handled it. The graphics for me are fine on its small screen, and yes at times I can hear the fan when I am in a quiet room, but as my evenings have been in front of the TV watching a movie or show and playing at the same time I can’t hear the fan. I am lucky that this is the Surface Pro 7+ with 16GB of RAM and an i7 Processor, I’m aware not all Surfaces could play it but for me it was fine. I had a pretty constant 30 FPS which was fine for me.
Even last night when I was playing it, I started at 7 pm and played until 10:30 pm all while on battery which I was pretty impressed with.
And here are the Cinebench R23 results I know some would find interesting.
And finally, I found the Surface Pro 7+ was indispensable over the last few weeks. When I was walking around just checking the status of renovations of the shiny new Junior School building it was fine for taking notes. I did even use it with an ethernet adaptor for some switch config. Though the Pro 7+ was standout for commissioning the Vivi’s and Wireless.
It was so easy to walk around checking Ubqiuiti Access Points, testing wireless and testing the Vivi’s. It’s speed never let me down and I could easily do that for four hours at a time without losing battery.
If anyone has any recommendations for a good piece of Wireless Survey software that won’t cost me hundreds and or thousands please let me know.
Overall I have found the Pro 7+ is the first Surface I have used for more than a couple of weeks. Normally I test a demo unit I’m sent and then put it back in a box and send to Microsoft, this one I am happy will stay on my desk and in my bag. Will it replace my iPad? No, but that is mainly because I still want Apple Notes and other Apple only apps. But this is the first Windows device in some time I am still using and don’t see myself handing over any time soon. It has great power, battery life and the Arc Mouse and Pen are useful.
That being said, Microsoft I am extremelly grateful for the unit… next time though… red please! It looks amazing!