Categories
Technology

The Microsoft Surface 3

Surface 3

Why am I writing this here?  I honestly can’t tell you what compelled me to start writing about this tablet that I’ve had for maybe…a year and a half?  A tablet that I bought second-hand, without fully realizing what it was that I bought.  

The Surface 3 (and I’ll spare you from having to look it up) is the “non-pro” version of the Surface line that came out I think at the same time as the Pro 3.  They came in 2GB or 4GB RAM models, varying in hard drive size.  I happened to get the 2GB / 32 GB HD variety.  When I bought it, the seller also happened to have bought the type cover (aka the keyboard) and Surface pen.  That was lucky, because the Surface 3 came with neither of those when bought from retail.  

When I learned of the Surface line, I knew this was what I wanted for a laptop.  I didn’t realize that the Surface 3 was not really very powerful, and as I alluded to above, is more of a tablet than a laptop.  BUT I have found it to be a pretty amazing device, especially since I purchased the thing.  

One of the best things I’ve done for it is install a 128GB micro-SD card to expand the hard drive space.  I was getting some pretty terrible performance from the device, both in terms of random freezing and slowness; I attributed most of this to lack of hard drive space.  At one point I had a 32GB micro-SD card but that wasn’t enough to help it.  

But the other thing that’s helped revitalize my use of it has been April 2018’s massive update.  It seems to have brought some stability to the device (it took a long time to install the upgrade; I believe part of the problem was the aforementioned lack of hard drive space) and even some shiny new features.  

The size of the tablet itself is great as well.  I noted recently that while in tablet mode, and orienting the device in portrait mode, it’s basically the perfect size for e-reading.  I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 that I think is great, but its size is best suited for video (and great for watching 4:3 aspect videos).  I haven’t tried this yet, but I have a hold on some Library e-books so hope to give it a shot soon.  

What I think the Surface 3 will be great going forward is a mobile extension of my desktop work area in my studio.  I need to upgrade that computer, but it’s a solid enough work-horse that I can get the audio work I need to on it.  I believe it can handle Windows 10 (currently running Windows 7 – I’ll have to test my theory).  It’s not a powerful computer in terms of getting things done, but for my needs, it works.  

From what I’ve seen of the new Surface Go, it seems similar to that (albeit less powerful with only 2GB of RAM).  I’m interested in seeing what that one looks like!

Categories
Technology

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 – A Non-Technical Review

Most of the reviews I looked up when trying to get more info on this device were heavily technical in nature.  Great for comparisons, but a lot of the terms and numbers went over my head.  I’ve since purchased the device (and I’m writing this post with it, in part!), so I thought I’d give a more practical hands-on review.

Display

The display on this thing is absolutely amazing. It is what’s called “Super AMOLED”. I’m not really sure what that means, other than that it’s optimized to not light up the screen when black pixels are present. And it’s a super version of that.

Last night, I watched the highlights of the Ottawa Senators win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the display quality was noticeably better than what I’d get on my TV.  The tablet also has a 4:3 aspect ratio, which means that when I watch Star Trek: The Next Generation in HD, it plays in full screen.  It’s amazing.

Physical Input

I didn’t know how to label this section – but this is the best I came up with.  The device inputs are your standard touch screen inputs – your fingers.  But I also bought a Logitech Type-S keyboard case to go with it, which is how I was typing with earlier in this post.

But it doesn’t stop there.

I was playing Blades of Steel using a Logitech USB Gamepad.
I was playing Blades of Steel using a Logitech USB Gamepad.

As you can see in the above photo, I was able to hook up a Logitech Gamepad I bought years ago for my laptop and play NES games with it.  Specifically I was playing Blades of Steel.  I’m hoping that some of the other games I have will support it (such as Knights of the Old Republic).

But that’s not all, either.  I then hooked up a USB mouse/keyboard combo and was pleasantly surprised to see that those worked as well.  There’s even a mouse cursor / pointer when you attach a USB mouse to the tablet.  Essentially, this is going to act as a pretty decent laptop replacement.

Unfortunately, my USB mic did not work when I connected it to the tablet.  I have to figure that one out still – but I have some ideas for that.  One thought is that my USB mic is technically a Rock Band mic, so that could be a mitigating factor right there.

Software

Nothing out of the ordinary here; out of the box it was running Android 5 (Lollipop) but immediately after I set it up, there were software updates to bring it up to Android 6 (Marshmallow).  So, it’s functionally the same as my S7 edge in terms of the operating system – and both devices should be getting an update to Nougat (Android 7) “soon”.

What I was happy about was that it wasn’t over-loaded with software bloat; my previous tablet, the Galaxy Tab 4, came with a bunch of stuff I never used and just took up precious space.  I haven’t fully explored everything, but from what I can see there wasn’t too much extra.

A welcome pre-installation was Microsoft Office Mobile.  Waiting for me to sign into my Microsoft account were OneDrive, Word, Excel, and other mobile Office suite apps.  I’ve used them before, but when used on the Tab S2’s 9.7 inch screen they actually look and feel closer to their desktop counterparts.

Also pre-installed is Samsung’s SideSync, which allows you to remotely control your phone and transfer files.  It’s a pretty nifty feature to have, though I have yet to make full use of it.  It’s definitely fun to play with!

Overall impressions

Overall, from just one weekend with the device, I’d give it an 8.5/10.  I love the size of it, and having the extra input options just put it over the top.  It loses points based on the fact that you kind of need these additional input options to get good solid use out of it.  I feel like it should be able to stand on its own – which it mostly does, but not completely.

The Tab S3 is coming out in 2017 so now is the perfect time to jump on the S2 bandwagon.  It’s amazingly fast, display quality is top notch, and gives you everything you can do with Android, plus a few extras that only Samsung can give you.