The Switcher Diaries: What You Need To Know Before Switching

This week, I made the switch from five years' worth of Mac use back to Windows with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Here's what I learned, what I'd do differently, and whether you should do it too.

I’m Luke Hopewell, and this week I’m switching from a MacBook Air to a Surface Pro 3. All this week, we’re putting the Surface Pro 3 through its paces. From mobile computing, tablet tasks and full on desktop replacement tests: Gizmodo is powered by the Surface all week. Got something you want us to test? Let us know in the comments!

Disclosure: Microsoft is an advertiser on Gizmodo, but has no editorial influence on this series (though Microsoft PR did send over a Surface Pro 3 dock once they saw what we were doing!)

What I Loved...

There's a lot to love about switching onto Windows 8.1, especially with a device as capable as the Surface Pro 3.

I love that I was able to sit in a boardroom meeting taking notes on my ergonomically-friendly Type Cover, and detach it in favour of the new Surface Pen and OneNote when I had to go mobile. Having one device that can replace my notebook, laptop and desktop was awesome.

I love that it still trips people out. "How is it so thin?" "What is it?" "Where do I get one?!" are all questions I fielded this week.

I love the infinitely adjustable kickstand which means I can use it on my desk, on the go and when I'm lying down watching stuff in bed or on the couch.

I love the big, beautiful screen. Coming from a lower resolution 11-inch MacBook and moving to a 12-inch 1080p display is amazing, and it's going to be tough to switch back.

I love that it's a tablet with a USB 3.0 port. It's stupidly handy to have.

I love that it runs an Intel Core i5 processor. None of this half-baked mobile processor nonsense. There's a real laptop in here.


What I Learned...

You Probably Should Get Office 365

When I heard Microsoft were charging for Office 365 per month, I kind of laughed. Now that I've used it, I see the sense.

Having unlimited cloud storage rules, even if you can't use it as well as you should be able to thanks to Australia's terrible internet.

Don't Hack Together Your Switching Set Up

When this week kicked off, I hacked together a set up on my desk from an old DisplayPort to HDMI adapter and sourced the world's worst monitor to extend my working environment. Don't do that.

If you're going to use a convertible to mobile work and replace your desktop, get your IT manager to spring for a decent monitor. And a dock. Honestly, you won't believe the difference it made.

You Need Patience

Whether you're a Mac user or not, you can probably agree that Windows 8.1 — while vastly improved — is still massively frustrating. I'm not going to lie, I shouted at a screen more than once this week, and while I'm not proud of that (because violence against technology never solved anything), it made me feel better.

The UI still needs work and all the little things that take 10 times longer on Windows than they do on Mac OS X need to get the f**k out.

None of these frustrations were the fault of the hardware, just the software. I love the Surface, so much that I'm going to try and Hackintosh it this weekend. Nobody tell Microsoft.


What I'd Do Differently...

Get A Battery Cover

Because of the sheer size of the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft had to choose carefully where to put the battery, and how big to make it. As a result, we still only got about four hours of life out of the Surface when its rival, the MacBook Air, was able to nail 14 hours of battery life without breaking a sweat when it came out a year ago.

To keep you alive when you go mobile, you can get a Type Cover filled with batteries that doubles your battery life. Eight hours is a reasonable work-day, and I strongly doubt you'd be out of the office or even away from a power point for the whole day, so that should be enough with reasonable use.

Get A MicroSD Card

Windows 8.1 doesn't leave you with a huge amount of space for your stuff on the Surface Pro once you're all set up. We have the 256GB Core i5 model and it left us with about half the SSD storage once we got going. Use that as your rule for storage space, and for goodness sake, go get a MicroSD card. It can support up to 128GB, and it won't cost you much. Do it.

Plan Better

Honestly, most of my frustration came down to poor planning on my part when it came to software. If I had my time over again, I'd sit down and list the apps I use most and find two capable replacements before switching rather than just one. And I'd spend time working on it before I had to make the switch, almost in an overlap period.

Right now is probably the best time for anyone to think about switching, considering that it's November and everyone's winding down for the year.


Have you switched? What's the advice you'd give? Tell us in the comments!

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