In English…because I feel like it! (sorry for my fellows Frenchie’s)
I fell into temptation last week, but my entrepreneurial spirit (and my accountant) told me not to…so cruel dilemma: to buy or not to buy a Surface Book?
I didn’t, yet I’m posting from it right now…To make it short, I rented it for a year! 100€ monthly more or less so I’ll be out of it when the Surface Book 2 will come out, rounding the edges of this first specimen…if you’re in France and want to rent one, send me a mail, I’ll give you the details!
Ok, so I got the Surface Book (i7, 16gb of ram and 512Gb SSD) …nice packaging, nice rig, nice price tag (even if I didn’t spend the money, it still haunts me). To get the picture right, I owned a Surface Pro 3 for a year or so and sold it back in December last year…when the SP4 came out. lost a few hundred on it, but quite a good run for the price. I can’t imagine getting the same mileage with this one…
I own 3 BIG laptops, over 2 year-old ASUS ones, for the BIG courses (1To SSD, core i7 and 32Gb of ram each) and one ACER S7 (lightweight, Corei5, 4 Go and 256SSD). And now the Surface Book…which fall just in the middle of those 2 extremes, for the price of the 3 big laptops nowadays, or 3 times the Acer’s price. Why did I jump on it in such a frenzy? I love the format, the screen, the weight, the battery life, the (mild?) performance, Windows Hello, and the Keyboard!
What I did already know I wouldn’t like, well easy: first the Price. 3000 euros for it make me feel like an Apple Fanboy, same ones I criticize for spending over 800€ for a phone…what I knew I wouldn’t like either: the fact the screen gets off. Useless to me, anything else? YES!!! it hasn’t enough memory for many Sys Center Course if you want to have good perfs, you need the 32 Gigs of Ram, even that falls short on some of my labs….so the 16 Gb are not nearly enough to get me happy nowadays, and given the price tag (again) that’s my main concern…the 512SSD, I can live with, I have a 2,5” USB3 portable drive box (Zalman) I can fit in 2x 1Tb mSATA SSD and have plenty of room for my vms, drop in deduplication and space isn’t really a concern. Of course it would have been nice to have a 1Tb SSD Drive to start with, but that model isn’t available here yet…
So? after that first day at work, I feel like it’s really a nice laptop, nice looking pro rig, very good keyboard compared to all I had previously (ok, LENOVO is said to be better on some models, but i haven’t had one in years, so i can’t really tell). For now, I really find it fast, despite the fact the ACER boots in half the time all the others, thanks to its Intel RAID 0 SSDs. All works flawlessly, Windows Hello, which seemed like a gadget to me has already become my best friend, he recognizes me every time, with or without glasses, light or anything. It just works perfectly well. Fast and accurate even when I’m standing in front of the laptop, behind my chair…very cool feature if you ask me. After a single day of it in the office, I’m sold to Hello.
This week I’m working in Paris, and I live in Aix en Provence (800 KM walk). I take the train and 3 hours and a half later I’m in Paris, and back the same way on Friday night. I already tested the surface for video playing, it’s awesome! the screen size is not optimal for movie formats but that’s ok, I don’t really care that much, about the black stripes of wasted screen. The resolution is awesome, the sound is awesome, much better compared to the 2 other laptops brands I have, at least.
I’m actually working at a customer’s, implementing Windows 10 IOT Enterprise, hardened for retail industry (gaming client) … I can’t afford loosing time while at the office, and Hello alone has proven to be time winning on its own. The install is pretty standard, I just upgraded the SKU to enterprise, for Direct Access to my office, and installed the basics apps I needed for this week of contract. Hadn’t had the time to remaster it, well hadn’t had the chance to (I was busy with my personal life ) I’ll do that next week I think. Security will be implemented at this time, not right now…I’m off the network at the client side so the risk is lowered. I’ll kick Bit Locker in this weekend as well as Device Guard and App Locker and get it straightened for next week (Windows 10 Training!)
I’m not even on Insider’s build, just the plain (old) 1511…I’m waiting to finish my week to get it built clean on insider’s latest.
The battery life, in my case, is almost 8hours of loopback video playing…or a full day of work on the field, for that matter. I’ll get into details after a few drains/charges, but it seems quite good to be honest. At least I’m better that what the Surface Pro 3 was. Hyper-V runs smooth and gentle, and all works as expected, which to some extend is amazing for a first model.
I’m not teaching this week so no Hyper-V intensive work except for some MDT Builds on the client’s behalf. I’ll get into it soon enough, even if I already see the wall I’m facing with the RAM, I’m better than I was on ACER/SP3, and the lightweight compared to the ASUS rigs is awesome in my day to day transportations here in Paris. Not having to fit the ACER+ One ASUS + 2 Chargers + accessories in the backpack is a breeze of fresh air…I lost nearly 4 kilos which is a LOT when it comes to carrying the backpack around all week!
I bought a “phone cell kind of case” for the Surface book so it’s protected from scratches (remember, it’s a rental), so stickers went on it not on the SBook . I already ordered a second charger, to have one in the office and one on the road, and a Mini DVI to VGA/DVI/HDMI adapter for the training. I already had a few Gigabit+USB3 Hubs so I packed one to have full speed Ethernet and 3 more USB3 Ports. I still have my Presenter Mouse 8000, Bluetooth without adapter so paired directly to the SB, no usb port wasted, and it acts like a laser pointer, remote for PowerPoint and videos (best mouse ever if you ask me). Pictures are worth a thousand words, but, hey I’m a trainer, I love to talk! and to write… but I’ll stop here for today, still 3 days to go to finish up the week.
Today I used the SBook for a few meetings, thanks to battery life i kept the charger at my desk and wandered from open space to open space and from video room to another video room taking notes in OneNote, and keeping my mails up to date while the time allowed…
Nice simple day of work in progress, I activated Bit Locker, and ciphered my whole disk while working on the SB all along, without noticing lag or whatsoever…So now I have the first brick of security layered out. I’ll be implementing Device Guard tomorrow since I finished my PoC work on it at the client’s site today.
I’ll be blogging about it too soon, but in French! Device Guard absolutely rocks at keeping your high risk workstations sane and sound…if you haven’t yet, give it a try, it really fits in today’s hardened needs on mobile stations and admins ones in particular. No more rubber ducky’s, no more malware and crapware from internet and usb sticks…while you’re at it, filter your USB allowed media to the one you own, and keep every other hardware out of driver with a simple restriction on device drivers installation GPO…keeping your hard work and your work horse safe is a no brainer, you got to do it right, and that is the way!
When you’re changing your network environment on a weekly basis, copying files to/from usb drives all day long, as I do, this means a little more zen-ified approach to opening our digital horizons without the risk of anything or anyone entering your holy book!
So no real challenge for the SBook today, except from being able to manage a full day without it’s charging device I might even consider leaving it at home if it wasn’t for the fact that it also is my phone’s power horse, and that I use it all day long as a Wireless Hotspot since I’m not connected to the client network or Wi-Fi…You knew the surface charger has a usb charge port on it, right? no need to use one of the two ports on the surface to plug in you phone’s charging cable…yeah, you knew! (I’m always amazed that Microsoft was the first to get that idea, it seems so Apple-ish to me, I love it, and wonder why every other manufacturer is still not doing it).
Be back tomorrow with Device Guard and a few more complaints, sure enough.
Back home yesterday night (train again)… just a few things more…i watched 2 full movies on my way back home (“Cartel Land” and “Exposed”, none of wich had me really hooked up but you now the feeling…after a long day of work firing up a movie in the train/plane doesn’t mean the same as when you’re on your couch!). I wanted to see how the surface book was holding on Plane Mode video playback…and honestly it went from a full charge to 82% when i closed it to get out of the train…that’s up to 11Hours remaining acording to the Power Setting apps!!!! That alone is a very good news. granted the surface hardware isn’t put to the test during a movie session, but i’m very glad to see that apparently i can get a full transatlantic flight watching movies without the charger.
The last day i took the surface down Device Guard journey…which had a few bumps. First: the initial scan took almost 4 hours (both certificates and hashes, granted)…but i though it would be faster thant that given the fact i have a very staandard setup: windows, office a few apps hyperV and a Win7 VM for my accounting app. Add to all those apps a few gigs of movies and docs…i’m up to almost 200Gb used space. still the scan took 4 hours!!! and one thing got me spiked: the powershell prompt used to launch the scan went up to nearl 4 gb of used memory…that seems pretty high to me, i’ll have to deep dive into it later on. I want to understand why this scan is holding back so much memory usage.
Anyway, i now have both bitlocker and DeviceGuard running and i fired up AppLocker, with very basic rules just to get it on at once. i’ll fine tune both of those features along the week, and probably remaster the Book on next weekend to deploy all those settings cleanly on the Insider build.
Thats a pretty long post, and i’m sorry if i speak/write too much. that’’’s not so much a review than a very personnal note to self on the Surface Book. but to sum it all up i’ll say that beside my initial criticism on the price tag, mild memory and relatively spartiate HD and options, I really like it and find it quite a nice rig to do my regular job. Sure i’ll be quite on the low side for heavy virtualisation, but i think the next gen Surface Book are going to fix that glitch. the only other real downside for me would be tha lack of 4G/LTE built in. that would have saved me another cable and dongle to carry along, event if my phone’s acting as a wifi hotspot, i really love the idea of having native nuiltin internet connection, and i still carry a 4G Hotspot thingy along for long term missions where i know i can’t get descent internet on free open client wifi. that is the case at my actual customer, and my phone’s 4G limit was hit on the end of the first week…so dongle was an obligation, and another thing to carry along, adding bulk to an otherwise very lightweignh backpack!
I’ll finish this post by saying i hope Microsoft launches a 32 gb 1 Tb SSD + LTE/4G model soon that might be THE KILLER LAPTOP for me. by then i’ll be probably aiming at a 64Gb/2TB but hey…one’s got to aim a higher goals always, no?
I hope this post helps a few ones to get an impression of what to expect from the Surface Book, it is basically the best laptop i’ve had, i’m just concerned about memory limitation, disk space and 4G connectivity. Otherwise, it’s a VERY VERY GOOD RIG to work on!
I’ll be doing followups probably later on…but that’s it folks.
Sorry for the VERY LONG POST.
Pierre. (still on yesterday’s charge by the way, now down to 68%)