Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface

I took what is for me a pretty big chance recently. I came home with a Microsoft Surface. This was a fairly spontaneous decision. I had been thinking about it for awhile, but there wasn’t much time between deciding to pull the trigger and pulling the trigger.

It was a big chance for me because I wasn’t looking at this as a backup PC or a toy tablet. I was looking for something that would become my primary computing resource. That meant, first and foremost, it has to run Lightroom and Photoshop well. I’d read a lot of reviews that claimed, understandably, that the screen size, if for no other reason, limited this device’s ability to be a serious photo editor.

Bunk.

I do have complaints about the device, but they are almost exclusively to do with Windows 8.1 rather than the device itself. Things behave oddly on the second monitor (though the video is driven quickly and well). Just some odd things like tabs on Google Chrome stack up on top of each other on the second monitor. Things are rendered somewhat differently between the two screens (so, for instance, even though both the Surface and the monitor are at 1920×1080 resolution, windows take up more space on the Surface than the monitor).

But image rendering itself is fantastic. I don’t have specific metrics to compare with my 5 year old tower, but it feels about 10 or 15 times faster. The color accuracy is  fantastic right out of the box. And the screen size is perfectly adequate for serious photo editing. Yes, you’ll spend a few more moments zooming in and out for detail work, but that’s more than made up for – in my case – by the vastly increased speed of everything else. I used to be able to plan on 30 minutes to edit a single photo. Now I can probably manage it in 10. (Partly, I like to think, it’s because I’m getting better at creating the photo I want in the camera, rather than the computer.)

I have to say the Surface has been a joy to use, though I’ll admit that it requires a lot of patience and Google searches to get to the joy. Initially it is a very frustrating operating system, because nothing is obvious or intuitive. Within the first couple of hours I was ready to pack it up and return it for a full refund (I actually had everything back in the box, in fact). But the patience paid off, and while there are still some things I might wish worked differently, the ability to work on photos any time any where, and the added attraction of always having a portfolio with me on a stunning screen, makes all the difference to me.

If you’ve already got a mobile, powerful photo editing workhorse, stay with what you’ve got. But if you are looking for speed and a beautiful display, along with the ultimate in portability, you could do a lot worse than the Surface.

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