Surface Book Performance Base

Through a surprising set of circumstances I ended up replacing my Surface Book (512 GB / Intel Core i7 / – 16 DB / dGPU) with a new Surface Book with Performance Base (same specifications for the rest).

I thought there was something funny about the screen on my 16 month old Surface Book.  I noticed a yellow tinge about 1/2” in from the edge, all the way around. It was most noticeable against a white background.

Fortunately, I had everything backed up when I took it in to the Microsoft Store.  I talked to the support person about the discolouration. He looked at it, brought someone else over to look at it, the he held up the clipboard (screen only part)  at eye-level, parallel to the floor. 

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— stock picture of the clipboard–

We could all see that it was bulging in the middle.  Okay, so the diagnosis was instant. The battery was failing.

Surface_Book_Home_1_HeroFullBleed_V1[1]

They decided to swap out the unit for a new one on the spot. The better news for me, they only had a Surface Book with Performance Base.  I paid the difference and walked away with a new machine. Of course, I had to install all my desktop applications again but 24 hours later, I’m pretty much functional.

I’m interested to see how much I’ll notice the difference with the Performance Base.

See: A Guided Tour of the Surface Book with Performance Base

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Surface Book and 4K Monitor

With 4K TVs coming down in price I was curious to see if I could use a 4K TV as a monitor with my Surface Book.

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For this discussion I’m using the UHD-1 definition
4K is  3840 x 2160 pixels
That’s the equivalent of four 1920 x 1080 monitors.

Why would anyone want to do this? Well in my case it was because I was already running four 24” monitors with 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. When I came across a great deal on a 48 inch 4K TV it held the promise to get the equivalent of my four monitors all on one screen.

I had already shopped around and tried a couple of those 21:9 monitors. These are 3440 x 1440 and there are several of these 34” monitors..  The result was less than I wanted because there wasn’t enough screen real estate to replace my four monitors.
(3440 x 1440 vs. 3840 x 2160)

I had already tried several 4K monitors and found that the Surface Book could run with fine in Duplicate mode (3000 x 2000) on both the Surface Book and the external monitor, but in Extend Mode, I couldn’t get the external monitor to run 3840 x 2160. I have since found out that not all mini-display port to HDMI adapters are equal.

In my hunt to find just the right combination I found a retail store that was willing to let me try different 4K TVs who happened to have a mini-display port to HDMI adapter that worked.   I got a 48” curved screen TV.  Got it back to my place and it wouldn’t run at full resolution.  The difference – I wasn’t using the same mini-display port to HDMI adapter, so I went back to the store to get one of theirs.  And it all worked.

This is the TV that I got. This is information NOT a recommendation. It’s too soon for that.
Samsung UN48JU6700 Curved 48-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV

Microsoft AC Power Cord Recall for Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, and Surface Pro 3

Microsoft is doing a voluntary replacement for power cords for the Surface Pro family of devices.  It’s not the whole power supply; just AC power cord.

Surface Pro type A AC power cord

See if this applies to you and the rest of the details here:

https://www.microsoft.com/surface/en-ca/support/warranty-service-and-recovery/powercord

The First Application I Install on a New Surface

When I set up a new machine there is a suite of applications that I install immediately. ActiveWords is at the top of the list and has been for over a decade.

I do a lot of writing every day and a great deal of it is repetitive. Snippets of text, links to references, common phrases and I do this dozens of times an hour. ActiveWords sits there quietly monitoring my keystrokes and it automatically substitutes text, runs scripts to do tasks, opens documents, opens websites.  And it does all this from within any application that I am running.

There’s a nifty little tool that  calculates the productivity savings you gave gained from running ActiveWords.  On my Surface Book ActiveWords has typed 16,532 characters for me in the last month. That is over 6% of my total input.  If you could see how hideously slowly I type you could well understand that this has saved me hours of typing.   Licensing is per user on unlimited machines. Although I use my Surface Book as my daily driver, I still use the Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 too. There are even a few desktops and servers around here. I have ActiveWords running on all of them.

The scripting feature is very clever allowing you to pause and prompt for inputs, read from and write to the Windows Clipboard, call programs and pass data. All of this is beyond simple text substitution and saves me a great deal of time. Adding or modifying new ActiveWords is really fast and intuitive. I will often notice that I have done something two or three times lately so I’ll copy/paste those into ActiveWords, assign an ActiveWord (e.g. answers – see below), and it’s done.

One of the main reasons I first got ActiveWords is that it also recognizes Ink!  I can use the Surface pen to write an ActiveWord too.
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This opens the thread on Microsoft Answers that I like to follow.

ActiveWords just did an update to version 3.0 and with that comes automatic syncing between devices. That is, when I add or change an ActiveWord on one machine it is available on all of them. This is a major upgrade for me given all the machines that I have on the go.

In my most conservative estimates ActiveWords more than pays for itself (overcomes the $30 annual license) within the first 10 days of any given month.  And that’s why it’s the first application I install on all of my machines.

Battery Indicator in the Notifications Area

This is a Windows 10 thing, not a Surface thing I know, but if you’ve got a Surface you watch the Battery Icon. It’s more fun with a Surface Book though.

This morning I glanced down at the notifications area to check on the status of the battery. The Battery icon was gone, and so too was the option to customize the hidden icons.

If this happens to you, you can click in the Notifications area ^ “Show Hidden Icons” and drag the Battery icon (or any of the others) back to the Notifications area.

In this video you can see me move the Battery Icon from the Notifications Area to the Hidden Icons area, them move it around in there. Then finally I move it back to the Notifications Area.

The Surface Book Has Arrived

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And how could you not make this association?
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First impression – Microsoft has hit the sweet spot! Much though I hate to admit it, I’m a little tired of being hunched over my Surface Pro 3 when I’m in desktop mode, and the Surface Book is just that little bit larger, and it makes a huge difference.

In my workflow I absolute must have the ability to use my main device as a tablet for taking notes with a pen, or sketching out ideas, and making mind maps. The Surface Pro 3 did an excellent job of that and I’ve been very happy with it for fourteen months.  But it’s always felt like a bit of a compromise when I was in desktop mode. The Type Cover was fine when I was out and about, and until I started typing on the Surface Book, I had no complaints.  But Microsoft, you did a great job on the Surface Book keyboard, and now when I switch back I realize what I was missing.

Why get a Surface Book when my Surface Pro 3 was doing a stellar job as my main machine? People have been asking me that and now that I’ve got it I can tell them:

The larger screen size DOES matter. I can tile four windows on the screen and they are all comfortably readable.  (Hint: Windows+Left, Windows+Up puts the current window in the top left corner. Open another application and use Windows+Left, Windows+Down and that application will sit in the lower left corner. Do the same on the right side and you’ve got four windows up). I wish that I had found these keyboard shortcuts sooner. Trying to do that with a touchpad is tricky. Here’s a screen shot of what I’m seeing right now.
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I think Microsoft got it right with the 80:20 idea that many people will use the Surface Book 80% of the time as a laptop and 20% of the time as a tablet.  I might be a little heavier on the tablet side of things but much of that extra time, I’ll probably flip the screen over and keep it attached to the keyboard for the prolonged battery life.

Why get the Surface Book instead of a Surface Pro 4?

The point a which you can make a direct comparison is when you configure a machine with

  • Core i5 / 8 GB RAM / 256 MB of storage

Comparing the  Surface Book to a Surface Pro 4 with a Type Cover, the difference is about $370 USD.  I’m seeing a lot of value for the difference.  You’re getting:

  • Larger screen. That is physically larger, and higher resolution.
  • More battery life. It’s so nice to glance down at the battery indicator and NOT have to think about managing your life around the battery.
  • A device that you can fully use and type on in your lap or in a car or other cramped or awkward situations.
  • The keyboard is so good that I won’t need to have a second, full-sized keyboard for prolonged work sessions at a desk (as I did with the Surface Pro).

I still like to work with two screens up for production/development, and I’m keeping the Surface Pro 3. It’s a perfect complement to the Surface Book. I’m using Mouse Without Borders to allow me to do all my typing on the Surface Book.

I’m really liking the Surface Book so far. It’s a joy.

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