I like anything that will make my life easier and my work more efficient. A computer is, of course, a necessity but the type of computer I am using depends on where I am. While I can always use my desktop at the office, the tough part is finding enough uninterrupted time to do my work. Between meetings, phone calls, emails and various other distractions, I need tools to help me work when I am out of the office.
In my world, when it comes to portable computing, there are only three viable options: a laptop, an iPad or a Surface Pro. (For the real techies out there, please note that I did say "in my world.") When I work from home, I'm either sitting on the sofa or lying in bed. Size is not an issue as long as I can hold my device on my lap. But when I travel, a laptop is often too heavy to carry. (It actually hurts my back!)
So, the question is, iPad or Surface Pro?
There are five uses for a portable computer on the road:
3. "Real" work
5. Entertainment (All right, I know I shouldn't list this but even a workaholic deserves a little fun from time to time, right?)
An iPad is great for all of the above, except for real work and some minor issues with presentations. Using my iPad, I can connect with clients, colleagues, friends and family through multiple email accounts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Skype. Search tools work quickly. Flights zip by with music, videos and games. Client presentations look bright and clear on the iPad screen.
But, my frustrations with the iPad all stem from its built-in limitations. Fully functioning versions of Microsoft programs are not available on the iPad, so PowerPoint presentations don't always turn out perfectly; articles and blogs need to be reformatted on my real computer once I get back to the office (or back to my laptop); and attempting spreadsheet calculations is all but impossible. Finally, let's not forget the huge productivity limitations due to the lack of USB ports, memory expansion slots, etc.
My assessment of the iPad: Fun, quick and easy but not as functional as I'd like. Because of this, I still traveled with my laptop and accepted the inevitable backaches.
This all ended a few months ago, when a client pulled out a sleek iPad-like computer. He set it up on the conference table like an actual laptop complete with its own keyboard. By the time he told me it came with the full Microsoft Office suite, I was salivating. I couldn't wait to buy a Surface Pro.
And so I did.
Scoring the Surface Pro on the five uses, I would give high marks for all except real work and entertainment. The latter items get passing marks, just not "A's." Microsoft doesn't offer all of the games and cool tools I can get from the App Store. Amusement aside, the Surface Pro allows me to do every work function I need. It's just that the Windows 8 operating system is not intuitive to me. I can change the screen to the "normal" look, but if I touch the wrong spot, I get those confusing tiles again. Additionally, unlike a laptop, I can't use the keyboard on the sofa or in bed.
I believe that the core issue is not with the Surface Pro but rather with me and my overall reluctance to learn a new operating system. I'll do that as soon as I have time.
At the end of the day, I like both my iPad and my Surface Pro; my iPad is more fun, my Surface Pro is more useful. So, for now, I travel with both. Together, they are still lighter than the weight of a laptop! And my back is thanking me.
What do you think? Have you taken a test-drive with the Surface Pro? Do you still prefer your iPad or are you still traveling with your laptop? Join the conversation!
Sheryl Rowling, CPA/PFS is CEO of Total Rebalance Expert and principal at Rowling & Associates. She considers herself a non-techie user of technology.