Surface Pro 3 as my desktop

Over a year ago I wrote a blog post about using a Surface Pro as my desktop.

While the Surface Pro remained my desktop device I often found myself not wanting to use it as a tablet due to its thickness and weight. For basic couch-based browsing or e-book reading I opted to use my spare Surface RT.

Effectively my Surface Pro was really no better than the average notebook except the fact that I *could* use it as a tablet.

A few weeks ago while in the US for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference I upgraded to a Surface Pro 3 (as well as bringing several more home for my colleagues). The device is much thinner and lighter than the Pro 1 or Pro 2 and as such I’m not quite happy to use it as my tablet. Also with the battery life being greatly improved I have no issue with it running all evening on the couch.

Interestingly a few people I know asked if I used my Surface Pro as a complete desktop replacement. I had to direct them to the blog entry mentioned above – as absolutely was it my desktop device.

With the Surface Pro 3 absolutely nothing has changed. It is plugged into exactly the same hardware, running relatively the same software, but is just a lot faster and can handle more running at the same time! (I opted for the i5/8GB RAM model.)

The only thing I’ve changed about my setup is the layout of the monitors to utilise the Surface’s now larger screen (whereas previously when in desktop mode I didn’t bother using the screen other than for the Start menu).

So what’s the takeaway here? The Surface Pro 3 is truly a single device for both business productivity and consumption, professional and personal, desktop and tablet.

Surface Pro as my desktop

As mentioned in my previous blog post I have been using my Surface Pro as my exclusive desktop device & tablet for several weeks now.

In this post I’ll be explaining how the Surface Pro is being used as a desktop – to give you the understanding that I am not treating this device any differently from my previous notebook.

A list of the key software installed on my machine:
– Adobe Reader (because I don’t always want to view PDFs in full screen)
– ConnectWise Internet Client
– Fitbit Connect
– Google Chrome
– HP LaserJet printer manager & scanning software
– Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for Outlook
– Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013
– Microsoft Project Professional 2013
– Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Express
– Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Express
– Microsoft Visio Professional 2013
– Microsoft Visual Studio Premium 2012
– Mozilla Firefox
– Skype (desktop client)
– Windows Intune
– And a variety of other small applications

External devices:
– Dell 21″ monitor
– LG 21″ monitor
– Seagate 1TB external hard drive
– Microsoft wireless keyboard & mouse
– Microsoft LifeCam Studio camera
– Microsoft LifeChat heatset
– Fitbit USB dongle
– Plantronics Bluetooth dongle (for the headset)

The device that connects all the hardware together is the Targus ACP71 docking station which cost around $220 + shipping. The unit is amazing as it handles two external monitors, 4 USB 2.0 device ports and 2 USB 3.0 device ports. I plugged a USB hub into one of the USB 2.0 ports to save space. Unfortunately the USB 3.0 A-B cable supplied by Targus was too short for my particular desk setup so I had to spend another $10 to get a longer cable.


(My home office.) 

When going out for meetings locally I only take the Surface Pro, the Touch keyboard and stylus.

When travelling I need a bit more and will also take:
– Power pack for Surface Pro
– Mini DisplayPort to HDMI converter
– HDMI to HDMI cable

I am currently looking for a small case to carry all this around, however one benefit I’ve found so far is that I don’t have to remove the Surface Pro from my bag when going through airport security.

From time to time I do hear the relatively quiet whirring of the tiny fan inside of the Surface Pro, but that is when I have a lot of applications open and running at the same time, but a recent disadvantage has been a heat wave in Melbourne which has resulted in less-than-ideal air temperatures inside my house.

Can I run virtual machines off it? Probably – but I’ve repurposed my old notebook to act as a portable virtual machine host for when I need to put on my IT Pro hat and do deep technical demonstrations with local resources. Otherwise I just access my lab environment remotely.

Three weeks in with the Surface Pro acting as my sole device (other than my phone) – no regrets.

Does the Surface Pro handle being used as a personal tablet, work tablet, and desktop machine? Perfectly.