Computing On The Go – Microsoft Surface 3 versus the Apple Macbook

As an executive with one of the leading global media agencies – my life revolves around presentations.  For a good 50% of my working week I am either giving a presentation, planning a presentation or sitting in a presentation.

And yes, that’s every bit as glamorous as it sounds.  I am very familiar with PowerPoint and Keynote and have a passing familiarity with Prezi.  Sometimes if I’m lucky, I get to view a presentation from one of the TV Networks, Mediaworks or TVNZ, and boy are they inspiring – there’s nothing like a professional showreel to get a media exec pumped up about the content.

Because of this I know how important the hardware component of a presentation is.  Most people prefer to present off of a laptop, whether it’s a Windows or Mac machine.  I have seen only a handful of presentations given from an iPad in the last two years, and a solitary presentation given on a Windows smartphone.

Despite the functionality of phones and tablets, business people prefer laptops when it comes to getting work done.  Why?  Well it has to come down to the keyboard.  In my experience, presentations change all of the time.  They need to be tailored to the audience, have the dates updated;  new facts and figures and viral content come to hand constantly, so you are forever tweaking your slides before you walk into a room and share your creation with your audience.

Phones and tablets are great for viewing content, but even with a bluetooth keyboard, they are not great for creating the content or substantially tweaking it while running between meeting venues across town or in different cities.

Two Productivity Machines Compared:

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For the past two months I have been running an Apple MacBook and a Microsoft Surface 3 alongside my standard HP work laptop.

I’m aware that the two machines don’t seem directly comparable.  One is tablet/laptop replacement while the other is a fully featured notebook (with a price tag to match).  However they both had what I want from a mobile business perspective.

Both of them are light ultraportables with enough grunt to power my most used business applications; generally Excel, Powerpoint, Word and e-mail as well as a number of web based applications accessed through a browser.

On the whole I’ve found both to be preferable to carting my heavy laptop around town.  Whether I’m on a plane or making changes to a document in the back of a taxi (yes, that happens), both are small enough and light enough to enhance my productivity.

But just what are the pros and cons of each for business on the go?

Microsoft Surface 3:

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You could call it a tablet but with a Type Cover added the Surface 3 is essentially a super light laptop replacement.  It may be marketed at Uni students but I found it to be a great secondary device for work.

The Surface 3 has a number of features which mean it just helps get the business done.  To list these off I am talking about, a full version of windows, the full desktop version of the still dominant Office suite,  a full size USB 3 port, an SD card slot for additional storage or for swapping data and a min displayport that allows yo to connect to a screen or projector (as long as you have the right adapter in your work bag).

One new thing I discovered in the last fortnight which really tickled my fancy was the ability to remote control my presentations using an app on Windows Phone – I can now say goodbye to my separate “clicker”.

Where the Surface 3 struggled slightly though was when I needed to work off of my lap while cooped up in a taxi.  The kickstand can only lock into 3 angles (unlike the more expensive, more aimed at real business users, Surface Pro 3 which has many more) and with the type cover it was sometime hard to find just the right angle for comfortable typing.

On the whole though, I loved the lightness and versatility, especially when I used it as my main device on a 48 hour business trip to Melbourne.  One light device and a small USB power cord is certainly preferable to carrying a 2.5KG laptop and a power brick.

Apple MacBook:

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The new MacBook is a leading edge machine in many ways the business world is not quite ready for it.  Not yet at any rate.

The minimalist, sleek device has one single USB C port through which power, data and video are channeled.  Unlike the Surface, there are no extra ports to plug a USB stick or SD card into.  If you want to do that you’ll need an additional adapter.

That’s because this device is built for the wireless streaming future.

If you do stock up on the accessories you’ll be able to get the most out of everyday business/presentation situations.

The battery life is good but not great so you’ll probably want to keep the power cord on hand.  I averaged about six or seven hours of constant work on a single charge versus the nine quoted on the website.

It’s a statement device though, for sure  Nine times out of ten someone in the room would comment on the MacBook when I used it.  It is unbelievably thin and light and has a gorgeous 12 inch retina display so it attracts comments from the Mac cognoscenti.

In a straight power shootout the MacBook Air can still rule over the Macbook and consequently that range provides slightly better value for money.

While the MacBook can run Office for Mac I enjoyed using Keynote for my presentations.  It just has a layer of sophistication that gives each presentation a quality edge.  However sharing Keynote files with my clients and colleagues is pretty much a no-go so they would eventually have to be output in Powerpoint format or PDF which meant compromises on functionality.

Its traditional Notebook form factor meant it had the edge over the Surface in those type-from-your-lap-while-travelling situations.

At the end of the day the MacBook made an impression (and in the world of advertising, media and commerce that carries some value).  In fact in other industries – creative, design, publishing – Macs are pretty much essential tools and the MacBook would be the number one choice.

However for me, on a day to day basis, the Surface 3 helped me get more work done.

Microsoft Surface 3 website: https://www.microsoft.com/surface/en-nz/products/surface-3.  Priced from $799 plus $199 Type Cover.

Apple MacBook website: http://www.apple.com/nz/macbook.  Priced from $1999.

 

 

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Bitter Pill? Apple issues a recall notice for Beats Pill XL speakers, offers refunds.

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Apple today announced a voluntary recall of Beats Pill XL speakers, including a refund for customers. Apple has determined that, in rare cases, the battery in the Beats Pill XL may overheat and pose a fire safety risk. The recall does not affect any other Beats or Apple products.

Because customer safety is the company’s top priority, Apple is asking customers to stop using their Beats Pill XL speakers. Customers who purchased a Beats Pill XL speaker should visit http://www.apple.com/nz/support/beats-pillxl-recall/ for details about how to return their product to Apple, and how to receive an Apple Store® credit or electronic payment of NZ$519.95 inc. GST.

The Beats Pill XL can be identified by the Beats “b” logo on the speaker grille and the words “beats pill XL” on the handle. The product is sold in five colours: black, metallic sky, pink, titanium and white.

The Beats Pill XL was introduced by Beats by Dre in November 2013. Apple acquired Beats in 2014.

The Beats Pill XL is a portable Bluetooth speaker which includes the following features:

Portability: Despite its bigger size, Beats Pill XL is still lightweight and has a built-in handle for extra portability. The Beats Pill XL frees you to roam, which means you’ll always have high quality sound near or far.

Connectivity:  Pairing is easy. Just tap your phone to your Beats Pill XL and create an instant connection. Sync two Beats Pill XLs by tapping them together to play the same song. You can also tap them together twice to stereo your music, making one Beats Pill XL the left output and the other the right.

Bluetooth features: Pair the Beats Pill XL to your phone, laptop or any other Bluetooth-enabled device to change tracks and adjust the volume from up to 30 feet away.

 

Super-slim iPad Air 2 reaches New Zealand

According to the quote from Wallis Simpson, you can never be too rich or too thin.  Apple seems to have applied that maxim to the all new iPad Air 2.  Not only is it rich in features and apps, it is amazingly thin and light.

In fact, when my review unit arrived I wondered just how they managed to get all of the electronics into what is essentially a thick slice of air.

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Apparently magic has something to do with it.  Honest!  At the global launch 10 days ago Apple’s Philip Schiller describe the iPad as a “magical” piece of glass that runs more than 675,000 apps specifically designed for it.

Was Phil using the word magical in the sense that the device is beautiful or delightful, or was he hinting that supernatural powers were at play in creating the device?

I suspect the former, but either way, the new iPad has finally reached New Zealand so you’ll be able to go in-store and figure that one out for yourself.

Here’s what you need to know about the all-new magical device: Continue reading

Life on Planet Samsung

I brought a new family home this Christmas.  As a very Apple friendly household you could have expected some consternation when I showed up with a bunch of Samsung’s latest hot products. Don’t worry though folks, in the true spirit of the season, there was peace on earth and good will to all platforms.

Yes, so, while Breakfast is on it’s Summer recess, I’ve been testing out the latest Samsung family of products.  The new toys are the Series 5 Ultrabook, the Galaxy Note 2 and the shiny new Galaxy Camera.    While I’ve grown to know and love them individually, some of them are going to be harder to return than others when the loan period expires next week.  Check out my comments below to see what I thought.

Samsung Family Gathering

Happy Family: The Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Camera and (reviewers own) Galaxy S3.

The Series 5 Touch Ultrabook is a high performance PC sporting a touch-screen that allows it to really take advantage of the new Windows operating system.  If you’d like the full specs you can view all of the nuggety details here on the Samsung site.

To begin with I wasn’t sold on the idea of a touch screen laptop, but when I ran a photo slideshow for a work function I found the touch screen control added a new dimension to the “theatre” of a presentation.  Battery life was excellent clocking in at a good 4-5 hours.  That’s much better than my own work laptop (a 3yr old HP Elitebook 8530p which struggles to hit 90 mins on on one charge).

I did find that the battery heated the bottom of the case quite quickly and establishing a WiFi connection was patchy at times (it felt like the digital equivalent of getting on a racehorse, a bit tricky to do but once in the saddle you began a fast and exhilarating ride).

Reports from the States suggest the sales of hardware sporting Windows 8 are falling behind expectations.  Personally I like the OS and expect more devices like the Series 5 to really showcase it’s attributes, especially to a business audience.

I briefly tested the Note 2 Smartphone slash Tablet before taking it on TV in December.  Spending a bit more time with it, I appreciated the software as much as I did the large screen. However when the Jelly Bean 4.1.1 update rolled out for the Galaxy S3, I put the Note 2 down and failed to return to it.  It’s selling pretty well though if recent accounts are correct.

The final product proved to be a revelation.  At the press launch in Sydney in December, journalists seemed to politely tolerate the announcement of the Galaxy Camera before settling in to hear the “real” news about the launch of the Galaxy Note 2 smartphone.

In actual fact, the Galaxy Camera should be grabbing the headlines.  It’s a strange looking beast.  Several times I have been asked whether the camera is a case or some kind of attachment for my phone. That’s because that is what it looks like – a zoom lens camera clipped onto the front of a smartphone.  It’s not ugly, but it is different.

Galaxy Camera - one out of the box

I took a lot of photos with it. I loved the 21x zoom (you can see its effects here or below) and  enjoyed having the ability to post pics to my social network of choice immediately via WiFi or 3G (with additional SIM).  Because it’s essentially an Android tablet, you can also download apps to your hearts content, including the most popular photo apps such as Instagram.

I’ve read plenty of reviews since and the consensus seems to be ‘shop around before buying’.  With an in-store price of between $720 and $860, there are a lot of good cameras to consider in or around this price range.  Which camera you end up buying will depend on your own specific needs and circumstances.  Having said that, the connectivity and innovation contained within the Galaxy Camera will almost certainly make it a  popular choice amongst the social-sharing generation.

No snooping - 21 x zoom