I started using the Tablet PC in the early 2000's. Many years later, I used an iPad 2 for almost a year. I have also used an Android tablet, for about a year and a half. After that, I transitioned to the Microsoft Surface Pro.
My intent in this writing is not declare one platform superior to another. All 3 (existing) platforms are great. It all comes down to what you need to do. This post will give some context to my experience with the Surface Pro 3.
I am an early adopter of the Surface Pro platform. I purchased the original Surface Pro as soon as I could find one in stock. It served as a mobile supplement to my desktop workstation.
I used the original Tablet PC platform back in the early 2000's. At the time, I was working on an animated short. I used my Tablet PC (a Toshiba Protage) for hand drawing story-boards, creating 3D models and the 2D animation itself. You can see the animated short MechGirl here
The pen input was key to being able to draw storyboards and starting a digital sketchbook. The compact and (relatively) light (4lbs) form factor allowed me to take my work with me when I moved around or went off island.
The fact that it was a full computer and the convertible form factor made it versatile enough to do the special functions of digital drawing and hand written notes but also function as a normal laptop. Tablet PC's were typically underpowered for the price but it was strong enough to run software for the ZPrinter line of 3D printers and Maya.
The battery life was on par with other machines of the time. My Tablet PC eventually gave up the ghost. I was without a pen enabled tablet for a few years as I searched for a suitable replacement.
Several years down the line, I had heard rumors of Apple developing a tablet platform. I was excited as I knew that Apple builds great hardware. Very compact, light and powerful.
When I finally had the chance to work with the iPad 2, I was disappointed in how far from a full computer it was. Apple users kept assuring me that "there's an app for that" and I could accomplish everything I needed. The first big downside for me was I couldn't run programs like Maya and Sketchbook as I did on the Tablet PC.
In the end, I spent more time finding workarounds to be able to be productive. The loss of a pen stylus hurt the drawing capability for me. No 3D authoring software meant that I needed to carry a separate laptop during travel. Defeating, for me, a large part of the Tablet PC capability.
Around that time, I found some of the everyday tasks seemed to be easier on my Android smart phone platform but the screen was too small. This led me to try an Android tablet. Oddly enough, the Android tablet seemed to be harder to work with than the phone. Another disappointment.
When the Surface Pro was finally released, I had to try it. I had high hopes that I could return to the Tablet PC experience. The Surface Pro was a full computer and very compact with an active digitizer (stylus). I was able to sketch on the computer again and It was powerful enough to do work in Maya.
The experience wasn't without it's issues. The screen was small and battery life (about 4-5 hrs at best) was a bit inconvenient when on the go all day. I always had to have a charger handy. I eventually purchased the smaller charger as a travel charger.
The kickstand was nice in that I could set up and break down quickly. The single position kickstand was fine on a table but the angle was awkward when on my lap. The solid state drive (SSD) was better suited for a computer that is meant for moving around than a disk hard drive.
The type keyboard was great and felt very similar to a standard laptop keyboard. I tried the touch keyboard but the lack of actual key movement resulted in more typos (much more than the many I normally make).
It was usable but no where near a computer I could use on a regular basis. It was a supplement to a desktop or laptop at best.
I passed on the Surface Pro 2. Not enough of an upgrade to the original Surface Pro. On to the Surface Pro 3. For my experience, see my post, "What's Under The Surface (Pro 3)?"
With the Surface 3 just out and Surface Pro 4 coming soon, I would love to hear the thoughts or experiences of other Surface Platform users especially with 3D and art related applications. Please leave a comment below.