My Surface Pro Review: A Developer’s Perspective

Before I start this review, I would like to thank my employer, Mirego, for offering me a trade-in of my Surface RT for a Surface Pro! As a technology lover, it was impossible to say no.

This week, I called a couple of Future Shops (I live in Montreal, Canada), Best Buys and Staples. After multiple calls to Staples, I was never able to talk with a human, they are apparently too busy. Future Shop (sister company of Best Buy) answered me, but said that they didn’t have any info concerning the Saturday availability. However, there was a nice lady on Wednesday who took my name over the phone at Best Buy Marché Central to let me know the minute they were going to receive the Surface Pro. I didn’t hold my breath. However, Friday night at 8:50, she called to give me the news that the truck didn’t have any Surface Pros. I was kind of disappointed sine earlier in the week, Best Buy announced that all the Canadian stores would have some. She told me that Best Buy at Anjou would have some. I wasn’t about to start holding my breath…

Saturday morning, I made sure to arrive 30 minutes before the store opening. I was not sure if I would have face a line up or not. Luckily, the line up 10 minutes before the opening looked like this:


The security guard saw me taking a picture and asked me why I was taking a picture and why I was so early. It’s the Surface Pro launch my friend!

9:00 arrived and I went straight to the computer section. I was so happy when I saw this display:


The salesman was friendly enough and we chatted for a while. The employees were looking forward to the Surface Pro.

At the Microsoft BUILD conference, I received the touch keyboard with my Surface RT, but I was not a huge fan of the keyboard. This time, I selected the type keyboard. One thousand three hundred and one dollars (with taxes) later, I was out with the 128 GB version:


When I first turned on the Surface Pro and saw the Start menu, my reaction was that it has an amazing screen. It is sharp and crisp (thanks to the HD resolution). I launched a whole bunch of apps to see how fast and fluid the Surface Pro is. To give you a better idea, here is a video that my friend Matthieu took:

Load time fight between a Surface Pro and a Surface RT

Convinced? I am.

My second test was the type keyboard. Short review: it is night and day compared to the touch keyboard. I love it. It feels like a regular keyboard. I highly suggest the type keyboard, especially for developers.

The hidden gem of the Surface Pro is the Pen. I launched the OneNote app and I tried it. It works without lag and the eraser works well too. It will definitively be a great tool for taking notes.

Why the Surface Pro over a plethora of tablets iPad/Android? Here’s the answer:

Visual Studio

The perfect portable solution for a developer is right here. As a bonus, we are also able to use Outlook, Live Writer, Photoshop and so on.


Last summer, I received a prototype Ultrabook from Intel. Here are the specs:


Before I got a laptop with a touch screen, I had the mentality that using greasy fingers on the screen was a terrible idea. Sorry, I was wrong. It is such a natural way to interact with a computer in some situations especially when reading. (Expect Apple to update their MacBook with touch screen this year.) This Ultrabook  with a Core i7-3667U is fast and fluid. It is a good contestant to fight with a Surface Pro with these specs:


On the load time test, surprisingly, the Surface Pro is the clear winner:

Boot time of an Ultrabook Core i7-3667U and a Surface Pro

It looks like a 10 seconds boot time for the Surface! This is cool, but nowadays we don’t have to turn off a computer all the time. Here is a normal test of launching Visual Studio 2012 (with Update 2 on both computers) and launching the debugger with the Windows 8 emulator:

Compilation time of a Windows 8 app with an Ultrabook i7-3667 and a Surface Pro

With the Surface Pro we have almost the time to breath an extra second while waiting.


Earlier this week, the Surface Pro received mixed reviews over the Internet. I was not surprised and in fact I didn’t care that much. Yes, the battery life of the Surface Pro is not stellar, but in real life, I’m not travelling around the world every day without a power charge for an entire day and I’m pretty sure it is the same case with the majority of users. The Surface Pro is an amazing device or whatever you’d like to call it. I’ll read, play and develop with it.

Congratulations to Microsoft and especially to the Surface team.


Review of Building Windows 8 Apps with C# and XAML

imageDuring the holiday season, I received the Building Windows 8 Apps with C# and XAML by Jeremy Likness. Holidays are the perfect time to read books! Before starting the book, I was curious to know if it would be useful to me, since I created my first Windows 8 app (Canadian Developer Connection) earlier this year where I included a lot of Windows 8 features. It turned out that I was very satisfied with the number of things I learned.

The reader should have extreme confidence in the content of the book, given the author’s solid experience and background.

The book starts with a simple app that is more than just a “Hello World” app. After the first app, a beginner would be happy to read and learn more.

The author took the time to explain some “under the cover” mechanisms of the new Windows 8 Store app world. Yes, the Registry is still present more than ever. This information is very much appreciated.

Reading about the controls, the application lifecycle, the way to save data, the charms, the packaging, the deploying and more, the reader will get a complete picture of how to take advantage of Windows 8 features.

One of the most important aspects about programming is testing. Even though this aspect is not only related to Windows 8 development, the author dedicates a whole chapter to testing and the high importance of doing unit tests. The experiences that he wrote about proved that even more. For all levels of developers, this chapter is a good reminder of one of the aspects we tend to push aside.

Throughout the book, there is code that is available open-source. The book is a great companion to the provided code and some of the code can even be used in your own apps.

As for the physical aspects of the book, the font size is easy on the eyes. The book could have been a bit better if there were colors in the diagrams, but undoubtedly the price would have then been higher. The current price of the book on Amazon USA is $28.99 and $32.59 on Amazon Canada. At this price, it is really worth buying.

In conclusion, the book covers all the new cool features of the Windows 8 Store apps. If you know C# and you want a quick start on Windows 8 App development, I recommend this excellent book.

Book Review: Windows Phone 7.5 Unleashed

In the past year and a half, I have read a lot of Windows Phone books. The first book I read was the excellent 101 Windows Phone 7 apps. At that time, I was recommended that book, but ever since Microsoft released the Mango update, 101 is a bit out of date.

At the end of 2011, I read Essential Windows Phone 7.5 by Shawn Wildermuth. I recommend this book for someone who has never owned a Windows Phone and who wants to start programming for the Windows Phone. It is an excellent book for beginners, as the author spends time about on basic Windows Phone concepts.

Now to my review of the latest Windows Phone book I have read: Windows Phone 7.5 Unleashed by Daniel Vaughan.


This book is huge with 1120 pages, and all of them are worth it. Here are some of the things that I like about the book:

  • Most of the code samples are done with the MVVM pattern. Nowadays, this pattern is the most popular one used when creating Windows Phone applications. The author even shares his known Calcium SDK that includes the MVVM philosophy. For a beginner who wants to start Windows Phone programming, starting off with the best pattern is a great idea, and this book will help you do that.
  • There is a lot of free code given. There are a lot of utility classes that can be used in many types of Windows Phone applications. Honestly, the book is worth buying for the free code alone, and it will save you a lot of time.
  • If you are new to use the SQL Compact Server database, this book will help you to learn the technology; the author has a large helpful section on this topic.
  • The author introduced the usage of Reactive Extensions. This technology is not for beginners, but I’m pretty sure it will intrigue you, as it did me. The author presents the benefits of Reactive Extensions. The Reactive Extensions (Rx) is a library for composing asynchronous and event-based programs using observable sequences and LINQ-style query operators. You can find the rest of the definition at the official website.
  • The author knows the platform well and describes many useful hints and caveats in Windows Phone programming.

In conclusion, this excellent book is one that I recommend right now if you want to dive into Windows Phone programming or to learn more about the recent features added with Mango.

Happy reading!