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I recently upgraded my developer machine from a Surface Pro 3 to a Surface Book 2. I have been using it now for a good month and wanted to write down my experiences, and how it holds up to the daily tasks, I throw at it as a mainly mobile developer. That is at the office and during leisure time.

Disclaimer: I did not receive any money from Microsoft for writing this article nor was I asked by them to do so. I am doing this out of the sole purpose that at the time when I was looking for a new dev device I could not find an article on the SB2 for the mobile dev.

Now when looking for a new computer, it always depends on what field you are active in. In my role as (mobile) developer, team lead, occasional speaker and human being I tend to use my device in multiple different ways. Further, I always fancied the idea of owning one device that can handle all kind of different workloads, so while the Surface Book might not be the ideal tablet, it can be a tablet which should eliminate the need for owning an additional tablet, e.g. an iPad or the new Surface Go. But more on that later.

The version I am using is the 13.5" model sporting the i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050. While not on the cheap side it comes with the marketing statement of being the ultimate laptop.

Overall impressions

The 13.5" inch model comes with a beautiful screen. Having a resolution of 3000 x 2000 (267 PPI) is great and with a bright display which means you can also work outside if you want to. What I like is the 3:2 screen resolution which is great for developing, writing and being productive.

The keyboard is excellent to type on. It has a nice feel, the spacing of the keys is nice, and the travel of the keys is nice, and I do not get the stares as some MacBook Pro owners get for their clackidiclack keyboards. Only thing bothering me here is the background lighting of the keys. This is my biggest personal dislike of the machine. For one the keys are unevenly light, which is just odd for a device at this price. Further, it has no automatic sensor for turning it on or off. You can set it manually to 3 brightness levels (or off). So far okay I can live with that, but what I found irritating was that in some lighting environment it was quite hard to read the keys with the background lighting on as they seemed to start matching the magnesium-silver colour of the keys. I never had this issue with other laptops so far, but that might be because I only had black keys so far? Anyway, if the keyboard backlighting is the worst thing on your machine, you know you are starting to get old I guess

The trackpad is okay. It is a glass trackpad and allows you to get where you want to on the screen. Overall I still do think that the MacBook Pro has a better trackpad, but I never feel the need to get a mouse when working with the machine in laptop mode. So nothing to worry there.

Coming with a 16-hour battery life and coming with dedicated GPU power does make the Surface Book 2 a touch heavier than other devices at 1.642 kilograms (for you imperialists that's 3.62 lbs). Especially compared to a Surface Pro. But the 13.5" is still a portable machine which you can carry around in your bag and coming with a large battery it does mean you can leave that bulky charger at home. The charger does come with a handy USB-A port which allows you to charge your phone/smart-watch/kindle etc. without requiring additional chargers to be brought along.

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Using it as my daily development machine

Being a 2-in-1 device is great, but at the end of the day, I primarily will use it as a laptop and dev machine. During my day job at Noser Engineering, I work mainly on mobile solutions (mostly Front-End) and other projects in the .Net space. So the daily load usually involves Visual Studio, some Browser (Firefox or Edge), PowerShell (doing Git via UI just feels wrong - that is after forcing your brain to learn the commands ), Outlook, Teams and last but not least Spotify or Groove Music (second when I feel in the mood for some Music to Code By).

I use the Android Emulator quite a lot when working on mobile projects. The emulator tends to use quite a bit of RAM, and on my old device, I was often struggling to get decent performance. But on the Surface Book 2 all is well. Coming with two USB-A Ports means I do not have to worry when plugging in any dongle or accessory such as LAN-Adapter, Presenter stick etc..

Having a touchscreen is a bonus when using emulators/simulators as you can use the app as intended with your finger. Plus making gestures with a mouse is cumbersome.

In some projects, I also have to fire up some VM for various tasks. While the 16 GB of RAM holds up to a certain point, I know of many backend developers and C++ developers that need more. So keep that in mind since you can't upgrade any of the hardware of the Surface Book 2, at least iFixit convinced me with this clip.

Having a dedicated GPU is a great thing if you are into games or Machine Learning. Since I started to play around with machine learning, this allows me to play around with ML on the go. Which is nice and something a Surface Pro does not offer.

Being at your desk

While I do have to travel from time to time, I also do quite some work at an office. At work, I have a 27" and a 24" Dell monitor (daisy chained) and only have to connect the dock to my surface. The dock works excellent with the Surface Book 2. I also have used it with a Dell docking station over the USB-C port which also worked just as expected. But since I already have a Surface Dock, I rarely use any USB-C dock, which would also mean slower charging time.

I do not experience any problems with the displays (used to have a weird blackout with my Surface Pro 3 at times on the monitors), and I can wholeheartedly recommend it as being a productive setup.

Doing the meeting kabuki

No office life would be complete without the occasional meeting, right? So how does the Surface Book 2 fare when it comes to this office discipline? Really well, the keyboard is excellent for taking notes, if you decide to add a surface pen you will be able to doodle erm take notes in meetings. And have I mentioned Face ID yet? Face ID lets you unlock your Surface Book 2 with your face - bet you did not see that one coming! No, but seriously the Face ID works pretty fast with a delay of 1-2 seconds. So when my device nods off during a meeting after a couple of minutes of inactivity, I used to have to type in my Password. The delay added took so long that I gave up taking notes with my surface pen. But with Face ID it almost feels like the instant-on with a tablet. Which makes the pen and OneNote the ideal combo for taking notes during a meeting.

These days a lot of meetings are remote - period. I am a huge proponent of using the camera during conf-calls since non-verbal communication is a thing. I was delighted to see that the Surface Book 2 sports a 5 MP front facing camera which is capable of streaming 1080p HD video.

Hooking up the Surface Book 2 to an external monitor works great. You will most likely require an adapter I use a USB-C to VGA, HDMI and DVI which should solve most problems - fingers crossed. The only thing to keep in mind is the 3:2 aspect ratio. Since most presenters and Monitors are 16:9 you will have a lot of blacked out space when duplicating your display. Extending solves the problem but might be an issue if you are facing the people and not the secondary screen. I can live just fine with black bars.

On the Surface Pro 3, the fan was always on when connected to a second monitor. As soon as having the camera on and sharing the screen you could listen to the fan going from silent to ready for takeoff. The Surface Book 2 stays nice and quiet, that is if you are not training any neural net. In that case, you will get that what-are-you-doing-again glance from your spouse

On the go

The Surface Book 2 has been a great travel companion. I tend to travel mostly by train and very rarely by plane. In either case, I like to use the idle time to get some stuff done. Including writing emails, blogs, presentations and often also code. The Surface Book 2 has never let me down on any of those tasks. The only thing to remember is that it might be a bit heavier than other laptops. But for me, this is not an issue. And the fulcrum hinge allows to carry it comfortably in your hand.

The 16-hour battery life means you will stay productive for at least half a day, even when doing some heavy workloads.

Downtime

During downtimes, I tend to use the Surface Book 2 more in tablet mode or in the view mode which is excellent for streaming a movie while doing some household chores. The tablet is light but is still sporting you with everything apart from the NVIDIA GPU, so you are holding a full blown pc in your hands. The battery in the tablet is not as big as the one in the base. You can, however, connect the tablet part directly to a charger/dock connector if you want to.

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You quickly notice that there are not many well-designed apps on Windows 10 for tablet use. There are good (PDF) readers, Netflix, OneNote etc. but compared to iOS and Android there is still space for some well thought out and implemented apps. Which is a shame since it would make a great tablet and with Face ID it comes close to the instant feel.

Bottom line

I am happy with the Surface Book 2. It get's all my work stuff done and works well enough as a tablet that I do not feel the need of getting another device for couch surfing and watching a series.

I would recommend it to friends and repurchase it. The most significant negative point from my end is the backlighting of the keyboard and price tag. Then again you do get great value for your money in my opinion.

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This has been driving me bonkers the last couple of days so I just wanted to jot down the steps to get the Emulator up and running under Windows 10. In my case after upgrading from Win 8.1. So if you ever received one of the following errors:

  • [Critical] An internal virtual network switch is required for emulated devices to run.
  • [Critical] XDE Exit Code: CouldntCreateInternalSwitch (16)
  • [Critical] XDE Exit Code: CouldntStartVm (10)
  • [Critical] XDE Exit Code: InvalidArguments (3)
  • For UDP connection errors see update of July 2016 at the end.

These steps should help you bring the Emulator back up and running:

Disclaimer: Please note that you perform these steps at your own risk. Generally speaking all should run just fine but some steps will remove some Hyper-V settings and this might affect your network connectivity or virtual machine setup. So take these steps as worked on my machine advice.

  1. Ensure no XDE.exe task is running (Task Manager)
  2. Repair Android SDK – Open Programs and Features > Microsoft Visual Studio Emulator for Android > select Change in the menu bar and choose Repair in the Visual Studio dialog
  3. Remove All Hyper-V virtual switches – open the  Hyper-V Manager > select the Virtual Switch Manager… (located in the menu on the right) > select each virtual switch and select remove > click onto Apply
    1. If there is an error while removing a virtual switch, try restarting your computer
  4. Run XdeCleanup.exe – Depends on your install but on the Surface Pro 3 you should find it under: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft XDE\10.0.10240.0"

Now try to get your Emulator up and running. If you still receive error messages try the following steps:

  • (Surface Pro 3) Reinstall the network drivers > Open the Device Manager> under View select Show hidden devices > Uninstall Marvell AVASTAR Wireless-AC Network Controller and Surface Ethernet Adapter > Restart which will automatically reinstall the drivers from the recovery partition
  • Clean up network bridges > Open Network Connections > Add Bridge (this option only showed up the first time) > Remove the added bridge again

Now your Emulator should fire up.

Remark

I had to repeat step 3 a couple of times – even after the emulator would start up the first time but maybe that is just a configuration issue on my machine…

Hope this helps and happy coding! Smile

Resources

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/31613607/visual-studio-2015-emulator-for-android-not-working-xde-exe-exit-code-3


Update - 20. July 2016

Managed to wreck my Android Emulator again yesterday. This time none of the above attempts fixed it for me. Since this is one of the more frequented blog posts I thought I would update to share another possible solution.

The Error message was that no UDP connection could be established with the Emulator. Following these steps solved the issue:

  • Open Device Manager (On Win10 simply search for Device Manager in the Start Menu)
  • Under Viewselect Show hidden devices
  • Delete all virtual network devices except your Network card (you do not have remove the Bluetooth devices)
  • Open Hyper-V and remove all Hyper-V virtual network endpoints as described under Point 3
  • Reboot
These steps solved the mentioned issue above and is based on the following Troubleshooting articleby Microsoft.

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On the 6. October 2015 Microsoft introduced it’s new devices all destined to run Windows 10.

The first Device was the HoloLenswhich was demoed with a immersive game experience showing how HoloLens can integrate the furniture of your living room in the game. Plus the HoloLens should start to be available next year for developers for 3000$, so far only US availability has been announced, but my hopes are still high that it will reach Europe and other countries outside of the US soon after that.

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After the HoloLens the new Microsoft Band 2 was introduced. The specs of the band leaked before the event and they seem to be have quite spot on. The new band has a curved display, looks sleeker and has an additional 11th sensor (a barometer) which allows it to track elevation/steps. The band is focused on sport and tracking the users physical activities. The data is stored in the Microsoft health service which allows the user to analyse all of his activities i.e. golf, sleep, running and many more. The Data is stored as usually done with these services in the cloud and not on the devices of the user.

Further Microsoft partnered up with quite a few companies to ensure the band will have apps that provide the user with additional apps and notifications right at your wrist.

Windows Mobile

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With the Lumia 950 and 950 XL Microsoft finally has introduced two flagship phones which has been overdue and long awaited. Since the Lumia Icon/930 and Lumia 1520 which they are replacing have been on the market for years(!). The new Lumias keep true to their heritage of providing great Cameras (20MP incl. image stabilization), great displays and the obligate bump in battery size. Further the following specs stick out:

  • Expandable storage via SD-Card
  • 3 GB RAM
  • Snapdragon 808 processors
    • 6-Cores
    • 8-Cores XL
  • USB-C connector

The new USB-C connector allows an ease of use and greater bandwidth but there is more, with the new phones Microsoft introduces Continuum. With an additional accessory called a Microsoft Display Dock you can plug in your phone to a monitor, keyboard and mouse allowing you to control desktop applications such as Word, PowerPoint etc.. The apps that can be used will be based on the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) which allows developers to adopt for different screen sizes. So when the app provides resolutions for phone and desktop factors the same phone app will be displayed differently and allow the user to harness the full power of a desktop setup such as using a mouse and a real keyboard.

While connected to the Microsoft Display Dock the phone will still be available as a phone, meaning you can make calls, write and receive texts etc.. So it isn’t just simply projecting the screen of the phone to another display but it actually will bring up a (limited) Windows 10 desktop experience which I see some very interesting scenarios arising and allows you to use the phone as a PC! Smile

While the Lumia 950 und Lumia 950 XL are high end phones Microsoft also introduced the new Lumia 550 which will provide a cheaper alternative without the Continuum though but still providing quite some bang for the buck.

Surface Pro 4

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The Surface Pro 4 is the expected update of the Surface Pro 3. While keeping the dimensions of the SP3 the SP4 comes with the latest Intel chipset, up to 16 GB RAM and 1 TB hard drive. These specs are a great bump and will allow to run Virtual Machines easily from your SP4. Keeping the dimensions will mean that all the external hardware accessories for the SP3 will work with a SP4 and vice versa. If you are the proud owner of a SP3 and have a dock. You will be able to simple reuse the dock for the SP4. All the hardware released for the SP4 also works for the SP3.

While keeping the overall dimensions the SP4 comes with a greater resolution which comes to the cost of the bezel. The screen now comes at 12.3 inches and sports 2736 x 1824 resolution which results in a really high res display at 267 pixels per inch (ppi).

Type cover

The new type cover comes with a full keyboard layout, 40% larger track pad and there will even be versions with a biometric finger reader. Real world testing will prove how much better it is overall but a full size keyboard layout surely sounds lovely.

Pen

The pen has been overhauled slightly. The backend tip now not only is the OneNote button but also serves again as rubber as it was the case with the SP1 & 2 pens. The pen tip can be interchanged which will allow artistic and design folks to choose individual brushes simply by changing the tip and sport the physical feel.

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Another great plus is that the pen now attaches magnetically to the Surface, so no more after thought latches needed. I really like this additional feat as I never grew warm to the latch (in my case still in the original packaging…).

Docking Station

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The new docking station no longer requires you to place the Surface Pro into it. It is an elegant little box that you can attach via the power connector. The new Docking Station provides gigabit Ethernet, two display ports, four USB 3.0 ports, audio out and of course power to the Surface Pro 4 and can be used with the Surface Pro 3.

 

(One more thing) Surface Book

The biggest surprise (very positive surprise) is the Surface Book. Other then the SP4 it comes with a Keyboard dock that can be removed at the push of a button. The design looks very sleek and though it does not close fully it resembles pretty much a laptop. In the keyboard half of the Surface Book are additional batteries and a custom made NVidia graphics card. So it has no problems stemming graphically intensive work such as 3D design or games.

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Being able to remove the tablet results in a light weight and really thin tablet (the USB, Power and display ports are all in the keyboard part). The tablet has the form factor of an A4 paper so it should give you known dimensions and with a pen will allow you to get a great note, drawing, etc. paper.

All accessories from the SP4 are compatible with the Surface Book. But you will not be able to stick it into a SP3 docking station. But it will go nicely with the new SP4 docking station which is less bulky and just as clean.

The take away

Microsoft gave an awesome presentation and highlighted a lot of great features that they usually just seemed to forget to bring forward to the crowd. During the great presentation they highlighted the future with HoloLens, the next step for Windows Phone which will be renamed to Windows Mobile with Windows 10 and the great line up of Surface hardware.

With the new hardware I am sure the surface will continue to grow and expand in a market that is looking how to integrate tablets for the workforce which requires additional input compared to a candy crush app.

The phone hardware finally serves again the users that do want to spend some money for a device and brings some great power user features to the I-want-to-get-stuff-done minded people out there.

I personally can’t wait to get my hands on the new hardware and give it a run especially the phones continuum mode and the new Surface Book are looking very nice and I already fear the impact on my bank account Winking smile

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I got a Surface 3 Pro recently and I really love the fact that I can use it as a tablet and as a normal Laptop but am not bound to carrying two devices with me. One problem I received was after installing Visual Studio which installs and activates Hyper-V automatically. Hyper-V disables the connected Stand-By mode on your Surface. No problem there but that connected stand-by is also your sleep mode and living without a sleep mode on your tablet is a real pain point.

The solution

Luckely we can easily change this behaviour by switching Hyper-V off when we do not need it with the following command:

bcdedit /set hypervisorlaunchtype off

And if we do need Hyper-V for development we can enable it again with this line of code:

bcdedit /set hypervisorlaunchtype auto

You will have to run each command in an elevated powershell as admin. Simply open Powershell rightclick on the Taskbar icon and select Run as Administrator.


HTH