How well does the New Surface Pro (2017) perform when used to process and edit photos in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop? It definitely is not going to replace my Dell XPS 15, but it’s a pretty cool mobile tool for editing. Check out my overall thoughts.
Surface Pro Review on State of Tech:
Hey what’s up, it’s Jerad with Ditch Auto, and this is the Microsoft Surface. It is thin and sleek, and light. And pretty cool. So, as a photographer, I’m always looking for the best tools to help me do my work and be the most effective photographer that I can, and also tools that help me be more creative. So, the Microsoft Surface has always appealed to me because of its touch interface, it’s stylus, the fact that it is a laptop, it has full Windows on it so it can run Photoshop and Lightroom, and all that good stuff.
So, as a photographer, is this something that I could use? And I wanted to answer that question. I mean, I had purchased the Surface Pro 3 a few years ago, and although it was fantastic, I feel like maybe it was just a little too early for me. I wasn’t ready to make that full commit to windows. I was using Mac at the time, and still really like the Apple’s Macintosh platform, but I’m just finding that I need devices that are more powerful. I mean, when I shoot an event or a wedding, and I have a couple thousand images, I need a machine that’s powerful enough for me to get through those images, pick the ones that I want, get the edits done quickly, and export them so I can get them to my client.
I don’t want a slower computer that is going to hinder my workflow and make it take a lot of time. I mean, I don’t wanna spend all day for multiple days editing an event. I should be able to get it done pretty quick. So, with the Surface Pro, this is the new model that came out here in 2017. I wanted to give it a try. I knew that this was not going to be a device that was going to replace my laptop. The laptop that I have is much more powerful. It has a quad-core processor, it has a good graphics card in it, bigger hard drive, more RAM, all the specs are better on the laptop.
But Surface Pro here is available in a couple of different options as far as performance, but it looks the same all the way across the board, regardless of which option you go with. This is the middle of the road option here. This is the i5 processor, with 8 Gigs of RAM, and 256 Gigabytes of storage. So, that’s pretty decent. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to keep too many events on the internal storage here. It does have USB on the side so I could plug in an external hard drive, and USB 3. It’s really fast. I could actually edit directly from an external hard drive.
But I went with this model because this is the fanless model. There’s no fan inside of it that’s gonna rev up and make a bunch of noise and drain my battery when I’m doing some editing and photos. And you know whenever you use Lightroom, if you have a computer, you’ve probably heard the fans kick on in your computer because Lightroom gets a little intense when you’re doing things.
And so, I didn’t want the fan. I wanted something that was gonna be quiet, and the i5 is one of two models that comes fanless. The M3 model is also fanless, but that’s just too slow. I didn’t even think that Lightroom would run on that. The i7, which is the higher end of this, looks exactly the same, but it’s the higher end. Does have a fan on the inside, and from what I do understand now, the fan is much quieter than it used to be. It’s not nearly a problem, but nonetheless, it does add a tiny bit of weight to the device, and it also decreases the battery life because now you have spinning fans in there, which are gonna slowly decrease that battery life.
So, aside from that, this is the first full touch interface system that’s like a tablet. The keyboard can completely disconnect from this, and it becomes a tablet. It has its own little kickstand on the back. You could fold that down, you could hold it like a tablet. I mean, essentially this is like an iPad, except it runs full Windows and you can run full versions of all the good software that we use as photographers. Lightroom, Photoshop, all that good stuff.
It also folds down pretty nice here into what they call studio mode, that makes it easy for you to have just a little bit of a rise to it, so when you’re retouching on images or doing anything, it’s just very easy for you to do that. And use the pen, the stylus. Overall, I really like this setup.
Now, with everything that’s good comes drawbacks, of course. Being that this is an i5 processor, it’s a dual-core processor, which using Photoshop is okay for some tasks. Using Lightroom is okay for some tasks, but when you start to do things that are a little bit more intense, like selecting multiple images in Lightroom, and applying changes that you’ve made to one image across multiple, maybe trying to go through your images really fast to pick the ones that you wanna keep, versus the ones that you don’t, you’re really gonna have to tweak the system a bit and try to figure out a way to make that work without lag happening.
Because this is an i5, and it’s not an i7, or a quad-core processor, that’s much more powerful, it only has 8 Gigabytes of RAM, it’s not gonna be as fast of a solution. This is more of an on the go, I would imagine myself using this more for just the occasional retouching of a couple of images.
I don’t have one of those Wacom tablets anymore, because I just found that I was never using it. I like being able to retouch directly on the image, and so because I couldn’t do that without … The Wacom tablet wasn’t doing it for me, I would just use the mouse and just retouch that way. I miss the stylus though, and the Surface Pro gives me that ability to use the stylus.
Now, if you open a relatively large JPEG in Photoshop, and you’re trying to retouch it, it does get a little laggy, and you can see a little bit of jitteriness. It’s not completely smooth, and that’s gonna be because this isn’t a super powerful machine. I mean, it’s cool that you get these features, it’s really awesome that they are there, but they’re just not gonna be as refined as you would like if you had a more powerful system, such as if you had a desktop computer with some good power in it, and then maybe you had one of the Wacom tablet, or you have the … I don’t know if it’s still called it, but the Cintiq, which is the monitor that lets you retouch and draw with a stylus right on the screen itself.
You’re definitely gonna have a lot more to go with there, a lot more power, but you’re not gonna be as portable. I mean, this is the kind of thing that you can hold in your hand, you can sit on the couch and relax and do some retouching, or sit in a lounge chair and just kinda do some retouching on some images. You definitely aren’t gonna get that portability anywhere else.
The screen and the stylus performance here on this machine is first class. I mean, it’s the best that’s out there. Apple and their Apple Pencil on the iPad, definitely has some really good … the stylus is really good and it’s world-renowned stylus, but that’s on the iPad, and you can’t really do too much retouching on the iPad. You don’t get full Photoshop on the iPad, you don’t get full Lightroom on the iPad, so you can’t take advantage of the stylus on an iPad in the way that you can take advantage of the stylus on a Surface Pro.
That’s the key difference there. It’s why a Surface Pro is a little bit more expensive. It’s a full-on computer, and iPad is basically a big iPhone that allows you to use a stylus on it, and not even all the iPads allow for that. Only the iPad Pro models, I believe. So, as a photographer, I mean, if you’re a hobbyist, I think that a machine like this is perfect because you’re probably not importing 100s or even 1000s of images. You’re just importing some stuff maybe from a small shot that you went out and did.
So, getting through Lightroom isn’t gonna be too challenging with the smaller amount of performance here. Editing in Photoshop, I mean, you’re probably gonna be more patient because it’s more passion work than it is work for your clients, which I’m definitely passionate about doing work for my clients, but I’m also wanting to make sure that I am being the most effective I am with my time, and that means using a machine that has enough power for me to do my edits, to do my retouching as quickly as possible.
And the Surface Pro just definitely doesn’t quite get me there with this particular model. I would be interested in trying my workflow on the fully specced out i7 model, which is the higher up model, it’s the one with the fan, to see if maybe that would get me by. I think maybe a little bit more performance in the processor with the i7 dual-core, and then going 16 Gigabytes of RAM would get me a lot closer.
I definitely wouldn’t be able to multitask, have any other applications open, but I think the i7 with the 16 Gigs would get me there. So, that might be a story for another video, but if you are wanting to go Surface Pro, and you’re a photographer, I highly would recommend going with the i7, and at least with the 512 Gigabytes hard drive, and the 16 Gigabytes of RAM, because you’re gonna need that if you’re gonna use your Surface Pro as an editing machine.
So, this does come down, basically breaks down into the size of an iPad with the keyboard cover, because an iPad definitely is maybe a little bit thinner than this with the keyboard cover, but this package overall is pretty fantastic. So, there are some shortcomings, of course, because as you get smaller devices, you get less performance, and that is an issue across the board, even your MacBook is going to have less performance than your MacBook Pro.
If you really want performance, you’re not gonna be able to go with something like a Surface, or a 2-in-1 notebook. You’re gonna need to go with a laptop that has a quad-core processor in it at least because Photoshop and Lightroom definitely require some horsepower in order to perform really well. But you definitely can get by using something like a Surface, and I think if you are a retoucher, you really like to spend time on your images, definitely having this interface, the pros of the interface here, outweigh the cons of the performance that you’re losing because of the smaller machine.
The performance, of course, if you could trade that out for some patience, and have the ability to use this device for your creativity, you can also just use it to mark up images. I mean, what’s really cool is say you have an image on the screen here, give the pen the double tap, and it’s gonna go ahead and screenshot that, and then you can draw on it. So, if you’re trying to decide what to retouch, or maybe you’re wanting to explain to somebody, a client, the areas that you feel need to be retouched without spending all that time retouching them, you can annotate and draw on them, and quickly save screenshots to email off.
There are just so many benefits here to a device like this over a traditional laptop, or even a traditional tablet I guess you can say. So, that’s gonna do it for this video. I just wanted to give you kind of my thoughts on where this device kinda sits for us photographers. Of course, it’s worth giving it a try. If you have a Microsoft store, or a Best Buy or something like that, go play with one. They have them on display, and they’re definitely pretty cool.
Microsoft also has a really fantastic return policy, so if you buy one, you spend 30 days with it and it’s just not doing it for you, they make it really easy to return the product back to them, no questions asked. I’ve definitely needed to do that once before, and it was super hassle free.
So, if you want more of a review on this device, check out the link in the description below. I have a full review of this device, talking more about it as far as specs and performance goes, and kind of showing more features of the device. In this video, I just wanted to talk about how it works for me as a photographer, and then I also have a couple of other Surface Pro related videos that I’ll link to in the description below as well for you to check out.
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