What is the one tablet engineers would love?

As an engineering major and a big nerd, I am obsessed with tech gadgets, laptops and tablets. Every field has its own requirements and engineering is one of those that requires versatile and powerful computers. So, what kind of tablets and 2-in-1 laptops are useful for engineers and engineering graduates?

First things first, let me make you clear what this article is not about. This page is not at all about iPad - any version of it. From my perspective, an iPad is too much entertainment and media oriented. It will certainly hold digital books and notes, but isn't much of a help when you need to perform an actual work like drafting, designing, Matlab works etc.

Surface Pro 2 - Tablet fit for Engineering

Surface Pro 2 Tablet
Credit: Microsoft Store

After SP3 was released, Microsoft cut the prices of Pro 2 - starting $100.

Laptop and Tablet Requirements for Engineers

My first 2-in-1 laptop/tablet was the Microsoft's Surface Pro 2. I bought it last March and I love it. It is important to buy a Windows tablet. The software programs I use - AutoCAD, Catia, Solver and ANSYS are only compatible in Windows OS. Yes, there is support for Mac too but not all software developers release Macintosh version of their software.

From technical point of view, I recommend these specifications:

  • A powerful processor (at least Intel i5)
  • At least 2-3 GB of RAM
  • Hard disk drive capacity not important as long as you can install your required programs
  • No hassle connectivity (Bluetooth, WiFi, USB ports)
  • Support for using mouse (this is very important which will be discussed below)
  • A universal operating system (Hint: Windows OS)

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Unboxing (video by Technobuffalo)

I came back to see this video after I bought Surface Pro 2.

The best Pro 2 version for the price

Discounts starting from $55 on the base model and up to a whopping price slash of ($400!) on the 512 GB version. I recommend adding a type cover instead of the touch cover for the Surface Pro 2. There is no backlit control on touch cover and they are pretty much extinct.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Available from i3 to i7 processor strength

Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 3 last May amidst much buzz. The device is touted as the first tablet which can fully replace your laptop with a desktop experience. The company calls it nothing short of revolutionary with features[1] like:

  • A kickstand capable of utilizing multiple levels (up to 150 degrees)
  • optional click-in keyboard
  • full-size USB 3.0 port
  • mini display port
  • microSD™ card reader capable of storage up to 128GB.
Surface Pro 3 for EngineeringCredit: Microsoft

Is Surface Pro 3 'THE' tablet that can replace your laptop?

The major benefit is that you can take your favorite Office programs, including the full Microsoft Office Suite, on-the-go and use an appealing touch interface to get work done. Of course you can also download your preferred entertainment apps including games, music and movies from the Windows Store. But as an engineering student, you can fully install AutoCAD, Catia and even ANSYS.

Surface Pro 3 v/s Macbook

The ending of this 30 second video makes me laugh!

The Windows 8.1 operating system offers new polished business uses. The core desktop experience definitely feels upgraded. Many applications have been enhanced and adapted to the Surface 3's display. Outlook 2013 has a touch mode, so does Adobe Photoshop CC.

There is also a pen to enable on-screen writing. The pen is a nice feature, but may take some time for a novice to learn how to use it. However, once you touch the tablet and get used to it, the pen literally glides on the screen "surface" (pun intended).

Surface Pro 2 vs Surface Pro 3Credit: Microsoft

Can Surface Pro 3 really replace your laptop?

Before we answer this question, let's go through what we can get when we buy.

The Intel i3 processor version of the tablet comes with only 64 GB of SSD hard drive. The official price is $799 which falls on the level of above average laptops. You can get a decent 14-inch laptop with genuine Windows 8.1 Pro, at least 500 GB of hard disk drive and even a 4th generation i7 processor with 4-6 GB of RAM.

Add an extra $130 for the type cover for the tablet and the price surges to $930! Will you buy this engineering tablet for this money? All this money for:

  • A 12.5-inch tablet
  • A keyboard (otherwise known as the type cover. I recommend against buying the touch cover!)
  • A fully functional, responsive and elegant pen

And what about the Windows Mobile OS?

App utilization on SP3 can be clunky. Many Windows features have been stripped away in favor of simplicity. As an advanced user, it seems alienating that we are not allowed to manipulate Windows in our own way. Working with apps on Windows is not intuitive. The interfaces to install, remove, and move apps work well on IOS, while and must constantly hunt for the right button on the Windows UI.

Another issue is the Windows store which has no appealing apps. Popular apps like Feedly are not available. For an OS based on web technology, it should be easier to add web content. That is disappointing, but may not be an issue depending on your application and desire.

Surface Pro 3 TabletCredit: Microsoft

With all these things said, I still think the SP3 is the best tablet you can get for performing engineering works because you will be working more with the desktop side of the system. Utilizing it as a desktop, one is able to easily plug-in many peripherals without much difficulty. Microsoft has made some inroads into bringing the traditional Windows' deskptop to the tablet and it will be the future of computing. The improved use of touch greatly enhances the experience.

Much has been made and said of the touchpad keyboard. It works well, especially if you're on the go travelling on a bus or in an airplane, but is no replacement for a touchpad on a laptop keyboard. the display is the highest quality offering 2160 x 1440 resolution. This high-definition 216 ppi pixel density is only matched by a retina display on an Apple product.

I recommend buying the 128 GB or 256 GB versions. Personally, I would get the Intel i5 processor models because they are less expensive (with more value for the price) and enough for my engineering works.

5 stars minus 1 because of the price

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Tablet WinterWolf 2014-09-16 4.0 0 5

Reduced Price for Surface Pro 3 - Student Offer

(Type Cover also available in discounted rate)

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 8GB/256GB - PS2-00001
Amazon Price: $1,299.00 $684.99 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 29, 2016)
I highly recommend buying from this seller. You will get about $100 in discount when you add a Type cover 3. You won't be able to get this discount when you buy from the Microsoft store.

Despite some drawbacks, Surface Pro 3 is a nice step forward for Microsoft and touch computing. Though Apple users will find the device certainly less than "revolutionary", the Windows will turn out to be a boon for engineering students and engineering majors.

Surface Pro 3 for Students (video)

Microsoft has targeted the 64GB i3 version specially for students, but I feel we require at least an i5 and 128 GB to maximize its full potential. After all, we can't satisfy on just surfing Facebook and browsing in Chrome.