In May 2020 I decide to move from my old Lenovo laptop to a new Microsoft Surface Laptop 3, 15″ with the AMD Ryzen chipset. This looked a great machine, was light enough to carry but with a big enough screen. I opted for the AMD Ryzen chipset and 16GB RAM as sometimes I can be working on a large number of documents, apps and scripting. Seemed to be the perfect device. It even had enough battery life to give me a full day of working without needing to be connected to the power. How wrong was I?

The biggest problem I found with this device was when I was in Microsoft Teams calls, it would frequently disconnect the WiFi, put the call on hold then re-connect me about 20 seconds later. Numerous calls to Microsoft Support, several rebuilds, new drivers and also trying an external WiFi dongle didn’t provide much improvement. I even tried to return the device under warranty, and exchange it for an Intel chipset version, but that was not a possibility. I was stuck with it for now, and the constant frustration of interrupted Microsoft Teams calls. There are plenty of other people who suffered the same fate as me with Teams calls, which are well documented on the various Microsoft Community forums.

Step Forward Microsoft Surface Pro X

I am constantly on the lookout for new’ish devices to try, and previously being an iPad Pro user I was starting to find that I needed a Windows device for some of the work I wanted to do on the move. I opted for the Microsoft Surface Pro X (LTE version) to be my choice.

Looks great, additional purchase of the keyboard and pen are a great addon, performs really well, and is light enough to drop it into my bag and go (not that we have had to go anywhere yet). But more importantly I can do all my Microsoft Teams calls without any interruptions.

The screen was a bit small, coming from the 15″ Surface Laptop 3, so I invested in a LG UltraGear 27″ 4K monitor, a LogiTech Brio 4K Stream edition camera, Surface Dock 2, External Surface Keyboard and Mouse, and the final piece was Jabra Evolve 85t headset.

Software Constraints

Whilst I have fell in love with the Surface Pro X, it does have some software constraints, especially for the hardware above.  For example, the Jabra Evolve 85 t should be used with the Jabra Direct software to get the full capabilities. Unfortunately, it currently doesnt work on ARM. It doesn’t really impact my ability to use it though, and I still get excellent audio quality though.

Another constraint is on the Logitech BRIO 4K camera. You cannot install the Logitech Capture software, which helps you setup your camera for the best visual effects, and also allows you to capture recordings. The camera does work though, but maybe not running at the same capability as it would on x64 OS.

Given that Apple and Microsoft are developing more and more ARM-based devices, I expect the software developers to catchup to the demand in the market for them and make ARM compatible software available.

Need for Additional Compute

I did recognise that the Surface Pro X was great for 90% of the tasks that I needed to perform on a daily basis, but there are some compute requirements that I needed from time to time, mainly around Adobe Illustrator, Visual Studio, Visio etc that I thought I needed to have some extra power.

I opted for Windows Virtual Desktop running in Azure. We already had the infrastructure in place (AD, WVD, Intune, App deployment etc), I created a new personal image and deployed it. Within a few minutes I had a fully blown Windows 10 Enterprise with plenty of compute and storage for what I needed. The WVD was going to cost me about £120 per month if left running all day every day. With auto-shutdown switched on and also configured the session to start the VM when trying to connect, I have reduced these costs down to about £35-£50 a month.

Summary

Now, I have got the best of both worlds. I have a lightweight Windows device (that doesnt cut me off mid-Teams calls), but I can instantly jump into a WVD session for some additional compute and functionality should I need it. I dont need to carry multiple devices – by using the Surface Dock 2 with my external monitor and peripherals I get a pretty decent user experience – and only pay for that extra compute when I need it. The other option I was considering was a a Surface Book 3, or Surface Laptop 4. The cost for them could not be justified when I have “Compute-as-a-Service” 🙂

Do I need another physical device…no thanks, will stick with my Surface Pro X for now.