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商业 - 科技

长途旅行真机实测:微软新款平板电脑能够取代笔记本吗

Jason Cipriani 2014年06月23日

微软Surface Pro 3能够成为笔记本电脑的合适替代品吗?经过了一周的海外旅途及1.2万英里航程上各种环境下的实际检验之后得出的结论是,它还不能完全做到这一点。

    苹果(Apple)iPad 2发售后不久,我母亲就给我打电话征求建议。她看到了iPad做出改进、上架新应用的消息,觉得它的功能也许已经足够强大,能够替代她的笔记本电脑了。我问她想用iPad来干什么,最常用些什么程序。讨论到最后,我们认为对她而言,iPad还不适合作为笔记本的替代品。

    大家可以走进任意一家百思买(Best Buy)门店,逛逛笔记本电脑专区。在那里,你可能每天都会听到很多人问销售助理类似的问题。到底该买笔记本还是平板电脑?这个争论的产生合情合理。应用和运行应用的平板电脑的功能已经越来越强大。同时,两种设备的界限已经越来越模糊。

    微软(Microsoft)相信这个问题已经得到了解决。在5月20日的新款平板电脑发布会上,微软高管帕诺斯•潘乃说:“今天,我们会给这个争论划个句号,我对此完全有信心。我要向各位隆重介绍Surface Pro 3。”

    这番讲话值得我们注意。即便Surface的前两个版本销量平平,但微软依然将这款新产品定位为Windows笔记本、iPad以及使用谷歌(Google)安卓系统的类似设备的替代品。

    光说大话很容易。我决定带着Surface Pro 3出去转转。这段旅途很长:潘乃的宣告仍然在我耳畔萦绕,而我要带着Surface Pro 3前往日本出差一周。为了公正地评估性能,我把MacBook Air留在了家里。

    这是我第一次在出差时不带MacBook Air,更别说还是出国了。我心里难免有些打鼓。

    微软在给Surface Pro 3减重瘦身方面花了不少心思。它的厚度略大于1/3英寸,重量只有2.4磅,外接Type Cover键盘。用苹果的MacBook Air直观地做个比较:它的重量稍低于3磅,最厚处的厚度略大于2/3英寸。

    微软重新设计了这款最新版的Surface,更值得注意的是,他们还重新设计了包含标准键盘和触控板的Type Cover。在日本之行往返的长途航班上,我让Type Cover派上了用场:利用键盘写邮件和小故事打发时间。至于触控板?简直太难用了。有时我只用一根手指轻击触控板,但它却会判定我用了两根——这会触发单击右键的操作。由于在Windows 8.1中没有禁用触控板触发单击的选项,因此我似乎没办法避免无意中触发的右键单击操作。

    Surface在背面安装了新款的“摩擦力铰链”支架,大家可以根据需求,调整平板电脑的倾斜角度。这比起只有一两个固定视角的前代产品而言是一项改进。你可以把铰链调到150度,让Surface几乎平放着。我觉得在这个角度下,用Surface Pen写字或做笔记非常方便。预先提醒:展开这个支架需要较大空间,如果你打算在经济舱的折叠式桌子上使用Surface和Type Cover,可能会发现自己几乎没有动弹的余地了。即便是在头等商务舱,支架展开后给我留下的空间也非常少。有很多次,Surface的支架后端都滑出了我的桌子。(苹果的iPad没有自带支架,不过许多第三方公司都为它制造了保护套和立式支架。)

    哦,我还要谈谈刚刚我提过的Surface Pen。微软表示,它做了很多努力,试图模仿传统的标准拍纸簿和钢笔的使用体验。这也是公司选择了3:2的屏幕纵横比,而不是其他平板电脑更常用的16:9的原因。在使用中,我发现Surface Pen的书写十分流畅,超过所有其他我用过的触控笔。在会议中,我没有用敲起来劈啪作响的键盘,而是用了Surface Pen和OneNote软件。我几乎忘记了我是在数码平面上写字——数字化的笔迹看起来就和在纸上写出来的一模一样。这种模数转换太神奇了,以至于坐在周围的人都问我如何在iPad上复制这种体验。

    潘乃和他的团队创造了一个术语“笔记本能力”,用于强调Surface Pro 3完全有能力完成笔记本环境下的一切任务。如今的市场上,传统PC机(包括笔记本)销量跳水,移动设备销量攀升,这句话具有巨大的吸引力。

    在飞机、火车和汽车这些旅途中遇到的交通工具上,我对Surface进行了测试。(途中我还坐了船,不过我不敢把这个待验品随身携带。)大多数情况下,我都可以把新款的Surface和相连的Type Cover键盘放在膝盖上使用。而在另一些情况下,我在打字时难以固定设备,以至于不得不调整坐姿及设备放在膝盖上的方式。如果你用的是笔记本电脑,就完全不必进行这样的调整了。从技术上说,Surface Pro 3确实拥有“笔记本能力”,但使用它时,很难得到同样的快感。

    软件是平板电脑最重要的一部分。Surface Pro 3的操作系统是Windows 8.1,不仅拥有以应用为核心的时髦用户界面,也有传统的桌面视图。多一种选择似乎更好,不过事实证明并非如此:以应用为核心的那一部分操作系统中,Windows 8的应用数量有限。为了性能考虑,用户不得不使用传统的桌面视图。对微软而言,这是一种耻辱:尽管它给开发者提供了移动先行的开发环境,但他们依然缺乏开发应用的动机。

    Shortly after Apple’s AAPL -0.35% iPad 2 launched, my mother called me asking for advice. She had been reading about the iPad’s improvements and new apps, and determined it might just be powerful enough to replace her laptop. I asked her what she wanted to use it for and which programs she used the most. By the end of the discussion, we determined that the iPad would not be suitable for her as a laptop replacement.

    You can visit any Best Buy and walk around the laptop section, and you’re likely to hear this same question posed to sales associates multiple times per day. The debate over a laptop or tablet is a justified one. Apps and the tablets on which they run have become more powerful. The line between the two devices continues to blur.

    Microsoft MSFT -0.34% believes this a problem to be solved. “Today, we take the conflict away and I’m absolutely sure of that,” declared executive Panos Panay on stage during the May 20 introduction of its new tablet computer. “I’d like to introduce you to Surface Pro 3.”

    This is a remarkable statement. Microsoft has positioned its new device as a replacement for the Windows laptop as well as the iPad and its Google Android-powered peers, even as sales of previous versions of the Surface have fallen flat.

    Anyone can talk the talk; I decided to take the Surface Pro 3 for a walk. A very, very long one: With Panay’s declaration still fresh in mind, I took a week-long trip to Japan with the Surface Pro 3 in tow. To fairly assess its abilities, I left my MacBook Air at home.

    It was the first time I had traveled without my MacBook Air on a business trip, let alone one to a foreign country. I was nervous.

    Microsoft worked hard to put the Surface Pro 3 on a diet. It’s slightly more than a third of an inch thick and weighs 2.4 lbs. with the Type Cover click-in keyboard attached. To put that in perspective, Apple’s MacBook Air weighs slightly less than 3 lbs. and is just over two-thirds of an inch at its thickest point.

    Microsoft redesigned the latest Surface, but more notably, the company also redesigned the Type Cover, which includes a standard keyboard and a trackpad. During my marathon flights to and from Japan, I put the Type Cover to task: I passed the time by typing emails and short stories. I moused around using only the trackpad. I found the keys on the cover to be responsive and well spaced, but extremely noisy. And the trackpad? Nothing short of finicky. At times it would register a two-finger tap—which triggers a right-click action—when I only had one finger on the pad. With the omission of an option to disable tap-to-click in Windows 8.1, there seems to be no clear way to avoid the accidental right-clicks I found myself unknowingly causing.

    A new “friction-hinge” kickstand on the back of the Surface makes it possible to adjust the tablet’s viewing angle to suit your needs, an improvement over previous versions, which allowed only one or two viewing angles. You can nearly lay the Surface down by placing the hinge at a 150 degree angle, which I found to be a comfortable position for using the Surface Pen to sketch or take notes. Be forewarned: The kickstand setup does require a bit more room to implement, so if you’re planning on using the Surface and Type Cover on a fold-out tray table in economy class, you may find yourself hard-pressed for room. Even in the Business First cabin, I was left with precious little space. On more than one occasion, the back of my Surface setup slipped off the rear of my tray. (Apple’s iPad has no built-in kickstand, but several third-party companies make cases and stand-like accessories for it.)

    Oh, and about that Surface Pen I briefly mentioned above. Microsoft claimed it put a lot of work and effort into mimicking the experience that a classic legal pad and pen provide, and it’s one reason the company chose a 3:2 aspect ratio over the more-common 16:9 found on other tablet computers. In practice, I found the Surface Pen to write more smoothly than any other stylus I have ever used. During meetings, I eschewed the clickity-clack of the keyboard and instead used the pen with OneNote. I found myself nearly forgetting that I was writing on a digital surface—my digitized handwriting reflected exactly what I would expect on a piece of paper. The analog-to-digital translation was uncanny enough that people sitting around me asked me how to mimic the experience on an iPad.

    “Lapability” is a term coined by Panay and his team in an effort to underscore that the Surface Pro 3 is fully capable of playing in the laptop’s namesake environment. It’s a direct appeal to address a market in which sales of traditional PCs (which include laptops) are plummeting and sales of mobile devices (which include tablets) are rising.

    During my trip, I tested out the Surface on every mode of transportation I encountered: airplane, train, and automobile. (A portion of my trip involved a boat, but I wasn’t brave enough to take the review unit along with me.) For the most part, it’s possible to use the new Surface in your lap with the Type Cover attached, though I found some positions where the unit would move excessively while I typed, forcing me to adjust how I was sitting or how the device was placed in my lap. This “reposition dance” is something you don’t really have to do with a laptop. While the Surface Pro 3 is technically “lapable,” it’s hardly enjoyable to do so.

    The most important aspect of a tablet is the software. The Surface Pro 3 comes running Windows 8.1, which offers a modern app-centric user interface as well as the classic desktop view. More options would appear to be better, but reality says otherwise: the app-centric side of the operating system still lacks a robust library of native Windows 8 apps, forcing you to the desktop side in search of capability. For Microsoft, it’s a shame: even though the company provides a mobile-first environment for developers, they lack sufficient incentive to develop for it.

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