Welcome to the Lawyerist Q&A Forum! Before you register an account and start posting, please take a moment to read our posting guidelines. (You can dismiss this message by clicking the X in the corner.)

Experiences with Surface Pro / iPad Pro?

I've decided to get either the Surface Pro or iPad Pro, and was interested in any experiences others could share using either one in their legal practice. I expect to use the mostly when I'm working out of the office, either at home or in mediations or on the road. I'm comfortable with both Windows and iOS, so there's no issue there. They both look like really good machines and have similar capabilities. Everyone's mileage may vary, but if you've got any insights from using either one, I'd appreciate it.


  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin

    I don't really think they are comparable, but you already know that. Do you want the capabilities of a computer or are you comfortable with the trade-offs you get with an iOS device?

    If you can make do with either, I guess I would decide on your primary use case, and pick the best device for that.

    FWIW, my wife just got a Surface Pro 4 from work, and I've spent a few minutes with it. It really is a full Windows PC. That's awesome when you want to work in Office, but it feels inefficient if you just want to read a website. It's also a lot bigger and heavier than a 9.7" iPad (but not much bigger and heavier than the 12.5" iPad).

    Between the big iPad and the Surface, I'd probably get the Surface. But I'd probably hold onto my iPad Mini.

  • chadmurraychadmurray Decatur, IL
    edited April 2016

    It really depends on what you want to do with it when you're working remotely. If you're going to be doing something like simple typing (plain text or markdown), emails, note-taking, or reviewing documents, the iPad Pro should work for you. It's not a laptop replacement, but it will fit most parts of the average lawyer's use case. One downside on the iPad Pro is that the split view is only two apps at a time. Three would probably be perfect for productivity, but it's not there yet.

    I've found the Surface Pro line to be relatively useless as a tablet due to size and heft (but it also might just be because I strongly dislike Windows these days), but it is definitely a laptop replacement if you need everything a laptop does.

    So if you can perform the necessary functions in a simplified tablet interface, I would vote for the iPad Pro. If you need something to replace a laptop, I guess the Surface Pro. BUT you can get a pretty good Windows laptop for the price of the (overpriced) Surface Pro.

    And before anyone craps all over it, I know the iPad Pro is overpriced too when compared to a Macbook, but it's a totally different product/design/system. It's not a direct comparison in the way Surface Pro to Windows laptop is.

  • If you have selected these two devices to make a choice between b/c you want a "tablet" experience then the decision is simple: iPad Pro. The Surface is really just a laptop with a touchscreen. This is mostly due to the way Windows 10 works and not the hardware. If you wanted the full-on Windows experience I would recommend a Dell XPS or another laptop rather than the Surface. The Surface tries to be both a laptop and a tablet and, in my opinion, isn't very good at either.

    IOS, on the other hand, is designed from the ground up and is a far superior tablet experience. But there are a few minor trade-offs. In reality iOS can do 90% of everything for which you might need a full-on laptop. Many mistakenly think there are many tasks an iPad cannot handle but that is b/c they have not spent the time to learn how to work with iOS. If you pick up an iPad and expect it to work like a desktop OS then it will be a frustrating experience. It is a completely different OS and you have to spend the time to learn how to use it properly.

    The biggest area where iOS falls short from what you can do with a desktop OS is in the area of batch file processing. Moving dozens of files from one place to another can be frustrating in iOS. I expect that will improve in the future but it is still an issue.

    However, for routine lawyer tasks like reviewing and marking up PDF documents, email, taking notes, creating presentations, drafting documents in MS Word, etc. I like iOS better than Windows. I know I am in the minority still but I have truly gotten to the point that I prefer working in iOS instead of a traditional OS the majority of the time. I now use it as my primary desktop computer.

  • chadmurraychadmurray Decatur, IL

    My biggest peeve about iOS (well the iPad Air 2 specifically) is the lack of a remotely decent stylus for marking stuff up. The iPad Pro has the pencil, so that's a non-issue there. But I'm legit impressed that you can use iOS as your day to day. I'm too finicky to do that. You'll pry OS X from cold dead hands.

  • The pencil and the larger screen makes a big difference.

  • chadmurraychadmurray Decatur, IL

    We're getting off topic here and Sam may smack us, but they also changed the screen on the iPad Air 2 to make it nearly incompatible with a wide swath of styluses on the market. It's hard finding reviews that address whether they've been updated, so here I sit, stylus-less and alone.

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
    edited April 2016

    Actually I don't think you're very far off topic.

    I'm not sure whether @EagleLegal is thinking of the Surface as an alternative to the iPad (i.e., a tablet) or the iPad as an alternative to the Surface (i.e., a laptop). If it's the latter, then you're right on topic.

    For what it's worth, I use an iPad Mini as much or more than my laptop and desktop. I use it (usually with an external keyboard) for writing (Ulysses, Pages, and Word), email, social media, and Slack. I also use it for reading (Instapaper and Kindle).

    But I find it really clunky for creating posts in WordPress and for working on the website (not that web development is something lawyers typically do). More to the point, I don't think I'd have much luck formatting an appellate brief (although admittedly I haven't yet tried).

    And as @mckinneylaw pointed out, it's not great for managing files, which if your paperless is something you're doing all the time. I tend to treat iCloud and OneDrive as work-in-progress boxes, since you can't do much else with them. That works, but again, it's clunky.

    I deal, though, because I would rather carry around an iPad than anything else. An 8" tablet is what I want to be carrying around, not a 3 lb. laptop in a backpack or shoulder bag. So I do, and when I was out of town for TECHSHOW I brought my 13" MacBook Pro but didn't open the lid once even though I was getting work done. Next time I leave town for work, I won't even bother with the laptop. The iPad is enough for me.

  • chadmurraychadmurray Decatur, IL

    @samglover said:
    Actually I don't think you're very far off topic.

    I figured the great stylus debate might have gone into the weeds a little bit.

    But I find it really clunky for creating posts in WordPress and for working on the website (not that web development is something lawyers typically do). More to the point, I don't think I'd have much luck formatting an appellate brief (although admittedly I haven't yet tried).

    I definitely don't use my iPad Air 2 for heavy duty formatting or Squarespace posting, but I do use it to write in plaintext and then copy/paste when I get to a computer. Although if I was traveling, I can see that being difficult.

  • EagleLegalEagleLegal Louisiana

    I'm returning to this post to thank all for your comments! They were very helpful. I went ahead and ordered the Surface, and hope it will work well for me.

  • Does anyone have any suggestions on which size iPad Pro to go with? We operate a paperless office and I would be using the iPad Pro for notes, marking up PDFs, viewing files in court (in lieu of a laptop or yellow legal pad). The big one seems like it might be best in order to view whole page documents, but then again it may be overkill! Thanks in advance!

  • I have the large one now and it is great for document review. Split screen works really well on it b/c of the extra screen real estate. I'm not sure split screen would be a great experience on the smaller Pro. If it were me I would go with the bigger Pro.

  • Related to this thread I wanted to report that I picked up a Surface Pro 4 and have been using it for the last two weeks to get a feel for whether I like it better than Surface Pro 4. It's still early but here are my initial thoughts:

    iPad Pro is far and away a better tablet than Surface Pro. Surface Pro is really a laptop with a touch screen. The OS really isn't designed from the ground up for touch and there are very few Windows apps designed for tablet and touch.

    That being said, Surface is a nice piece of kit. I really like it. Windows is still super clunky and kind of a mess compared to Mac OS but it is much better than it used to be. I would even call it tolerable. And Surface benefits from the fact that many of the applications I rely heavily on (Office, OneNote) are designed for Windows first and it shows. OneNote is an especially good application for a litigation attorney.

    In short, iPad Pro and iOS is 85% to being where it needs to be to replace a laptop. But that last 15% is going to be really hard for most lawyers to work around. I can and have done it for an extended period of time. But using the Surface reminds me that it is nice to not have to work around those shortcomings.

    Right now, I think my recommended set up for lawyers would be a Surface Pro 4 plus an iPad Mini (or iPad Air if you have older eyes like me). But if you need one ring to rule them all, I think for a lawyer you have to go with the Surface for the time being.

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin

    @mckinneylaw said:
    But if you need one ring to rule them all, I think for a lawyer you have to go with the Surface for the time being.

    That's been my conclusion, as well. It's fun to figure out how to do everything on an iPad at first. Then you realize how much quicker and easier it would be if you just had a regular computer.

    But you can definitely do it. Before my wife got a Surface Pro 4 from work, her work tablet was an iPad Air, and she used that as her only computer away from the office. It worked just fine, but then again she's much happier with her Surface Pro 4, which kind of clinches it for me.

    As for Windows v. OS X, I remain convinced that it's mostly a matter of what you are used to. Use Windows for a few weeks, and you'll forget what you thought was so much better about OS X. And vice versa.

  • OK. I finished my test. Anyone want to purchase a Surface Pro 4 in really good condition?

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin

    Not for you, huh?

  • I absolutely love my iPad Pro (the big one).

    First, some caveats. This isn't my only device. I prefer to do my writing on my desktop computer. Also, my eyesight is terrible. Using most laptops is really uncomfortable for me because I have to hunch so close to a small screen. Also, I work as close to paperless as I can.

    For me, my iPad Pro has been a godsend. The larger screen works very well for blowing up even the smallest documents, and the pencil is a great stylus for marking up documents, highlighting PDFs, etc. Having mastered a few apps, I use a PDF app in place of a motion binder at hearings, and have found apps that allow me to touch or pencil my through arguments without difficulty. The intuitive nature of iPad apps makes finding what I'm looking for a snap. My Windows laptop—a nice Lenovo Yoga with a touchscreen, even—just doesn't compare.

    The big downside is writing. I like my templates and my professional fonts. With reduced versions of the Office apps, a lot of that is lost. In a pinch, I can work around it and fix things later from my desktop, but it's still a pain. I don't think I'd want to write a full appellate brief on my iPad.

Sign In or Register to comment.

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!