I’ve Won a Prestigious Award

Whoever said no news is good news was a liar, because this news is good (and about two weeks late). My previous blog post about how awesome surface pro is for gaming won me a free Halo Spartan Assault Surface Pro.

My better half told me that having a party to honor myself for this prestigious award would be over the top and narcissistic, so I took her advice and had her make a video of me opening it in the kitchen.
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Microsoft Surface: Tablet Gaming Evolved

I was certainly late to jump on the tablet bandwagon. Recently, I’ve noticed my PS3 and giant gaming PC haven’t been getting the attention they are used to. Why? Because I’ve been logging probably more hours than healthy playing games on the Surface. It all started when I went on a two week vacation across the Atlantic. While packing, I realized it’s been about eight years since I’ve gone anywhere without my gargantuan laptop. Having the laptop full keyboard is nice, but using it on an airplane forces me into a contorted T-Rex arm typing  position.

I was determined not to lug the beast around Italy, so I decided to load up some games on the Surface. Everything went better than expected, and I was able to get in some quality gaming when I wasn’t out exploring the world. The eight hour flight was joyously filled with gaming. I didn’t have to deal with cramped laptop arms while getting to rock 1080p resolution. Sure there were other people gaming on their ‘tablets’, you know ‘games’ like Angry Birds and Words with Friends. No thanks.

Below are four games that get the Patrick Davis seal of approval for maximum surface enjoyment.

Civilization 5: A Brave New World

Civ5

Made for Surface Pro

This game was made for the Surface. I was skeptical about playing it without a keyboard, but the keyboard was completely unnecessary. The type-keyboard sat neglected and lonely, neatly folded behind the screen for the entirety of my playing. I’ve always been a fan of Civ games, but being able to play anywhere can have serious productivity destroying repercussions.

Mark of the Ninja

Mark of the Ninja

Surface Ninja

One of, if not the best Stealth games of all time. My favorite way to play this is to plug in a controller and use the mini display port output to a HDTV. The game plays perfectly fine with a keyboard if that suites your fancy.

X-Com Enemy Unknown

This is another strategy gem I’ve fallen in love with. The original X-Com from the 90s remains one of my favorite games of all time. I haven’t tried to play this sans keyboard/mouse. I prefer the type cover keyboard and a Bluetooth mouse.

Halo: Spartan Assault

Halo always brings back college memories of sixteen guys hauling a bunch of TVs and X-Boxes to a LAN Party. Spartan Assault is only 6.99 on the Windows Store, so it won’t set you back as much as a any of the above games. It’s a top down shooter based in the Halo Universe. I felt comfortable with the touch screen controls after going through the tutorial.

Halo: Spartan Assault

Halo on the Surface

It somewhat reminds me of an old gem from the 8 bit era called smash TV. Whats not to like about blowing up the covenant in a glorious manner. It seems like most of the Halo staples are in the game, including weapons and vehicles. It also features achievements and weapons unlocks you can buy between missions. Fun game, certainly worth the $6.99 price tag.

I never expected the Surface to be a gaming device, but after a few months of ownership it’s filled the role perfectly.

Windows 8.1 on Microsoft Surface Pro

With the recently announcement of Microsoft Windows 8.1 pre-release at build, I figured I’d try it out on my Surface Pro. I’m not what you would call a ‘Microsoft fan boy’ but I really do like this device. I won’t go into too many details, but I will say that being the only ‘mobile’ OS that runs steam doesn’t hurt. I also wasn’t overwhelmed by the initial 8.0 release, but I will say it’s really grown on me, especially when using a touch enabled device.

 Installation

  1. Go to http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/preview-download and click download. Windows will ask you to install an update, so far so good. 
  2. Restart.
  3. When the system comes back up, you’ll be prompted to upgrade. After about 30 minutes you’ll have windows 8.1.

Whats New

New Windows 8.1 Settings

New Windows 8.1 Settings

First and foremost, the start button is back. It still only takes your to the start screen, whereas I was expecting a full return of the old school start menu. I did discover that right clicking on it gives you a powerusers menu that has options to open the most used control panel options like ‘Power Options’ and ‘Programs and Features’ as well as the ability to open Powershell and File Explorer. The most impressive however, is the ability to SHUTDOWN the system without going into ‘Settings’->’Power’ which never made much sense to me.

Apps by Category

Apps by Category

There is also a new categorized view off of the start menu. I’m not the ideal user of Windows 8 since I don’t use all that many ‘Windows Apps’. What sold me on the Surface Pro is that it’s really an Ultra-book that can be a tablet when you go into the bathroom or want to read in bed.  Any feature that lets me organize my ‘real’ programs better is a +1 for me. You can also sort by ‘Most Used’, which will probably what I will end up defaulting to.

The Photo viewing app seems a lot better, offering the ability to press left and right arrow keys to move through photos, a feature that was strangely missing from the previous version.

I ran a few Chocolatey installs with no issue, so compatibility seems to be more or less the same. My start menu icons for non-store apps seem to be color coating their backgrounds a little better, before I remember them being mostly gray.

The Important Stuff

My favorite thing about the surface is that it’s great for entertainment. Being able to plug in an HDMI cable (requires micro display port adapter) and getting video and sound into a stereo receiver is great. Being that it’s the size of a small notebook you can take anywhere, it makes for a great multimedia experience.

Multi-monitor has been improved, you can now keep the start screen opened on one monitor and have your windows desktop on the other. You can also have a metro app on each screen. You can also have four apps across two screens.

There are four Apps

There are four Apps

Steam

Steam2Go

Steam still works great, I enjoy using big picture mode hooked up to my TV. Driver compatibility seems to be the same as with Window 8.0. My PlayStation 3 controller still works, which makes for a great mobile gaming platform as long as you don’t require cutting edge graphics.

Development

I’m in the process of downloading the Visual Studio Express 8.1 and trying out some of the features. I’ll do a separate post once I get familiar with the software.