Windows 10 on a Surface Pro 3: Six things I like, four I don't

While Windows 10 puts the focus back on the desktop, it's still a solid upgrade for Surface Pro 3 owners. The consistent desktop experience is pleasing while the tablet mode is just what I always wanted.

The Windows 10 update appeared on my docked Surface Pro 3 last week. After the install and reboot, the first thing I noticed was that my slick Metro-style app icon launcher was gone. What did Microsoft do to my tablet?

As ZDNet's Ed Bott and Mary Jo Foley comprehensively covered in their Windows 10 articles here and here, Microsoft's focus was on bringing the desktop experience back to Windows.

This is perfectly understandable given that most Windows users function daily in desktop mode and I know engineers at my company will love to see the return of a more familiar working environment.

Thankfully, tablet owners like myself also benefit from the Windows 10 update as we get the best of both worlds. You see, in laptop or docked mode the default is for Windows 10 to appear as a desktop. Pop out your Surface Pro 3 or snap off the keyboard and the option to launch in tablet mode appears.

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Here's what I like in Windows 10 on my Surface Pro 3

  1. Start menu: I don't use a ton of apps and was fine with the Metro UI in Windows 8.1, but I do like the new Start menu that lives right on the desktop. I prefer the consistent experience, but also the option to pop right into tablet mode when I disconnect from the keyboard or dock.
  2. Edge browser: Chrome is my most used browser, but I am enjoying the Edge browser in Windows 10. It's fast, I like the reading mode, and so far everything has rendered just fine. I don't use many extensions so that isn't too much of an issue yet.
  3. Task view: I often forgot the slide in and back out to show running apps so I find the quick button to the task view to be a better implementation. I am also pleased that this task view is available via a simple Alt-Tab.
  4. Revamped settings: I like the new design and layout of the settings area. While I often went back to the Windows XP design of settings, I don't mind new layouts if they function better for me. The consistency, toggle controllers, and options please me.
  5. Fresh File Explorer: File Explorer has been one of those things that never changes, but I quickly noticed the slightly updated layout and design in Windows 10. I am finding files easier using the quick access section.
  6. Office optimized for touch: Microsoft should have launched the first Surface device with a touch-friendly version of Office, but they missed that opportunity. Thankfully, you can now download the three Office Mobile apps from the Windows Store.

Here's what I do not like in Windows 10 (corrected below with new Windows 10 update released on August 5th).

  1. Mail and Calendar don't work: The new Mail app closed on me every time I tried opening it up just after the update. I tried a few restarts and was able to then get my accounts set up through Calendar. Today, both apps close after about 15 seconds and I haven't yet found a way to uninstall and reinstall them so I have resorted to using my browser to check my email and calendar.
  2. Can't organize Action Center settings: A few key settings and toggle buttons appear over on the right side in the Action Center. However, I have not yet found a way to select, remove, or organize these quick settings such as what I have come to expect on a phone.
  3. Access to my VPN: I used to swipe over from the right to access the charm bar, tap on my work VPN shortcut, then tap connect. I now have to tap the WiFi icon on the task bar, tap the VPN shortcut name (then opens up network & internet settings), tap the VPN shortcut name again, and then tap connect. It's only one more tap, but it's in a couple different places and inconvenient.
  4. Speaker through the dock doesn't work: I'm running the same setup as Windows 8.1, but for some reason I can't get my audio back to playing in Windows 10 through my Surface Pro dock and external speaker. I've tried configuring every audio setting I can find, without success.

Update: Microsoft released an update for Windows 10 today and after installing that update my Mail and Calendar applications appear to work perfectly. I also now have audio playing through the Microsoft dock.

Readers also provided some input on the Action Center and VPN so I now have a shortcut in Action Center that is better than the method I was using to access VPN. Windows 10 is improving and with it my Surface Pro 3 remains the best computer I have ever purchased.

ZDNet's Mary Branscombe has her own concerns about Windows 10 and is going back to Windows 8.1. I don't rely that much on OneDrive so am fine with using the web-based interface for now, but completely understand her problem having a device with limited onboard storage.

I need to do some more investigation and resolve my issues with Mail since that is killing my productivity and a core app like that must work consistently. I like having a desktop mode when my Surface Pro 3 is in the dock and then switching to a tablet-optimized mode when it is out and about.

Cortana is great on Windows Phone devices, but because my speaker isn't working in the dock and it seems like there is lag in Cortana listening to my speech I am going to hold back my judgement of that service at this time.

There is a lot going on in Windows 10, so some of my dislikes may be resolved with further guidance and experience. I also need to test out my battery life while in tablet mode.

I'm a bit concerned that the current release is buggier than it should be, but then again I doubt many businesses are upgrading right away as they evaluate compatibility and ensure critical software and systems will function after the upgrade. That means you and I get to be beta testers for a while as Microsoft works out the kinks.