Surface Pro, Lumia 920, and iPhone 5 walk into a press conference

We have many different mobile devices available for our specific needs. This week I took a few devices on a road test and found they went above and beyond my expectations.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
A Surface Pro, Lumia 920, and iPhone 5 walk into a press conference

Readers seem to enjoy articles on how mobile tech fits into my life and it also gives you perspective on where I am coming from when I post here on ZDNet.

Earlier this week I flew from Seattle to New York to attend the HTC One launch event; and my Microsoft Surface Pro, Nokia Lumia 920, and Apple iPhone 5 served me even better than I expected.

Microsoft Surface Pro

Since this was just a two day trip where I didn't want to check in luggage, I decided to take just the Surface Pro as my only computer to travel as light as possible.

Unfortunately, I also had to take the A/C adapter and cable which caused me to then wish for a USB cable to charge the Surface Pro. With a USB cable I could charge up the Surface using a portable battery or one of the slim USB to A/C adapters I have floating around. One benefit of the Surface Pro charger from Microsoft is that a USB port is on the charging brick so I was able to charge up a phone at the same time.

I rented a movie to watch via Xbox Video and also downloaded the latest episodes of Walking Dead and Clone Wars in iTunes on the Surface Pro. I had already purchased these seasons on iTunes and almost bought them again on Xbox Video before I realized I can just intall the full Windows version of iTunes to access this content. This gave me lots of content to enjoy on my cross country flights and the kickstand on the Surface worked well on the tray table.

I wrote a couple of blog posts using my cyan Touch Cover and the awesome Notepad Classic application. I used the Chrome browser to post to ZDNet and also stay in touch with people on Twitter.

At the HTC One launch event there were Ethernet cables on each chair, but without an Ethernet port I used the solid WiFi connection instead. We sat in white plastic patio chairs without tables and I was able to type just fine on my Surface with the Touch Cover keyboard and both legs together to serve as a solid platform. I was actually surprised by how well I was able to have the Surface propped up and used on my lap -- as this was my first extended test of this arrangement. (BTW, I typed up this post on my Surface Pro while on my train commute this morning, but there was a table available.)

I captured a bit of video (more on that later) and figured I would process it and post it when I arrived home and connected my phone to my MacBook Pro.

Since I had a couple hours to burn at the airport, I decided to see what the Surface Pro could handle -- so I connected my Nokia Lumia 920 and imported the video to Microsoft Movie Maker. I was surprised how easy of a process that was and then found it dead simple to add a title page and post directly to my YouTube account. The entire process took something like 20 minutes, including the video upload via a tethered connection (see below).

I think I've found my new video processing machine. Honestly, my stupid MacBook Pro has been suffering from kernel panics (the Apple Store can't even solve the problem) and restarted most of the time when I try to play or process videos which is a major reason I have not been posting many videos here on ZDNet.

As a group manager, I also have to review and approve billing timesheets each week in Deltek Vision. I was able to go to the Desktop, run Vision, and get everything in on time thanks to the full Windows support of the Surface Pro.

The more I use it, the more I am convinced that the Surface Pro may be my favorite tech purchase in a long time. I know there are more powerful Windows 8 devices, but none with such power in a super slim and light package.

I never had a low battery issue since there were ample outlets at the airport and in my hotel room. I ran on battery at the launch event, but it wasn't long enough to impact my Surface usage there.

Nokia Lumia 920


I brought the Lumia 920 primarily due to its OIS (optical image stabilization) camera. I used it all season to capture my daughter's basketball games and find the ability to capture steady video to be important. I used the Lumia 920 to capture the video in this hands-on post and found it worked well with the Surface and Movie Maker.

I could have used the Lumia 920 to tether my Surface Pro at the airport and my hotel since I find the paid connections at these locations to be worse than a cellular connection. I actually go online and upgrade my AT&T account from my standard 3GB data plan to 5GB (includes tethering support) when I travel, but went with the scheme below on this trip.

It's a good thing I did bring the Nokia Lumia 920, since Nokia released their Nokia Music+ service upgrade the day I was flying home and I was able to test it out. I loaded up a few offline radio stations and listened to music on the 920 for about four of the six hours on the return trip and it was a great experience.

Apple iPhone 5


I paid full price for my iPhone 5 so I could keep my grandfathered unlimited Verizon data plan in effect. Since I believe Verizon will eventually shut down this option and I honestly don't use that much data (it's still $30+ cheaper than the new lowest tier plans) I figured I would try the jailbreak option and test tethering. I was surprised by how easy it was to jailbreak the iPhone today since I recall entering command lines in Terminal to get my old iPhones jailbroken.

I bought the TetherMe utility and was able to easily tether my Surface Pro to my Verizon LTE account. As I mentioned, I find hotel WiFi connections to be unacceptable the majority of the time and think airports should offer it for free. The iPhone connection worked quite well and I was able to upload my processed video directly from Movie Maker to YouTube.

I also used my iPhone 5 to check train schedules and help me navigate around New York City as I walked to dinner and the HTC One launch event.

Related ZDNet Surface coverage:

Trip summary

My experience this week went even better than I planned, with these three mobile devices serving me well. I traveled for a two day trip with just a single backpack carrying my mobile gear, extra underwear, a shirt, and basic toiletries. It was nice to carry-on a single bag and haul just one bag around New York City and the airports.

The Surface Pro went above and beyond my expectations with its ability to quickly create and process videos, import and edit photos, approve timesheets for my employees, and give me a full PC experience without any limitations.

The Lumia 920 OIS continues to impress me and I look forward to testing out this functionality on the HTC One.

The Apple iPhone 5 continues to serve me well and the ability to easily jailbreak it lets me fix some of the issues I have with iOS while also letting me use my Verizon plan the way carriers should model plans. I could have left the iPhone 5 behind and tethered with the Lumia 920, but Verizon LTE is more widespread and I wanted to make sure I had a connection when I needed it.

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