Why choose a Surface Pro 3 for music production?

Welcome to Surface Pro Audio a brand new series of blogs and videos that talk about making music on the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. We’ll also be looking at any desktop based multi-touch software that’s relevant to music production. All the videos will be hosted and sponsored by Molten Music Technology – builders of awesome PC’s for music, audio and video production – and you can find their YouTube channel over at: http://www.youtube.com/user/MoltenMusicTech

Over the next few weeks and months I’ll be demonstrating how well the SP3 copes with music production and performance software, how well it runs with audio interfaces and controllers and generally talking about the things that make this a cool music making platform. I intend to have both written and video versions of any content I create, but i’ll also be posting news and links to other relevant multi-touchy-feely material.

So, below is the first video of what I’m calling “Surface Sessions”, followed by the written version, talking about why I chose a Surface Pro 3 over, say, a MacBook Air and which model I’m going to pre-order before their UK release in a couple of days.

I need a new laptop – I’ve got some regular gigs coming up over the next year and so I need a performance platform and also somewhere away from my main desktop studio to work on ideas and fiddle with music – and I can’t keep borrowing my wife’s laptop. We are a couple of days from the UK release of the Surface Pro 3 on the 28th August and in this our first Surface Session I wanted to talk a little bit about why I’m choosing the Surface over the more obvious choices available from Apple.

I know lots of people who perform using a MacBook of some description – they are well made, decent computers that do the job well. On the PC side, unless you buy a machine from a dedicated audio PC builder like Molten Music Tech then they can vary enormously in terms of quality, reliability and suitability for the task. The Surface Pro 3 radiates the aura of a decent, well made computer, so the dismissive “PC’s are crap” angle doesn’t really work here.

In a direct comparison the Surface Pro is has similarities to both the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. The Surface is architecturally similar to the MacBook Air but for the same price you get a faster processor and a higher resolution screen on the Surface. The Air only goes up to an i5 and 4GB of RAM, the Surface can do up to i7 and 8GB *edit – it’s been pointed out that the Air can also go up to an i7 and 8GB of RAM which you can configure if you press on the “Buy Now” button, weird how it’s not mentioned on the main page. The MacBook Pro with retina display has a more comparable screen and wins out on processor speed but for an i7 processor you have to opt for the 15” version which at about 2 and half times the weight of the Surface is fast moving away from being remotely similar. So the Surface Pro 3 sits somewhere between the MacBook Air and Pro and has no problem holding its own in terms of build quality, specs and pricing – I don’t think you could have said that about a Windows laptop before.

We shouldn’t forget though that Apple throw in a keyboard and trackpad for free but Microsoft do throw in a 10 point multi-touch screen and an active digital pen.

On the OS side I’m a fan of Windows, I really like 8.1 and I’m quite excited by the prospect of Windows 9 next year. I have nothing against OSX but actually, when using creative software the OS is pretty much irrelevant.

The one obvious factor that stares you in the face and is for me what makes the Surface Pro 3 the most interesting choice is that it’s a bleedin’ tablet. In live performance there’s nothing worse than in that intense, terrifying environment trying to locate the mouse pointer with a trackpad. The ability to touch the screen, trigger events and edit parameters instantly with a finger is simply fabulous – and this isn’t an underpowered iPad running a couple of cute apps, this is a fully fledged desktop computer running Ableton Live or Maschine or Pro Tools or whatever I wish to run.

So final question – which model? Well forget the i3, the 64GB SSD is just not big enough to hold my software and sample library. The first i5 with the 128GB drive has the right sort of power and just enough space and a cool price tag of £849 – this is probably the sweet spot but the 4GB of RAM just fills me with niggling doubts. I think it’s the smart choice, the sweet spot of price and performance but I’ll always be wishing I opted for the next one – same i5 processor, 256GB drive which is plenty and the reassuring 8GB of RAM which will mean I can run loads of virtual instruments, samples and stuff. So although it totally blows my budget I don’t think I’d be totally happy unless I get this one. The i7 doesn’t really interest me because it’s way over budget, will probably get a bit hot and noisy and I’ve been performing using an i3 for the last couple of years so I don’t actually think I need it.

So here we are – I’m going to go for it and then this journey begins. Annoyingly I’ll actually be away camping when it arrives on Thursday so I’ll spare you any unboxing ceremonies on the day of release, but when I return I’ll get stuck straight into installing music production software and blogging about my experiences. So please head over to surfaceproaudio.com to keep yourself updated and subscribe to the Molten Music Technology youtube channel for more Surface Sessions in the weeks and months to come.