I’ve had my Surface 3 (4GB of RAM model) since the day it was released, use it heavily daily for both work and home, and love it. This past week it has taken its first road trip, vacation, and I couldn’t be happier with it.
Devices, Devices, Devices
Replacing my laptop on a trip isn’t an easy task for a tablet. I take lots of photos and lots of video, which means I need to be able to pull this data off of a few different sources (Canon 7D, GoPro, and Sony camcorder). Then there’s the sheer bulk of data to deal with, over 100GB on this trip the last I looked. Rather than trying to fit everything in the 45GB free on the Surface (by shooting less, deleting more, etc.), I decided from the start to store everything on my USB 3 2TB Western Digital My Passport external hard drive.
The Surface 3 has a single USB 3 port and a USB On-the-Go port. Unfortunately, I didn’t put much thinking into how I was going to hook everything up until the day before we left and I was unable to purchase an On-the-Go adapter. So, in order to get everything attached (CF card reader, external hard drive, second external hard drive for Lightroom import backups, and possibly simultaneously the camcorder), I ran to the store and picked up a small USB 3 hub by J5Create. I’ve had terrible experiences with USB hubs, but so far this one has worked admirably.
The Surface 3 was handled simultaneous photo import, copying to an external hard drive, with import backups going to second hard drive. Many times, I was also copying video off both the microSD slot on the Surface to the external hard drive and the camcorder via USB to the external hard drive. The Surface 3 handled it all incredibly well.
Lightroom and Smart Previews
My setup has the Lightroom catalog residing on the Surface 3, but the photos on the external hard drive for capacity reasons. I initially thought I would just have to edit photos with the external hard drive attached, until I remembered a feature I’ve never used introduced in Lightroom 5 called Smart Previews. Once configured, after import and while the external hard drive is still attached, Lightroom generates smaller versions of the full-sized photos you can view/edit/export when the originals are offline (the hard drive detached).
Generating the Smart Previews takes a while, so I usually kicked off the import as we were unloading at the cabin after a day out swimming or sight seeing.
Once the import and preview generation was complete, I put away all of the devices and was able to edit photos as time allowed. Lightroom 6 has an excellent Tablet Mode for editing which I took extensive use of while laying in bed at the end of the day.
The combination of the Surface 3’s ability to handle many devices at once and Lightroom’s Smart Previews and Tablet Mode make the Surface 3 an excellent travel companion.
If you’re contemplating a Surface 3 but the Atom processor name worries you, like it did me, fear not.