back to article Microsoft has made a Surface slab that mere mortals can dismantle

The Surface Pro X is in the hands of US users and the iFixit crew has already ripped into it. The repairability results might please Microsoft's legions of loyalists but give iPad fanbois pause for thought. While the Surface Pro X components were on display for all to see at Microsoft's Ignite event, the chippery was securely …

  1. djstardust

    Oh dear

    Just read a few reviews and it seems to be rubbish basically.

    Why couldn't they have dedicated the time to the Surface Pro instead and gave it smaller bezels and a couple of more ports. At least it sells in decent numbers and badly needs a refresh.

    Who makes the decision to make these products and why does nobody actually test them before release?

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear

      It is a chicken and egg situation.

      The PC is a new generation of ARM Windows PCs, but it needs ARM software. Until ARM software starts appearing, running Intel software under emulation is going to be a disappointment.

      I.e. the testers are "doing it wrong", to paraphrase Apple. But until common applications start to appear, they can't really do it right.

      1. J27 Bronze badge

        Re: Oh dear

        If ARM software starts appearing. I'm a little surprised we're not seeing more ARM-based servers. That application seems to be an easier way to start. It only needs to have the support of the applications you need to serve. For me that would be a web server and that's it, then I could host my front-end on cheap ARM hardware with a lot of cores for greater efficiency.

        I'm not convinced they'll get customer buy in on this, but it would be nice if they did. It opens up the Windows hardware market a lot more.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Oh dear

          It depends, a lot of servers today are virtual. You have dozens of virtual servers running on a hypervisor (VMWare ESXi, Microsoft HyperV, KVM, Xen etc.). For that you need a fairly meaty server and ARM just isn't there, with the raw power, yet - at least not in numbers, there are a couple of manufacturers making big ARM server chips, but they are up against AMD Epyc and Intel Xeon Platinum designs.

          I have a Rasberry Pi at home running as a DNS server, but apart from that, I haven't seen a bare metal server in several years.

          At work we currently have a 3-way VMWare cluster at each site running all the servers we need on top.

          Hosting is often the same, dozens of clients running on one physical server.

          I think it will come, eventually, but at the moment it is still niche, because of the power/performance ratio. If you need a low powered, dedicated server, there are some options, but for most businesses, they want the most bang they can get for their money.

    2. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear

      Depends upon your use case. My 'proper' work is all on virtual machines running on a biggish PC. If I'm using my Surface, it's either to browse web, do email or remote desktop to a work VM. This will be fine for that.

      I currently have a Surface Pro 4. Completely over the top for my requirements. I'd certainly consider a lower powered tablet/laptop when it finally dies. That said, current favourite is a Dell XPS rather than another Surface - just too easy to break.

  2. ATeal

    Surely ARM is the problem?

    Is this not windows RT all over again? Forgive me if this is ignorant of some great leaps I've missed I don't use this stuff (or macs - yep one of those 12 people)

    Having said that I'd rather have x86(-64) emulated on ARM than the other way around because of the register counts - but I still can't see that being very good, does it go full JIT? I'd love to see some stuff about how they decided what was worth JITting (the algorithm behind that) also the article mentions intel /32/ bit, what's the point here? Although there is loads of 32 bit stuff still in use (there's loads of everything still in use!) are pure x86(not -64) builds still that common for things?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Surely ARM is the problem?

      ARM is not a problem unless you have x86 binaries you want to run.

      MS's C/C++ compilers can cross-compile ARM-native code. The problem is actually DOING it.

      If you restrict your shipped applications to x86 amd64 and "CLR", *THAT* is the problem!

      Unless WIn-10-nic on these ARM devices is being limited to "store only" there should be no issue, except that ARM code is currently a bit slower due to 3Ghz RISC and not 4Ghz CISC.

      [CISC uses fewer instructions, so in theory SHOULD be faster, but will run hotter and eat battery more quickly]

      NOT being able to easily change the battery means that it's expected to only last 2-3 years. For the typical investment in a Surface, that's a DEAL BREAKER with me, other than the Win-10-nic and any proprietary stuff that tries to STOP me from running Linux or FreeBSD on it.

      /me does FBSD and Linux on RPi, no problems there. Assuming similar ARM core, maybe slightly better, OBVIOUSLY faster, you'd think you'd just have a better performing version, right?

      Underneath the hood, the ARM and MIPS and other non-x86 systems typically use a different method of figuring out what hardware they have [OFW/FDT for RPi]. ACPI has ruled x86 and amd64 for decades, but is occasionally a problem with non-windows OSs. I do not know what is happening with ARM/Surface but I expect it's ACPI and/or similar, secure boot, locked down, cannot run THE OS OF YOUR CHOICE on it without a 'jailbreak', which is (in MY bombastic opinion) *THE* *BIGGEST* *PROBLEM* *WITH* *THESE* *MACHINES* !!!!!

      Oh and the battery needs to be REPLACEABLE. The cost of a 2-pin inline connector is TRIVIAL and a properly designed one would NOT take up enough physical space to matter. MS: Just void the warranty for opening the thing up and replacing the battery, and nobody will mind. Seriously. We _WANT_ to be able to replace the fastest wearing out most commonly replaced component.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Surely ARM is the problem?

      From reviews of previous Windows on ARM laptops:

      For software compiled for ARM, it will give you about the same performance as a comparable Intel chip - Y series for a Snapdragon, U series for an Apple A series chip.

      32 bit Intel binaries will run at about 1/3 of the speed of ARM binaries. 64 bit Intel binaries won't run at all.

      I think this is something that will be viable in about 2-3 years time. We just aren't there yet. Also, I think the MacBook Air will be the first viable model to come out.

    3. J27 Bronze badge

      Re: Surely ARM is the problem?

      They've also managed to get the emulated x86 code to call the native ARM Windows API, which improves performance significantly because any Win32 calls are native. I'm not convinced it makes sense without native applications either, but it's not quite as bad. WinRT would just refuse to run non-ARM apps. .NET obviously is unaffected and will run on anything it has support for.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surely ARM is the problem?

      ARM is not a problem if you are using ARM code and this is where the whole windows on anything other than a PC falls down. Anyone running windows wants to use the existing windows applications or why bother with windows at all.

      MS keeps trying to shoehorn their way into the ARM markets but the fact is windows just doesn't fit.

      Windows is faithfully married to intel, no amount of pretending will make windows into the swinger that UNIX always was.

  3. Stoneshop Silver badge

    a Surface slab that mere mortals can dismantle

    ... in a reversible way. Just dismantling is not a problem really.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: a Surface slab that mere mortals can dismantle

      but will it survive a FLOAT TEST?

      (you know, if it floats it's ok [but needs replacing since it's now water logged], and if it sinks, it's bad and needed to be replaced)

      1. Montreal Sean

        Re: a Surface slab that mere mortals can dismantle

        @bombastic Bob

        If it floats, it's a witch.

        1. DJV Silver badge

          Re: a Surface slab that mere mortals can dismantle

          Burn it!

  4. HKmk23

    8GB ram????

    Is this just an Outlook machine? For Windows 10 16GB is a minimum.

    1. Filippo

      Re: 8GB ram????

      That's just not true. I've worked on a Win10 machine with 8 GB for years before upgrading to 16 GB. You need to be well into power user territory before the difference becomes noticeable.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: 8GB ram????

        In fact, I've worked on Windows 10 machines with even less. I currently have a machine here with only four gigabytes of memory, and that one works fine. It's probably not the best machine to use when running memory-hungry software like some IDEs, but it does just fine running more standard software under both Windows and Linux, and I rarely notice the difference.

        At one point, I had the pleasure of using a cheap Windows tablet with a whole one gigabyte of memory. I did notice that, but the Intel atom it was paired with was the more annoying of the specs. Even with that, however, the device ran. I could write code and read email with ease until I gave it back to its owner and started using my machines again.

  5. LucasNorth

    What’s with el reg’s constant whining about torx screws?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What’s with el reg’s constant whining about torx screws?

      proprietry fastners you mean? where they serve no purpose other than to force the owner to buy proprietry tools if they wish to service their own product.

      The article title might give you a clue

      1. bpfh Silver badge

        Re: What’s with el reg’s constant whining about torx screws?

        Reminds my of our complaints about taking Thinkpads apart when the new models had - horrors of horrors - a flat head screw holding in a modem board that needed to be removed to replace the charge regulation board when us field engineers only had a the company provided set of Philips screwdrivers.

        And that’s how I got a Swiss Army knife expensed by the blue elephant.

      2. Montreal Sean

        Re: What’s with el reg’s constant whining about torx screws?

        Torx screws are not proprietary, they are fairly common.

        They don't strip as easily as a Philips head, especially at the tiny laptop screw sizes.

  6. Andy Landy

    but will it blend?

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