lowlevel.ca ...everything is almost awesome.

Frances needs a computer.

My wife is currently without a computer to call her own. While she was working, her employer provided computer(s) were enough to meet her needs... but since going on the sick list, she has had to return those and make do with whatever was laying around here. So she's been switching between my old Windows 7 "gaming" desktop, and my old 13" MacBook Air... wanting the freedom of a laptop, but being more comfortable on windows has really made using either of my old computers kind of a hassle for her.

With her birthday coming up, I thought it would be nice to get her a laptop. She wanted something like the macbook air but with Windows. So we're checking out the typical review sites, and the general consensus is that the Dell XPS 13 is the cats ass of 'ultrabooks'. BestBuy had it in stock, so I put it on reserve and went and got it. Opening the box was a delight. Dell has done a nice job with the packaging, however when we lift the lid.. the keyboard was blingual.

XPS13

I'm not sure when this happened, but it seems you can't buy the US keyboard layout model in Canada. The product images on the BestBuy website clearly showed the US layout... but they buried the dreaded B word (Bilingual) in the fine print. I felt cheated, Frances wasn't worried about it so we gave it a chance.

If you're ever saddled with one of these, you can try to remap the troublesome keys with KeyTweak . I think \ to enter, and < to left shift got us 90% there... Sometimes you can order the US version and swap it out, but due to the way they molded the case/keyboard mask that didn't look like an option on this XPS.

Overall the XPS 13 was a nice computer. It was fast, seemed to be well built. Good battery life. Not too heavy. The screen was beautiful. Sadly, we (along with a long list of unhappy people on the internet) had problems with the track pad. There were delays before cursor would move. When you lift your finger off it, the mouse goes flying. When you're not even touching it, it just selects a bunch of crap on you and moves it on you. There was a driver update that helped, but there were still issues. To continue using the computer meant disabling the track pad and exclusively using a mouse... so back it went, bilingual keyboard and all.

So instead of just looking for another laptop, I decide to get her the Surface Pro 4 and the new Type Cover instead. We're both very happy with it out of the box. It's really quite nice to use... I find myself unable to put it down in the first few hours... taking especially long to set it up for her...yeah. The display driver seemed to crash or stop working twice on us, but it seemed to recover so we didn't think much of it.

After a day or two we start having problems with the type cover. Randomly, the track pad stops working and we have to physically disconnect and reconnect to get it working again. The display driver has stopped working messages start to get much worse. By the next day, the device isn't turning on when you pick it up. It's got a black screen and refuses to wake up. We do some 'dance' that I can't really recall to revive it.. which will have to be repeated every time the device sleeps.

The forums are alive, with the sound of anger and discontent. There are some work arounds posted, and I try some of them... nothing seems to make the device anywhere near stable. From what I could tell, all of the issues we were encountering with our Surface Pro 4 were wide spread and had remained unsolved since launch with no official acknowledgment from Microsoft that anything was wrong. One of my pro-Microsoft friends suggested bringing the device to the Microsoft store and they would swap it out for a new one... an idea I quickly dismissed as in my mind all that would do is eliminate the possibility of returning it for a refund.

Looks like we made the right choice. It's really too bad... I really liked the Surface, but it's just unlivable in it's current state. We returned it and just got an iPad Mini 4. Which, had been absolutely flawless with the obvious exception that it isn't a Windows computer.