As soon as I obtained Microsoft’s new laptop/tablet convertible, the Surface Pro, I had to know if it could be used to effectively record a podcast.
We stopped using my iPad as a recording device for Radio Free Echo Rift a few months ago and returning to tablet recording intrigues me.
But there’s the rub. The first rule of the Surface Pro is: The Surface Pro is not a tablet or a competitor to the iPad.
The Surface Pro is heavier than an iPad, nearly twice as thick, and has a much larger power supply…
… BUT it also runs a full blown installation of Windows 8 Professional and offers compatibility for any Windows 7 (and possibly older) application, including Audacity.
The Surface Pro should be seen as a laptop with a touch screen and detachable keyboard. When compared to other laptops, it is an attractive size and weight and the added tablet functionality is pretty nice once you get over the steep Windows 8 learning curve.
Don’t expect to use Audacity with your finger (or any other non-Windows 8 app), you will podcast with Surface Pro in “laptop mode”. A keyboard with a touchpad or an external mouse is required. The Surface Pro’s pen is awkward to use as a mouse in “laptop mode”.
Echo Rift Productions are recorded using a Behringer XENYX mixing board patched to a computer via a Behringer USB202 analog-to-digital converter. If your recording setup requires more than one USB port beware, the Surface Pro only includes one.
I decided to record the fourth episode of Kids on Comics on the Surface Pro as a test. Audacity downloaded and installed as expected, and the Surface recognized the Behringer USB device and the inputs and outputs without a hitch.
Recording went as smoothly as you would expect on a brand new laptop with an Intel Core i5 processor with 2GB of memory. The recording sounded excellent and I was pleased with the result. I could have edited the file and exported it for upload to Libsyn directly from the Surface Pro, uploaded the entire .aup file to Dropbox or another computer on my home network, or even place the files on a MicroSD card and sneakernet them to another device.
The Surface Pro certainly does the job of podcasting, but is the Surface Pro right for your podcast?
If you are a Windows based user who is in the market for a new laptop for recording and want to add a tablet to your gadget repertoire, the Surface Pro deserves a serious look. The Surface functions well as a tablet, though the learning curve is much steeper than an iOS or Android tablet. The Surface is peppy and more responsive than most of the Android tablets I’ve used. There is a surprising dearth of social media apps available for Windows 8, though the app store seems to have all other bases covered with sufficient variety to suit my needs. The Surface offers front and back 720p webcams, and all of the other gingerbread you would expect on a premium tablet or laptop.
If you have already made an investment in an iPad or Android tablet (or iPad/Android apps), require more than one USB port to record, or find yourself working with a limited budget, you will probably find more cost effective laptops on the market that can record your show just as easily as the Surface Pro.
Don Garvey is co-host of Radio Free Echo Rift and Kids on Comics podcasts. He is also the writer and colorist for Echo Rift Comics. You can follow Don on Twitter or click the Contact Us page for more options.