MS Surface Book and peripherals

My original Microsoft Surface Book keyboard died on me a couple of years ago and I got a Surface Laptop to replace it. The Laptop did not have a Graphics card so not so good at BIM.

I then realised I could cheaply purchase 2nd hand a lower spec Surface Book and switch over the keyboards. There were quite a few that are i7 and 8Gb RAM, whereas my original, that I was very happy with, had 16 Gb RAM. But the RAM is in the Tablet/Screen part and the keyboard has the Graphics card, so as long as the keyboard model is the same you can switch them.

So all well and good, I bought a couple of older Surface Book 1’s with 8Gb RAM and used the keyboard on my original machine.

I did attempt to repair the original keyboard by getting a replacement battery with no success and that it why it lay dormant for a while.

I’ve now got 3 Surface Books, all i7 , 2 8Gb Ram and one the original 16 Gb ram that I use. 2 have keyboards, one is just a tablet.

Keyboards

The keyboards aren’t great and some keys wear and others break, the current keyboard I’m using has a worn “A” & “S” and cracked “Ctrl” & “Right Shift” keys. I use selotape to fix them in place.

I just bought a Surface Book on TradeMe for 87$ that I thought I could use the keyboard if it wasn’t mogadored. I thought an integrated keyboard is definitely worth less than $100.

Now I’m reflecting on it I realise the battery could be munted, so I could have nothing useful from the purchase, and then I thought that I could pop the appropriate keys and replace the broken ones on my existing keyboard.

Then, thinking along these lines, the original munted keyboard could also be used for the same purpose too.

So its wait and see whether I have a good keyboard with an integrated Graphics card or whether it is only good for the actual key caps.

The video above shows how to setup the actual keys themselves.

The PC arrived, the tablet has been pulled apart, the screen is OK but the battery removed , so the tablet part is mogodored.

After splitting off the keyboard I see that it is model 1704 which is according to this article and comments from a lower spec’d Microsoft Surface Book so i5/i7 with 8Gb Ram with the lower Graphics card model.

The model 1705 keyboard has the Nvidia graphics card which is the one to go with the i7 16Gb laptop, my main PC.

I put it on my spare i7 8Gb Ram one and it works fine. So that has paid for itself straight away, as I now have a proper Surface Keyboard for that laptop that has been sitting idle.

Also it has a cracked left shift key but all the others are in great condition. I replaced the Ctrl, Right Shift & letter A on my main laptop so all the keys are great for that. Just for the Ctrl and Right Shift keys its about 50$ US, so with P & P that more than makes up for the price I paid for the parts for the laptop plus operational keyboard, so it was a good purchase (I was having my doubts about wisdom of purchasing it after totting up all my purchases- Streams Deck, dock & this defunked laptop) but am satisfied that it was a good decision.

Surface Dock

The Surface book has 2 USB ports and I have a fast Ethernet dongle connected to one & a wired gaming mouse to the other.

I’ve started to use the Gaming mouse and although I’ve only got one Gaming button configured so far, I like using it for the password for logging onto the computer, it makes it so convenient.

I’m still getting used to the gaming mouse and hope to start programming some other buttons later.

So my USB ports are all used up.

This has been a pain as I’ve been trying to setup a 2nd keyboard for hotkeys , but don’t have a USB port to plug the 2nd keyboard. Hence my search for a Microsoft Surface Dock.

Microsoft Surface Dock 2 goes for about 285$NZ but you can get one on TradeMe for between 150 -170$NZ +PP. It has 2 USB ports and a fast Ethernet port and a couple more, I’m interested in the extra USB Ports. As the Ethernet connection will allow me to free up 2 USB ports. I ended paying $147 including P&P and it finally arrived on Friday, August 20, 2021 during lockdown.

So this will allow me to explore 2nd keyboard options for productivity scripts.

I was quite surprised that the Dock plugs into the power port on the Microsoft Surface Book. I thought it would go into a USB port.

Quite pleased with that as I now have more ports freed up.

Testing the ethernet connection it seems to be as fast as the one I got before, so that is good.

Stream Deck.

I have decided to go with the Stream Deck to be able to mess around with a lot of hotkeys for different programs for productivity. The reason being its able to change the keys quickly without having to re-lable or memorise them, which you’d have to do on a standard keyboard.

I may go back down path of 2nd keyboard but first want to explore the Stream Deck for a lot of different programs.

I’m really interested in multi-commands on single key for increasing productivity by reducing repetitive tasks in a lot of computer day to day work.

This I bought early and have been playing with. I’m having a great time creating different profiles.

I had Stream Deck before Dock, and Stream Deck needs to be plugged directly into PC, not through a dock, so I had to disconnect my wired gaming mouse and use Bluetooth mices which are playing up on this laptop.

Now I have dock and Stream Deck I’m pretty much geared up to have the setup that I want.

Upgrading computer

Trade me is a bit enticing and has older surface books on sale. I’ve been watching for a later Book (say Book 2 or 3 but they are expensive.

The original Surface book is dual core and the book 2 is 4 core, so should process much faster, but only 8Gb RAM PC’s come up and I want 16 Gb. About 1000$ for Surface Book 1 and $1600 for Surface book 2 with only 8 Gb of Ram. I’m wondering if CPU may offset RAM.

There is an article on Surface Book 2 v 3 that is interesting. NZ laptops seems to have good ex lease machines but pretty much all are 8Gb.

My normal thoughts are that a better spec PC will last, but beggars can’t be choosers and I’m not CAD/BIM’ing all the time, so it may be a bit slower but as I’m not using it/being paid for it all the time it might be better to look at whats on offer on TradeMe.

I was working out age of this Surface Book 1, its starting to be quirky, where peripherals such as keyboard and blue tooth devices start not to work and the PC requires a reboot to sort them out. I think I bought it around 2015 so about 6 years old now.

There was one that is offered, same spec, on trade me for $950 but it will be the same age so I don’t think that is the way to go. With limited resources I think its better to upspec to the Microsoft Surface Book 2 with less RAM. I’m sitting on that for the moment but I think it’s the way to go.

End comment

So after a bit of a wild spend on things for productivity I’m pleased with my purchases. I still need to think about updating my computer but I’ll leave that for a while.

I’m really loving the Stream Deck and now I have the dock I’ll be doing a video on productivity soon.

The setup of Stream Deck are in other articles.