Topic: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with TotalMix FX
I am experimenting with a MS Surface Pro 3 (256 GB, i5) to use with my UFX on location for both recording and as a mixer for sound reinforcement. There are a number of posts on Gear Slutz and elsewhere, as well as some videos, that demonstrate this tablet is more than adequate to run a DAW as long as one does not load too many plugins. For example:
I personally ran tests and it did not show any problems recording 20 tracks at 24/96 for over an hour. Testing is limited so far, but encouraging.
The biggest questions for me are more related to the touch screen interface and how it works practically in the field. I thought others may be interested in this so I will report my findings here. So far, I am pleased with running TM on the Surface with some tweaks and caveats:
1) At native resolution and normal zoom (100%) in TM, the TM window is very small both to see and to manipulate. But, the Surface has a 4 or 5 step slider under display preferences (separate from resolution) allowing one to make items smaller or larger. Sliding one step to "larger" from the default, and setting TM zoom to 200% and in 2-row mode works fairly well. For my purposes I need at most two playback channels visible on location, so in 2-row mode I can just slide them mostly out of sight and save room. The bottom of the TM window is just slightly off screen in this set up which I don't think will be a problem, but I need to test it more.
2) Using the normal touch screen, even in its larger view, can be awkward for a few reasons. First, you put your finger direct over what you want to adjust, meaning you can't see it (e.g., for fine fader movements). Second, there is a small lag in the responsiveness, so that for example you need to move a fader ~3-4 db before it registers, resulting in a significant jump or decrease in volume. Once it does register you can make finer adjustments, but this is still not ideal. Third, given the small fader sizes it is difficult to set faders precisely where you want.
3) Fortunately, the above problems seem to be solved by a nice little program I found called Touch Mouse Pointer. It emulates a touch pad on your touch screen. You can set it up different ways, including turning your entire Surface into a big touch pad. You can then move your pointer over a fader without your finger covering it, double click and drag to move the fader. It does not have the lag isssue I mentioned above, and the effective fader length is much larger. The documentation is limited and I am still experimenting with it. So far it seems to work perfectly.
Of course, a bluetooth mouse would work well for many applications. But one application for me is to run several monitor mixes from the stage for my band. So, I want the tablet on a mic stand and to not need a mouse. I can then also have a FOH guy using Touch OSC on an iPad linked to the Surface for a very compact system. The only limit I see is, due to maximum USB cable length of 5 m, the interface needs to be on stage near the Surface.
Another benefit for ease of set up is that the battery life seems long enough to go several hours, long enough for most concerts. This means I can have one less cable to set up, but of course I would keep a charger cable in my gig bag in the event I need it.
So far, I think this this will work out very well. I expect it will be a good option for any USB interface. I will report back any new info.