A laptop, with a very thin keyboard and a metal kickstand. There is a bird on the screen. There is a pen in front of the laptop.

Microsoft Surface Pro 5 (with type cover)

Microsoft Surface Pro 5 i5/8GB/128GB costs ~£900
Type Cover costs ~£90

I was provided with this laptop by Disabled Students Allowance, and it’s a great piece of equipment. The Surface Pro range aren’t cheap, and I wouldn’t have been able to afford this on a computer outright, but having received it, it’s been very significant for me in terms of my academic work, but also personal projects (like this site).

The Surface Pro range are as light as computers get, coming in at under a kilo. This makes a significant difference to me in terms of my ability to move and reposition the machine independently and I was very lucky to receive it for that purpose. Because the Surface Pro 5 is actually a tablet, I also received the ‘Type Cover’, which turns it into a laptop and was a lot more useful than expected.

I struggle with firm keys on a keyboard, and the Type Cover has the softest keys I’ve ever encountered – making them really easy to touch and allowing me to type for longer. It also has a touchpad which is really sensitive, and small enough to use easily. It seems smaller than a typical keyboard or laptop keyboard, meaning that where I really struggle with the keyboard on a Lenovo Yoga 510 to which I have access, I find the Type Cover far easier.

The Surface Pro 5 itself is touchscreen, which I find myself using less than expected. Unless I have a specific reason to need touchscreen (like the Surface Pen), I tend to find the additional reach required puts me off using this. The on-screen keyboard has no haptic feedback and is very large, making the stretch to use it difficult.

I paid to upgrade the offer I was given by Disabled Students Allowance to go from a machine with 4GB RAM to a machine with 8GB RAM, and I’m very glad I did so. While 128GB of SSD doesn’t seem like very much, upgrading that was a lot more expensive, so I decided against it. With 8GB RAM the laptop is almost instantaneous, and doesn’t struggle with my 50+ Chrome tabs, 3 Word documents, and 4 or 5 other programs. I suspect if you were a gamer you’d want the bigger SSD, but I decided just to keep more of my documents in the Cloud, and on my removable hard drive, rather than storing everything on the machine.

I also bought the Surface Pen, which I had to pay for, and which was an incredible decision. I love to draw, but dexterity issues make me very bad at it. My handwriting is also dreadful, and I struggle to separate pieces of paper etc. The Surface Pen allowed me to take ‘handwritten’ notes, but organise them electronically, especially using OneNote. Now that I own this pen, I think I’d buy it again if I lost it.

While this would be an expensive choice for someone more able than I to use a standard laptop, as an adaptive piece of equipment, I really benefit from it.