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How to Remotely Test Surface Tablets Article

A question we often hear is, “how can I manually test apps on a Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet?” Such tests are possible, but a key difference exists from the approaches used to test iOS and Android mobile devices.

Tablets that Are Laptops

The most significant difference between the Surface Pro tablet and those produced by Apple, Samsung, HTC, and about a hundred other manufacturers is that the Surface is not a traditional mobile device. If I had to categorize it, I’d call it a laptop in a tablet form factor.

But I am not alone. Microsoft is pretty clear in their advertising what role they envision for Surface:

That really says it all, because:

  • Surface runs Desktop Windows. The Surface does not run a mobile operating system – it runs the same version of Windows that runs on any laptop or desktop system.
  • Surface does not have a mobile connector. Mobile devices running iOS or Android are designed to be peripherals that can be plugged into and controlled by a traditional laptop or server.  Mobile devices have custom ports (Lightning or micro-USB) that plug into a laptop or a server 

Shown below are the connectors for an Apple Lightning cable used with iPhones and iPads; the USB end (shown at right, below) plugs into a laptop or desktop and the smart-device connector (shown on the left below) plugs into a mobile device. The right-hand connector is the same type shown above.

One irony is that a lightning cable can be used to connect an iPhone or iPad to a Surface tablet to run iTunes just as any other laptop or desktop. That means Surface can back up the iPhone, photo-load, music-load, and install apps. The same applies to Android devices. As with all laptops and desktops running desktop Windows, however, Surface does not have a port that connects it by USB to make it a peripheral to another laptop or server. Like any other Windows system, however, Surface is able to do peer-to-peer networking, file sharing, and printer sharing – in some cases using USB as the network connector.

  • Ready for Desktop Applications. Surface Pro sports an Intel Core processor (i3, i5, or i7) and is able to run the same Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop suites that desktops or other laptops can run.
  • Smaller Model uses Intel Atom Processor.  The Surface 3 also runs the desktop version of Windows 10 and its applications. The smaller system has the same capabilities of its big brother:


  • The “full size USB 3.0” port is ready to plug in an iPhone or an Android device for backup or other purposes, just as with any laptop.

Peripheral Capability

There are some mobile-like capabilities available with Surface including 4G LTE, sensors we have come to expect in mobile devices (GPS, ambient light, proximity, accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer). There are also the peripherals expected on a laptop or desktop:

  • Camera and microphone
  • Full-size USB 3.0 port
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • Micro SD card reader
  • Charging port
  • Headset jack
  • Micro-SIM slot
  • Solid-state drive (SSD) up to 512GB
  • 8GB RAM

Remote Manual Testing

So, how to do remote manual testing of a Windows app on either Windows 10 or Windows 10 Professional? The answer is built in and something very familiar for networked Windows computers.


Windows Remote Desktop Connection enables remote control of any Windows desktop (including Surface 3 and Surface 3 Pro). Remote Desktop is configurable with regular Windows authorization or two-factor authentication or through a Remote Desktop Gateway if one has been set up.

The software functions much like a VNC client in that the user “takes over” control of the remote Windows device (in this case a Surface tablet).

And there you have it. Once it’s understood that Surface tablets are, in function and peripheral capability, actually like any other Windows desktop, the standard features of Windows and the entire universe of Windows applications can be put to use to remotely control and remotely test apps running on the tablet.

This blog was written by Mobile Labs Inc and originally published


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