Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Updates

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Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Introduction and design

Update: Sure, everyone is fawning over theSurface Pro 4these days. (And rightly so – it’s pretty stellar.) But, considering what you might need from a PC, you might not have to plunk down a huge wad of cash for Microsoft’s best yet.

In our bout ofSurface Pro 4 vs Surface Pro 3, you’ll be surprised by just how close in performance the two devices are. Meanwhile, surely you’ve seen how we’ve stacked the12.9-inch iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 3, but how is theSurface Pro 4 vs iPad Pro 9.7– the two firms’ latest against one another?

Finally, if you use a Surface Pro device in the office, you might get a kick out ofthe wacky ways that the Surface Pro 3 has been used by businesses.

Knock it for the Windows 8 launch. Lay into it for how it debuted the Xbox One. But, when it comes to its latest product, the Surface Pro 3, don’t pull out the torches and pitchforks just yet – Microsoft is onto something here.

Over the past few years, the Redmond, Wash. Windows maker has proved to be one of the bolder technology companies, for better or worse. Microsoft clearly isn’t scared of falling on its face in the hope of landing on what in the world tech users want next in this turbulent industry, and the Surface Pro 3 is – well, it just might be an exception.

The company has hammered away at what it considers is a problem with tablets for years. Since the launch of the Surface Pro, Microsoft has sought after the ultimate mobile computing device, one that could usurp the laptop with a tablet-first approach.

All five versions of the Surface Pro 3 are available now in the US, UK and Australia. They are: 64GB / Intel Core i3 ($799); 128GB / Core i3 ($899); 128GB / Core i5 ($999), 256GB / Core-i5 ($1,299), 256GB / Core i7 ($1,549) and 512GB / Core i7 ($1,949).

It’s also available in many more countries, including 25 new markets for the first time.

The Surface Pro 3 is closer than Microsoft has ever been to making good on its mobile computing vision. After over a week with the slate, I’d go so far as to say that the Pro 3 is closer than any laptop-tablet hybrid released yet.

Microsoft was so sure of itself that not only did it directly compare the Pro 3 to Apple’s iPad Air and 13-inch MacBook Air, it gave members of the press pre-release Surface Pro 3 units during an announcement event in New York. Sure, the units have bugs as of this review, but who cares?

“I forced the giving away of the device, just so you’re aware,” Surface team lead Panos Panay told me just after the reveal. “I said, ‘You know what? I want the product in people’s hands.’ ‘But the bugs are still there. They’re not all done until June 20, until it’s on market.’ I don’t care. The purity of the device is still true, and on June 20 there will be more drops.”

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

One look at the thing might explain Panay’s eagerness to get the Surface Pro 3. It’s no iPad Air, that’s for sure, but the iPad Air isn’t packing a 12-inch display.

Design

Yes, Microsoft bumped the Surface Pro touchscreen from a tiny 10.6 inches to a far roomier 12 inches. In the process, the pixel count has been upped from 1920 x 1080 to 2160 x 1440 The result is a modest boost in pixels per inch – 207 ppi to 216 ppi – given the increase in screen real estate.

More important is Microsoft’s interesting choice in aspect ratio. Rather than sticking with the Pro 2’s 16:9 or glomming onto the iPad’s 4:3, the firm went with a 3:2 aspect ratio. The company claims that, with this aspect ratio, this 12-inch screen can actually display more content than the MacBook Air’s 13.3-inch panel at 16:10. The move was also made to make the tablet feel more like your average notepad when held in portrait orientation.

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Wrapped in a bright, silver-colored magnesium shell that’s cool and smooth to the touch, the Surface Pro 3 feels premium in every regard. The tablet keeps the trapezoidal shape of its predecessors, but manages to come in both thinner and lighter than before. Plus, the tablet’s upper half is beset by vents on its edges to better dissipate heat pushed out by its fan.

Microsoft also moved the Windows home button to the device’s left side of its silky smooth – though, rather thick – glass bezel. This way, it appears on the bottom of the slate while held upright, calling out, ‘Hey, hold it this way now.’ While it’s no doubt the lightest Surface Pro yet, I’m not sure whether I could hold onto it for an entire subway ride home.

Adorning both sides of the Pro 3 are 5MP cameras capable of 1080p video recording. While stills on either shooter won’t blow you away, the front-facing lens should do just fine for Skype and the weekly video meeting over VPN.

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

This Surface isn’t without its sidekick(s)

A tablet wouldn’t be much of a laptop replacement without a keyboard, and the Surface Pro keyboard was in desperate need of a boost. Luckily, Microsoft sent the Type Cover back to the drawing board, and what came back is the best version yet. From keys with deeper travel and stronger feedback to a wider glass trackpad that actually clicks, nothing was off the table.

But the most important improvement is the brand new double hinge. Equipped with a strong magnet that latches onto the Pro 3’s lower bezel, the Type Cover can now rest with just a portion of it touching your lap or desk. This proved to make writing on my lap much more stable than with previous Surface devices. (Plus, the plush cover comes in five colors: red, blue, cyan, black and purple.)

Tucked beside the Type Cover is also the newly improved Surface Pen. Microsoft made a point of calling its stylus that, because the firm wants it to be seen as and feel like the writing instrument we’ve all grown up with. With an aluminum finish and a useful clicker up top, the Surface Pen is weighted to better feel like a pen. Using Bluetooth and powered by N-trig, the stylus tracks closer to its physical position than ever before, thanks to some major improvements to the Surface screen.

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

The new Surface Pro 3 unarguably has the look and feel of a premium product, so it only deserves to be stacked up against the most luxuriously built tablet and laptop around.

Adobe launched major updates to two of its classic design applications in March. Called Touch Workspace, the apps are available now free of charge to existing Creative Cloud subscribers and Surface Pro 3 owners with the latest versions of Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 and Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 installed. The apps feature a streamlined design user interface that makes it more responsive to fingertips, while optimizing a number of new or existing software tools with touch interaction in mind.

Specifications

The Surface Pro 3 improves upon the previous model in just about every which way – Microsoft has checked all of its boxes. The company was even so brash as to compare this hybrid of sorts to both Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air and its tablet atop the mountain, the iPad Air.

At least on the outside, the Surface Pro 3 falls somewhere smack in the middle. Measuring 7.93 x 11.5 x 0.36 inches (W x D x H), the 1.76-pound tablet isn’t quite as thin and light as the iPad Air, but beats the MacBook Air in both respects easily.

And that’s pretty much the point: a device that offers enough of both to replace both. The Pro 3 is a light enough tablet – but not the absolute lightest – and arguably one of the thinnest and lightest laptops around. But dimensions aren’t even half of it. Does the Pro 3 offer comparable power to both, not to mention for a competitive price?

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Here is the Surface Pro 3 configuration:

Spec sheetCPU: 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4300U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 2.9GHz with Turbo Boost)Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4400RAM: 8GB LPDDR3Screen: 12-inch, 2160 x 1440 multi-touch (ClearType, 3:2 aspect ratio)Storage: 256GB SSDPorts: One USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, microSDXC card reader (up to 128GB), headphone/mic jackConnectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0Camera: Two 5MP webcams (1080p HD video)Weight: 1.76 poundsSize: 7.93 x 11.5 x 0.36 inches (W x D x H)

This is one of the mid-range Surface Pro 3 configurations, and it’ll cost you a steep $1,299 (about £772, AU$1,403). The most affordable way into the latest Surface Pro 3 goes for just $799 (around £475, AU$863). However, you’ll have to work with an Intel Core i3 chip, half as much RAM and just 64GB of storage. On the other hand, you can deck out this slate with a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of memory and a whopping 512GB solid-state drive for $1,949 (about £1,158, AU$2,106).

It’s worth noting that various deals to snag the Surface Pro 3 at a lower price are kicking about. In the US, for example, you can pick up the device with a $150 discount if you’re a student. If you opt for the higher-end Core i7 model, you can get an even better 10% off the retail price, which amounts to $195.

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Returning to the device at hand, Microsoft says that it’s essentially two devices in one, and has priced it accordingly, not to mention with Apple squarely in mind. So, starting with the latest iPad, it would cost $799 — the Pro 3’s starting price — to only reach half of this Microsoft tablet’s storage. And this is Apple’s most premium configuration.

That price also gets you a 1.3GHz processor, a 9.7-inch display at 2048 x 1536 resolution, 802.11a/b/g/n dual-channel Wi-Fi with MIMO and Bluetooth 4.0. While it’s tough to compare these displays given their difference in size, the iPad Air has a tough time competing with the Surface Pro 3 on paper.

The MacBook Air comparison is, surprisingly, an easier one to make, spec for spec. For $1,299, Apple’s 13-inch thin-and-light laptop meets the Pro 3 head on in terms of storage and memory. However, that 1440 x 900 screen looks just dull in comparison. And while this notebook sports Intel’s far superior HD Graphics 5000, the Core i5 chip behind them is much slower at 1.4GHz.

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

At first glance, it looks like the Surface Pro 3 can dance around both of Apple’s machines at the same time. However, that’s assuming you purchased the optional Type Cover. That’s right: the one tool that enables this tablet to truly replace the laptop does not come with the device. In fact, it costs a cool $130 (around £77, AU$140). Even so, this Surface Pro 3 configuration, with Type Cover included, still costs less than Apple’s entry level tablet and laptop combined. Microsoft may have made good on its goal of replacing the laptop in terms of price, but what about performance?

Performance

With a product designed to be two things at once, it’s tough to quantify its performance with synthetic tests designed to typically test just one type of device. Regardless, the Surface Pro 3 performed just slightly better than the average Core i5-4200U-packing Ultrabook, which isn’t terribly shocking.

Benchmarks3DMark: Ice Storm: 30,264; Cloud Gate: 2,617; Fire Strike: 347Cinebench CPU: 208 points; Graphics: 25.14 fpsPCMark 8 Home: 2,190 pointsPCMark 8 Battery Life: 2 hours, 38 minutes

Save for PCMark’s battery life test, these results are generally in line with what I would expect from a slightly beefed up Core i5 machine. This processor and RAM combo will handle video chat, streaming and perhaps the average spreadsheet VLOOKUP with ease. Plus, your lunchtime gaming breaks should go over smoothly within reason.

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

For instance, I played a round of Hearthstone with just a bit a sluggishness before I turned down the graphics detail. However, the upper right portion of the tablet’s magnesium frame reached scorching levels of heat during that single session.

The same happened every time I went to watch an HD video over YouTube. Neither bode well for couch cruisers, though that redesigned hinge will come in mighty handy for this. Nothing will save this tablet from the sound its fan produces, however, which is noticeable but not disruptive or distracting.

Beaten by the battery

Back to that battery result, it frankly isn’t even close to the best I’ve seen from a tablet. In my own use of the Pro 3 – over 10 Google Chrome tabs, Spotify streaming high bitrate audio, TweetDeck running and HipChat active with the keyboard backlit – the slate lasted 3 hours and 55 minutes. Both tests were run at max brightness on the “Balanced” power setting.

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

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Microsoft claims that the Surface Pro 3 can hold out for up to 9 hours of web browsing before kicking the can. Considering that both PCMark 8 and my own test are plenty more strenuous than that simple task, perhaps the device could last longer under lighter loads.

Lowering the brightness will undoubtedly boost endurance, and I noticed that the tablet can last for days on standby. Regardless, this is a device meant to handle relatively heavy work loads. If it can’t match the market-leading laptop in terms of longevity, then can it truly replace it?

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

It’s true: both the 13-inch MacBook Air and iPad Air outlast the Surface Pro 3 in our tests. Under more intense loads, it wouldn’t be surprising to see either maintain their lead over Microsoft’s tablet. Perhaps it’s Windows 8.1, or more likely that QHD screen – regardless, there’s room for improvement here.

The Surface Pen points ahead

When Surface team lead Panos Panay showed off the new Surface Pen’s Bluetooth feature that “magically” summoned OneNote with a click of its top button, it looked like a neat gimmick. As it turns out, that’s exactly the case, but this kind of use of Bluetooth shows vast potential for the future.

At any rate, what’s important here is the actual writing experience. While I personally wouldn’t use the Surface Pen for much in my day-to-day work, tracking proved to be super smooth. Not to mention that the digital lines of ink were as thin as the tip of the stylus as I jotted down notes in near-perfect cursive. (Well, near-perfect in replicating my chicken scratch.)

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Part of this is thanks in part to that complete redesign of the N-trig powered pen, this time to better emulate the feeling of a traditional writing instrument. And while its two face buttons could be positioned lower toward the tip, they click with ease.

The other half working toward an improved pen experience is what Microsoft claims is the thinnest optical stack in the industry. (The actual optics of the screen are closer to the glass face than ever.) This helps reduce the drag between your physical position with the stylus and its digital representation. Finally, some solid solid palm rejection only enhances that notepad-like feel.

Following the Surface Pro 3’s release, in July N-Trig released a list of compatible applications that have been tested with its latest drivers. They are:

Anime Studio Debut 9.5 Version 9.5 build 9768Crayola PhotoFx studio 1 Version 1.5.0.42, 1.5.0.46Flash Professional CC Version 13.1.0.226Adobe Flash Professional CS6 Version CS6Corel Painter Version 12.2.0.703SculptrisMyPaint Version 1.0.0Mischief Version 1.12Zbrush Version 4R6Adobe DreamWeaverCS6 Version CS6Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 Version 12.0.20130925Krita Version 2.8.3Substance Painter Version 0.5.0

According to reports, Microsoft is in talks to acquire N-Trig, signalling a bright future for those who enjoy doodling and note-taking on its Surface devices.

Surface Hub only scratches the – you know…

In early October, Microsoft released a new app exclusively for its latest tablet, dubbed the Surface Hub, on the Windows Store. Frankly, however, it’s not much a hub just yet. As of this writing, the Surface Hub only serves to adjust the sensitivity of the Surface Pen and change the function of the Bluetooth-enabled purple button up top.

Your options: either launch the touch-centric version of OneNote like before or the standard desktop variety, which is available for free to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. The sensitivity adjustment tool works well enough, and allows you to test your adjustments in a tiny window before committing to the change.

Finally, the app provides details about your Surface that will be needed for troubleshooting, as well as providing a quick feedback form. And … that’s basically it. Not really a “hub”, if you ask me, but nevertheless a useful, nicely designed tool. Here’s to hoping for more comprehensive updates to the app in the future.

Type Cover rises up; kickstand leans back

Microsoft has upped its game in almost every way with the Surface Pro 3, but most crucial is the new and improved Type Cover. The upgrades to this accessory were essential to what Microsoft’s mission to eliminate the laptop. (The improvements were so vital that keeping it an accessory was a clear misstep.)

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

For one, the typing on this cover has been massively improved, with deeper travel and speedier, more powerful pushback than ever from the keys. The larger clickpad – yes, “clickpad” – now clicks with the force you’d expect from a laptop. Though, I did have to be rather deliberate in scrolling through web pages.

That the new Type Cover now snaps to the Pro 3’s lower bezel might sound like a silly addition. But it makes for a far more sturdy and comfortable typing experience on your lap.

Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Lastly, the Redmond, Wash. company finally went and bent that kickstand nearly all the way back, allowing users to fully adjust its angle. This proved to be a boon while balancing the device on my lap for typing, as well as for just browsing my favorite websites while watching TV at the widest angle.

The hinges are incredibly stiff, requiring considerable force before they begin to give way. You should want that kind of rigidity from a device you’re to use essentially for any and every computing task.

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Review: Updated: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Microsoft also has a docking station for the Surface Pro 3 in the works that replaces the current Surface Pro dock. It measures 12.9 x 3.8 x 4.4 inches and provides access to a multitude of peripherals – from your speakers and printer to a keyboard and mouse. It can also drive an external monitor too (4K, if you like your visuals crisp) from MiniDisplayPort, providing a dual display setup for apps such as Photoshop or Illustrator.

With a larger shape to accommodate the device’s dimensions, it manages to house three USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports, bringing the total to six if you include the ones on the Surface Pro 3. That’s in addition to a a Gigabit Ethernet port and a 3.5mm audio connection jack, and there’s also a Kensington security lock for warding off thieves.

Weighing 650g, it’s plenty portable too. So, when can you get your hands on it? It’s already available to you if you live in the US, where it retails for $199, and it’s out now in the UK too, where it retails for £164.99. Writing in a post on its Surface blog, Microsoft announced plans to ship the docking station to 26 more markets around the world starting on Friday September 12, around one month after it first went on sale in the US and Canada.

Bundled software

In addition to the standard Microsoft apps and free trials, the firm includes OneNote with every Surface Pro 3 in addition to Flipboard and Fresh Paint among a few light casual games. In short, Microsoft keeps it incredibly light on the bloatware, as it should being a first-party vendor.

OneNote’s inclusion makes for a particularly attractive package since Microsoft opted to make the note-taking app’s previously paid-for features free for all. It means that you can now password protect sections of notebooks, track changes to notes using page history and better manage files by searching for words in video or audio recordings.

The Windows Store has come a long way since its launch, but still trails behind Apple and Google’s app marketplaces in terms of volume and quality. Windows 8 devices are still generally the last to receive major apps and app updates. This would be a more serious issue if the Pro 3 weren’t packing Windows 8.1 Pro, but it’s nevertheless a problem.

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Surface Pro 3 game controller

OK, we’ll come clean, we haven’t tested Microsoft’s game controller in our Surface Pro 3 review – because it doesn’t exist. But it’s interesting to note a Microsoft patent that shows that the company may have been thinking about releasing a funky handheld gaming accessory in the style of Nvidia’s Edge for the Surface Pro 3 at one point, which would’ve taken the device in a very different direction.

Appearing to be cut down the middle, the controller would allow you to place each half to the left and right to use the tablet like an Xbox-style controller. Could something similar make an appearance in the future? Stranger things have happened – and we’ve seen a few of them.

Surface Pro 3 updates

Microsoft has released a steady flow of updates to the Surface Pro 3 since its release to improve stability and performance. The most recent was released in late January, bringing a slew of bug fixes and stability tweaks, in addition to a new graphics driver that promised to boost 4K video playback and playing videos using Google Chrome.

Numbered Version 15.36.14.4080, it was the first driver to support Intel’s fifth-generation Broadwell processors – including the Intel HD Graphics 5500, HD Graphics 6000 and Iris Graphics 6100 cores. According to Intel, it also brought hardware acceleration of the VP9 video format that’s used in Chrome video playback and Google Hangouts.

Inconsistent Wi-Fi, the most niggling issue reported by Surface Pro 3 owners for some time, was fixed in an patch in November called the Wireless Network Controller and Bluetooth driver update. It focused on improving performance when waking from sleep and connecting to a 802.11ac Wi-Fi network. That update also brought improvements around behaviour of the device when waking up from sleep mode using the Home Button or the Surface Pen.

Verdict

The Surface Pro 3 is, without question, the most attractive and capable device that Microsoft has ever produced. As a result, it’s not only the closest to realizing the company’s vision for replacing the laptop, but closer than any hybrid device to date. This thing can honestly serve as both your tablet and laptop in nearly equal measure.

Of course, the tablet isn’t without compromise. Limited app creator support, subpar battery life and a dearth of hard connections are clear hurdles for the Pro 3. Plus, leaving the much-improved Type Cover as an accessory means that this is no laptop replacement out of the box.

We liked

Everything about the Surface Pro 3 design screams style and thoughtfulness. Microsoft took the entire Surface Pro 2 back to the drawing board with this revision. Between its bigger, sharper screen and thinner, lighter magnesium frame, nearly every box has been checked in crafting a superior product.

The same goes for the Type Cover, kickstand and Surface Pen, all of which received marquee improvements and rethinks. The redesigned Type Cover has resulted in the best typing experience I’ve had on a tablet keyboard, while the new, wider-angle kickstand in tandem with the new stylus makes for more use cases that simply make sense.

What resulted was a device that I was reliably able to use as both a laptop and a tablet. I jumped from writing this very review to flicking cards in Hearthstone on the couch and back to writing with just a flick of the kickstand and a snap of the keyboard cover. If that’s not a measure of a all-in-one device, I don’t know what is.

We disliked

But make no mistake, there is still room for improvement with the Surface Pro 3. For one, selling the Type Cover as an optional accessory not only inflates the price of this product, but only serves to diminish Microsoft’s mission statement to replace the laptop.

Another knock against the tablet is that it’s quite quick to burn up. Whether it was an HD video over Netflix or YouTube, a casual game or even system updates, the upper right portion of the metallic shell would grow almost uncomfortable to hold. Thankfully for the kickstand, there are many situations in which you need to hold the slate while sitting.

Finally, just under 4 hours of battery life might be suitable for the average Ultrabook, but not for your everyday tablet. And for Microsoft to position the Surface Pro 3 against the iPad Air and 13-inch MacBook Air, which both set the endurance standards in their categories, only makes this point look worse.

Final verdict

It’s worth reiterating the point that the Surface Pro 3 is not only Microsoft’s most striking and versatile device to date, but the most convincing poster child for the hybrid category yet. And this ringing endorsement comes from a long-time skeptic of such devices.

That said, the Pro 3 is hamstrung by flaws that cannot be ignored. Namely, the battery life might be in line with most Ultrabooks, but it doesn’t come close to what Apple’s leading laptop and top tablet have shown. And the Type Cover being billed as an accessory doesn’t help Microsoft’s cause in the slightest – it’s quite pricey to boot.

At any rate, this version of the tablet comes in cheaper than the most affordable iPad Air and 13-inch MacBook Air combined, even with the Type Cover, and that’s the point. On paper, this slate is more powerful than either Apple device, not to mention most other comparably priced laptops and tablets. The Surface Pro 3 might not be perfect, but it’s far and wide the brightest shining example of a potential tablet takeover.

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50 thoughts on “Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Updates

  1. Given that Apple have already made the best possible Macbook Air, it would seem really pointless for Microsoft to try and make another one; same goes for the iPad; if you want an iPad, the iPad is the best possible iPad. Microsoft clearly hope that some people want something different, something that combines the best features of both devices (and adds a couple of new ones). I’m writing this on my Surface Pro 2, with the stylus, while sitting on the couch drinking my coffee; I find this a much easier and more natural way to make a comment on a web review that I’ve just been reading than going upstairs to find my laptop, plug it in, sit at a desk, wait for it to boot, etc. Obviously, if I were already at work on the laptop, I’d use that, but the Surface has its uses, and for me personally the stylus *is* the Surface: it’s why I use it rather than the iPad I had previously. However, I still have a laptop that I take with me when I travel. I couldn’t use the Surface for extended writing and editing, partly because the screen is too small (for my aging eyes,at least) and the current generation of covers aren’t comfortable enough for me to type on (big hands). So, maybe the Surface Pro 3 will allow me to manage with just one device: I will have to wait until l can actually try one. But I think Microsoft are trying to do something interesting and innovative here, for which I think they deserve some credit. Of course they hope to make money from this (Apple are not a charity either, BTW) and anyone who thinks the Surface Pro 3 won’t suit them is not obliged to buy one, but I’m a bit baffled by the vitriolic tone of some contributors to this discussion. It’s just another gadget, guys.

  2. I thought the SP2 was really terrible and I wonder how anyone could have done any undergraduate work of substance on it – the SP3 looks like a major improvement.

  3. Thank you for your comments! I have a similar experience, after buying the SP 1 1,5 years ago, I started taking all my notes at my surface pro, and could skip several kg of unnecessary papers, folders, printed ppts, heavy computer, tablet.. I am an economics student, and often write graphs, formulas etc, and for that, onenote with SP is amazing. When exam time comes, and I can easily browse, search and go through all my notes in OneNote, while everyone else is fighting with hundreds of papers, notes in pdfs and the like, you really see the potential of these devices. I actually wrote my whole thesis, including working with some statistical software, excel and the like on my surface, which worked well (although the screen size was a bit strenous). With the changes brought on in SP 2 and now 3, this device should be perfectly adapted for students and business-people alike, making it, in my eyes, a true replacement for all other devices. I will go for the SP 3 when it comes to Sweden in end of August, and look forward to getting even more done with the larger screen, better ability to have the device in the lap, better battery life, better writing capacity, better stylus..

  4. Thanks for this review! I’m a current undergrad whose been looking for some insight to how useful the SP3 would be for a college student. I have an old tablet with poor notetaking capabilities and a heavy desktop replacement laptop that can’t be easily carried, so your review was a solid read.

  5. First and foremost a little background, I am a recently graduated engineering student who is also about to head to law school. FWIW I am also reviewing the article using my Surface Pro 2 (SP2). The machine has been invaluable to me ever since I decided to replace my four year old lap top and Ipad. Before I purchased the surface pro 2, I would carry the two devices with me to every class and study session. While each device had their own uses, the weight/space/startup/etc. combination of the two was mighty inconvenient for the amount of work I had to complete (on top of carrying several textbooks, notebooks, etc.). The SP2 has completely changed how I am able to manage my workload in several ways: Leisure: I am able to do quite a bit of reading with ease. Netflix works flawlessly. In a sense without rambling, from a leisure standpoint, the machine can handle just about anything you throw its way. Work: I feel I do not have to justify the SP2 as a workhorse machine from a students perspective (just look at the specs). I will say one thing to justify my conclusory statement. I was able to do my entire engineering senior design project on my SP2, which includes running everything from AutoCAD to multiple intricate Excel files at once. Compact: I previously mentioned the device considerably lightened my load, but I feel I need to emphasize the point. When I was in class I was able to take any and all notes using one note while running any applications the teacher. As a student, being able to hand write notes on the

  6. Prefer to wait for the next generation of fanless tablets using Core-M processor

  7. Following my earlier review (that this comment is a reply to) I thought I’d return and offer a longer-term perspective. After 10 months of using the Surface Pro 3 I’m still sold! The battery life has proven time and again to be solid. I’ve used it for presentations and system design work (Visio, OneNote drawing with the pen, modifying browser based workflow and publishing) throughout a business day and never been let down. I don’t measure specific hour usage – I’m not a reviewer counting the clock. But I’ve had a consistent experience of never running out of power. That’s one requirement met. I also purchased the docking station following this review. MSFT nailed that too. I’ve got a Dell U3014 30

  8. I’ve just gone ahead and bought the Dell Venue 11 Pro. i5 CPU, 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD. Top spec! Ill be buying the keyboard accessory for it to provide the full laptop experience. A bluetooth keyboard wont hold the Dell as it doesnt have a kickstand like the SP3, however, the keyboard also provides it with an extra 50% of battery life. Also the accessory keyboard can transform it to a traditional laptop. I dont like the idea of carrying two separate items when they can be joined into 1.

  9. Why not purchase a bluetooth keyboard? There are numerous ones available, and Logitech has one that is extremely popular and well made.

  10. If you are trying to decide between the venue 11 and the surface pro 3, I would go with the SP3. I’ve had the venue 11 for 10 months now and I can say it’s a good device but the keyboards are not in the same league as the SP3. The pen on the Dell has been through several revisions and I’m on my 3rd revision of the actual pen and have had to do several firmware upgrades just to get use out of the pen. I have had many issues with the keyboards with not being recognized by the device to shutting down randomly while I typed. I’ve had the SP3 for about 3 weeks and it has worked straight out of the box, keyboard and pen work as expected. The Dell is a good tablet and hopefully Dell will work out the kinks but with the keyboards and pen but until they do I would stick with the SP3.

  11. Yeah, we had some problems with Dell and their Venues. I work at a school and this year we bought 500 for the students. 450 of them had to be returned. A horror story I know, but a true one nonetheless. It is safe to say that we are now looking at the SP3’s for next year.

  12. I agree with your logic on buying the hardware from the OS source. I have nothing but good things to say about the Surface 1,2, and 3 devices I have bought.

  13. OS X has been good for me. I havent stumbled across limitations within the OS but more so from the hardware being available. Its how the laptop became a replacement to the desktop for many and soon enough we will have these

  14. Awesome! Personally I’ve never been into Mac, had to work with it, but never liked the UX or the industrial design. What MSFT has done UX-wise and regarding the form factor is a big step into future computing, and the SP3 is the first real tablet computer! What will you use your Windows device for? I’m doing graphic design …

  15. My mistake, i must have been looking at the SP2 Keyboard. Any how, ive been eyeing the Dell Venue 11 Pro and i have seen a deal which comes with the dock. i5-4300Y, 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD. So specs wise its great. Add on keyboard with extended battery facility. I think im ready to jump ship back to Windows 😀

  16. I like your non-biased, use-case-driven point of view. But what do you mean by touch keyboard? The SP3’s kb is the type cover whith real keys.

  17. Your comment has been really pleasant to read. Where i got fed up with Windows based laptops 4 years ago and jumped to a Macbook Pro 13, i could never have imagined considering Windows again but here i am looking at the SP3. Its the same reason i moved to Android, more so for the open OS but the choices in hardware so i have a device that suits my needs. I dont own a tablet because i find them not productive enough to justify having to carry. But a SP3 seems bang on and enough to warrant me to jump back to Windows. Although it may not be the perfect workhorse for typing long reports on or the perfect tablet, it is probably the best balanced on the two. Therefor it doesnt have the extreme cons that a pure tablet has or that a full laptop has. Portable and light like a tablet, power and productivity of a full laptop. If they offered a full size keyboard type dock as an add on i believe they would attract as some may find the touch keyboard not to their taste. I am yet to play with an SP3. i love the OS X touchpad gestures and fluidity of the OS. But the hardware is so limiting. Sometimes i just want to watch a movie on my way to work then use the same device to do my work. An all in one device is best described for this. Come launch in the UK, i may seriously be considering this rather than upgrading my Mac. Would want atleast 128GB, i5, but with 8gb RAM to future proof it.

  18. My first impressions – of actually using a Surface Pro 3 – after a few days are really, REALLY good. I’m using the i5 Surface Pro 3 (8 GB RAM) and I’ve got to tell you it is an amazing piece of hardware. My other laptop is a fully loaded Vaio Z3 that cost twice as much two years ago. As for software, I’m running applications like Office, Novamind, Minitab 16. The design is great. I have no significant issues with heat. I’ve been enjoying extended Netflix sessions. First, the tablet has gotten

  19. Well, they did say it only ran PC Mark 2008 for 2.5 hours when the iPad Air would have clearly lasted longer /s

  20. TechRadar giving a Microsoft product a passable review! I had to check the date to see if it was 1st April. It’s simple – if you don’t care how much you spend and you only want to do email, photos, internet and thousands of (useless) apps and you also need to be considered someone that is

  21. Not a direct reply, but related… for me there is a simple reason why Apple is slow in entering the hybrid laptop or OS market; selling two premium priced devices brings in more income than just one.

  22. Why don’t you do some research instead of just throwing out random wrong facts. Microsoft Surface brand actually hit $1billion in revenue so idk what you’re smoking 😛 So it’s very unlikely MS will drop the Surface brand (taking into consideration how they released a new version of the pro 3 with 126GB memory and the Surface 3, albeit you didn’t know this at the time you posted that)

  23. No, what you don’t realise is that the apps designed for iPad by being more purposeful than full desktop applications can still carry out intensive operations but in a less resource heavy system. So when you factor in the power of the a9x (faster than 80% of portable computers anyway) with the efficiency of iOS, you actually have pretty powerful tools .

  24. Your words were the iPad can never compete with the surface pro. Clearly this is doing that. If you’re alien to the advantages that iOS 9 will confer in terms of power use on the iPad – particularly this Pro model – than you would appear somewhat deluded. Picture on picture, split screen and real world optimisation of the SoC are going to take the iPad experience up a level. You may say, well iOS is not a desktop system. Well no, it’s not. In terms of pure functionality it will not be able to compete with the potential of the SP – I concede that. The problem I have with the surface is that it is trying to be a master of the desktop experience AND the touch experience, it has not really nailed either head on. The software on the sp3 is simply not optimised for touch input l. The App Store on windrows is well behind Apple’s. So yes the surface pro is a powerful device, with desktop class software support. But in my experience, in use it actually is a compromise between 2 competing visions of computing and in trying to do both does not offer a fully satisfying experience in either.

  25. 7 months later…hah. Can it run full desktop apps? That’s where the shortcomings of ios and android are most obvious. 800 for a dumbed down device competing with an actual full-on computer. Surface still beats both. And no, I’m not a Windows fan. No, I’m not regretting anything.

  26. regretting your words now? One software update later and, hey presto, there’s spilit screen view and app on app mode.

  27. Same is said for Apple’s competing products. They will never place a touchscreen on the laptop version and the ipad can’t possibly compete with the Microsoft Surface Pro. The iPad is purely a tablet with no multi-tasking or multi-windows. Samsung’s Note Pro 12 w/Android is better than the iPad; you can use multiple windows and do actual work. Overall, the Surface pro is the best of both worlds and why anyone but older folks or teenagers would purchase an iPad is beyond me.

  28. It’s superior in some fields, not in all. The things it’s not as good for are battery life, price, sales, heat produced and health. I mean health in the sense that the $2 billion loss and sub 1 million sales MS have seen with the Surface program don’t make me positive that it has much time left to be a success, and looking at MS’s history, if it doesn’t perform it’s likely to get canned. These are not irrelevant points to a potential buyer, especially of the higher end SKU’s around 00a31600

  29. not true. Just because a product is superior will not automatically translate into better sales.

  30. If it were the superior product it would sell just fine.

  31. Red Raleigh, so you’d rather pay 699$ for the 64gb air then. This is the better device for most uses. But it won’t sell a swell because it’s not Apple. People love handing over their money to Apple.

  32. Yea, only iPads have 3G… Have no idea why Microsoft left that out, considering the rip off prices they want for these crappy Surface tablets

  33. Hello Sir I actually have a 12.3 inch onion , and the screen resolution is better than than the nexus. even if i do cry whenever i use it LOL

  34. I mostly agree with the screen problem, working on surface pro kills my eye, reduces hours I can work, it more like a new tool on itself than a realistic replacement of laptop. I hope MS can think about the successful laptop models, the screen size come with reason, only low-end cheap netbooks have screen such small. Surface Pro is also not a capable tablet. It has no 3G/GPS, cannot wake up on skype call, has no persistent notification interface(such as push in ios). I’m waiting for MS to make a 13 inch Surface pro so that I can indeed use it as laptop for productive works, a silo for the pen which always go missing, 3G/GPS and fix the wake-up issue. Or even just get a 13.5 inch screen without fixing other problems will make me immediately pay for it, anyway I hate laptop keyboards and their fragile screen hinges.

  35. He supposed no such thing; he just said the Macbook Air serves its purpose, and the iPad serves its own as well. If you read further, you notice he replaced his iPad with a SP.

  36. I think an iPad with multitasking would be better than an iPad without multitasking. So no, IMO not the best iPad yet

  37. best possible iPad… not devices… the iPad cannot sub for a laptop plain and simple.

  38. jje, You seem to be quite the zealot. i.e. your contention that apple has already made the best possible devices so why bother building anything. I think when we see a supposition like that we need read no further.

  39. 5 hours is on normal 4 cells battery, could get 9 hours on 6 cells and almost 14 hours on 9 cells battery. That is on the old 2011 X220. The X250 could easily reach 20 hours on its standard 3 + 6 battery

  40. Lenovo has the best keyboards. Microsoft should have licensed their keyboards for the surface line instead of selling their own garbage keyboards that are not worth $10 at a flea market.

  41. Or you can try Lenovo Thinkpad X250, really lightweight, powerful with brilliant keyboard. I’m using X220 from 2011, battery will last at least 5 hours, and the keyboard is really, really brilliant. Gotta love the trackpoint too :3

  42. The SP2 is terrible – too small for professional work and the key board not responsive enough let alone extrmely frustrating when writing up documents. It was compeltely unusable for work so if the SP3 makes up for this then its clearly a necessary upgrade. 12 inch screen still seems a tad small for competing against utlrabooks. At this point the Dell XPS13 still seems the best light machine for travel able to handle professional level work.

  43. I’m not sure if it would warrant an upgrade if you have the SP2, but if you don’t its a good purchase. I intend to replace my Vista era desktop with it. Works fine with my wireless Logitech keyboard/mouse combo and a displayport adapter to my TV or 27

  44. On the keyboard, the SP3 gets a backlit Type Cover… So physical keys that you can see even in the dark, but they’re bunched together… Meaning, it’s probably still a good idea to check it out on display and see how you like it before committing… Some additions to the keyboard include a secondary magnetic strip to put the keyboard more at a comfortable typing angle and to reinforce the link to the tablet and make it a bit more stiffer and easier to type on, but I hear there’s still a little give, especially if typing from your lap but it’s an improvement at least… The touch pad has also been improved, but reportedly still has issues with recognizing gestures from taps… So a mouse is still recommended or stick to the pen… While the Pen is no long a WACOM type… Instead they moved to a N-Trig, which means the pen needs batteries and it only has 256 levels of pressure sensitivity… but they optimized the drivers and if you’re a Photoshop user, Adobe is officially providing support… Overall, the tablet is thinner and lighter than the previous SP2 and the kickstand can now go to 150 degree angle and makes that more useful as well… So an improvement all around… just a question of whether it’s enough to warrant upgrading but the 12

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