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Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Review – As Good as Windows 8 Gets

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It was not all that long ago that Microsoft debuted the Surface Pro 2. Yet here they are, just 9 months later, releasing the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft has clearly listened to users feedback with this latest Surface. To that effect, the Surface Pro 3 truly improves on the weakest parts of the Surface Pro 2.

Measuring 11.5” x 7.93” x 0.3”, the Surface Pro 3 is slimmer than the Pro 2 was, yet it manages to pack in a larger 12” display. This display uses the same brilliant display technology that was found in the Surface Pro 2, but packs in a higher 2,160 x 1,440-resolution. This is truly one of the best displays you’ll get on any tablet or laptop on the market. And in order to take full advantage of the “2k resolution”, Microsoft has scaled up Windows 8 on the Surface Pro 3 to ensure that Windows 8 looks like a dream.

Microsoft hasn’t dwelled on the finish of the Surface Pro 3 too much, but gone is the black finish of the Surface Pro 2, and instead Microsoft has opted to use the same aluminum finish as the Surface 2. Again, it’s clear that they have listened to feedback from their users. To that effect, not only do we prefer the aluminum look and finish of the Surface Pro 3, but it’s a welcome improvement since our Surface Pro 2 picked up scratches and scruffs on its black finish. So now the Surface Pro 3 has that same amazing, built-to-last quality as the Surface 2.

Lapability

The kickstand introduced on the Surface Pro 2 was designed to ensure that you can use the device easily on your lap and it did manage to do so pretty well. But Microsoft has further improved the kickstand on the Surface Pro 3 by introducing additional angles. Unfortunately, the kickstand will still dig into your legs when you’re using it on your lap. This is a bit uncomfortable, but still very usable. Overall, the experience is definitely close to a laptop – but still not quite all the way there.

The Type Cover is now bigger than ever, which means you get an even more comfortable typing experience with more surface area and larger keys. But more importantly, they have revamped the trackpad which was one of our biggest pain-points of the Type Cover that was designed for the Surface Pro 2. Gone is the tiny cramped trackpad, and in its place is a much larger and more usable and responsive trackpad.

Don’t call it a stylus

The new and very impressive aluminum Pen alone, should be enough to draw many users to purchase to the Surface Pro 3. To that effect, we can see illustrators and aggressive notetakers loving it up. And now, great art apps like Freshpaint are even more enjoyable to use. This truly is as close to a pen-like experience that we have seen on a tablet. You can even rest your hand on the display as you write. One Note is also becoming a key product for Microsoft and it offers great integration with the Pen when taking notes. Just click the top of the Pen and One Note will instantly be brought up on the screen. Click again and all of your One Notes will sync directly into the cloud.

Adobe also plans on releasing a version of Photoshop that is optimized for the Surface Pro 3. We can’t wait for this new version of Photoshop and more apps like it to be released. After all, the Surface’s combination of performance, plus its rich display and responsive Pen, make it perfect to take advantage of apps like Photoshop. And why should we be forced to use a non touchscreen old-school version of Photoshop, when we can be taking advantage of the Surface’s unique features to transform the device into a seriously powerful creative tool.

Pricing

Starting at $799, pricing for the Surface Pro 3 is very reasonable this time around. It’s just unfortunate that the Type Cover isn’t included, since that is really what transforms the device into a laptop. So if you’re going to use the Surface Pro 3 as a serious work machine, and most probably will be, then it’s really an essential accessory to purchase.

Performance

In terms of performance, the Surface Pro 3 is no slouch. Like the Surface Pro 2, this is a system that is really ready to take whatever you’ll throw at it. We tested the Core i5 model system in PCMark 8 and it earned a healthy Home Accelerated score of 2156. Overall, this is very capable performance, but not a significant upgrade over its predecessor. Battery life is also respectable, but not ideal. We clocked in about 7 hours with heavy use.

Verdict

Can the Surface Pro 3 replace the need to carry around both a tablet and laptop? Pretty much, yes. But is it right for you? Well, users just need to be realistic with their expectations… to that effect, the “lapability” of the Surface Pro 3 – while it’s very good, it is still not as good as a laptop. And while it offers a brilliant tablet experience, it isn’t as lightweight or travel friendly as an iPad Air. But is it a Macbok Air competitor? Yes. The Surface Pro 3’s design is more versatile than the MacBook Air, and its display is light years ahead of the Air too. However, there is still something to be said about the Air’s more solid feeling keyboard and lap experience. That said, we are still smitten with Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3.

The Good: Some might want to pick up the Surface just for its improved pressure sensitive Pen, beautiful 2K display, new kickstand positions, excellent and improved build quality, top notch performance, Improved trackpad on TypeCover, Microsoft’s cloud eco-system with One Note, Office365 and One Drive integration keeps getting better and better

The Bad: Type Cover keyboard is not included, offers only a single USB 3.0 port, Surface Pro 2 accessories and its power adapter are not compatible, experienced some issues where the Surface Pro 3 drained power while in sleep mode



  • PS

    Right now this is the best. No competition. You get Tablet + Laptop + Desktop (with dock or USB) + Notebook + Gaming Console (with Xbox controllers; not on very high setting though) etc. with such gorgeous screen in such a light package.

  • dqgeek

    Curious as to why the SP3 gets knocked for having a single USB 3.0 port, yet the iPad has none of the I/O ports of this machine (USB 3.0, DisplayPort, both of which can be daisy-chained through hubs or monitors to provide access to multiple peripherals/displays) and is hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread?

  • Hudi G.

    Its billed as being a replacement for both your laptop and tablet, so as a laptop one USB port isnt enough.

  • Mike_from_Saskatoon

    A wonderful device. I tried it at Bestbuy today, and it is amazing. It is ridiculously thin (almost as thin as my cellphone), and looks beautiful.

    It’s on my to-buy list.

  • tannawings

    I have always wanted one of the Surface tablets and the 3 sounds great. It is too bad like you said the Type Cover isnt included. I wish they would just iinclude things like this as a package deal instead of having people buy it later.

  • chuey101

    just wait until nextyear with broadwell and updated GPU, can run even better games!

  • PS

    Yup. But don’t want to wait though. Otherwise I will keep waiting :) Technology keep on getting better.

  • We tend to agree

  • Agreed!

  • jBoss

    One USB port is plenty fine 95% of the time. The other 5% I can use a HUB. Hardly anything to stop me from buying one. But the MBP and MBA not having a touchscreen will keep me away from those products.

  • jBoss

    If I’m using a laptop on my lap, it’s not for work. Therefore, no keyboard is required, so I flip it over and it becomes the base of my now portable media consumption device :)

  • therealbigrich

    This is pretty much what im going through now. I bought a Touch screen HP laptop instead of a Surface when it first came out. I skipped the Surface 2 and now this surface 3 is pretty much perfect for me. I will likely splurge for the i7 just so that when another comes out next year it should still be able to compete

  • countymnca

    I have the SP2 and use it as my desktop, laptop and tablet. It is amazing. The SP3 has to be even better. The keyboard that comes with it is horrible, but since I have a docking station at work, I use my old desktop keyboard and mouse. Huge fan and props to Microsoft for an amazing device.

  • Rico Alexander

    I prefer being able to choose the color keyboard I want. They did a bundle with the first surface but forced you to get the black. If you’re saying however you want it for free then of course, I want everything for free.

  • Rico Alexander

    I already put my money down. The wait is painful.

  • Rico Alexander

    I don’t know. 1 seems like a good compromise for me. 1 will be used most often and for those other situations a hub is cheap and gives you more ports than a laptop.

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  • Mike_from_Saskatoon

    For me, two USB 3.0 ports would have been ideal. I know a hub is cheap and easy to bring along, but being able to plug in the mouse and keyboard without the hub dangling would have been ideal.

    It’s not a major issue, but it is a drawback.

    And comparing it to the iPad is the problem here – you should be comparing it to the MacBook Air.

  • Andrew Roberts

    I just use a single Logitech unifying device nub in the USB for both mouse and keyboard in my Surface RT (gen 1). No need for a dock or multiple USB’s.

  • Andrew Roberts

    I really don’t understand all of the criticism on not including the keyboard. If they ‘include’ it then you don’t get to pick your color/style. If it’s the price, then complain about the price.

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