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6/7/2014
07:20 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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Microsoft Surface Pro 3: My First 2 Weeks

The Surface Pro 3 is the first Microsoft tablet to offer more than the sum of its parts.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3: 10 Tablets Paved Its Way
Microsoft Surface Pro 3: 10 Tablets Paved Its Way
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

I've been using Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 for a little more than two weeks, and although it's not perfect, it improves on its predecessors by an epic margin. It's the only Surface model -- in fact, one of the only Windows 8.1 hybrids -- that's left me with a sense of unique potential, rather than compromise.

To be clear, the Surface Pro 3 isn't without its compromises. That's true of virtually any product, but Microsoft advertises the Pro as a replacement for both tablet and laptop, so the point bears mentioning: There is no ideal, all-in-one computing device. With a 12-inch screen, the Pro 3 balances tablet and laptop quite well -- but if you prefer tablets you can hold one-handed, or the stability of a traditional laptop, hybrid designs probably aren't for you.

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3
Microsoft's Surface Pro 3

Even so, the Pro 3 provides an intriguing fusion of possible uses. It is, minus a few quibbles, an excellent laptop that compares well with other premium-priced models. In tablet mode, the device will never be mistaken for an iPad, but the new Surface Pro Pen offers appeals of its own. Earlier Surfaces tried to differentiate themselves by being laptop-like tablets; they weren't about new computing experiences as much as the retrofitting of old ones. The Pro 3 maintains that strategy, but with the pen, it also enables new user experiences oriented around touch and mobility.

[Want to see more of the Surface Pro 3? Read Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Visual Tour.]

Perhaps most impressively, the device feels more cohesive. Most hybrids have a Frankenstein-like quality, in which concessions made for one use create deal-breaking problems in others. Earlier Surfaces' 16:9 screens, for instance, helped them accommodate a full keyboard in laptop mode but rendered them awkwardly narrow in tablet mode. Thanks both to its thinness and a new 3:2 aspect ratio, the Surface Pro 3 switches between modes in a more fluid, sometimes even chameleon-like way.

The Surface Pro 3, center, offers more power than the Surface Pro, left, is almost as thin as the Surface 2, right, and boasts a better screen than either.
The Surface Pro 3, center, offers more power than the Surface Pro, left, is almost as thin as the Surface 2, right, and boasts a better screen than either.

Here's a quick rundown of standout features:

Build quality
All Surfaces, even the misbegotten Surface RT, have boasted impressive manufacturing. The Pro is no different, with a strong, magnesium frame, and a Gorilla Glass-fortified screen to protect against drops. It feels like a premium product from the second you pick it up.

Thin and light
Earlier Surface Pros were fairly chunky, but the Pro 3 is a sexy, sleek piece of industrial design. When it starts shipping later this month, it will be the thinnest Intel Core-based device ever to reach the market, only 9.1mm thick. Devices based on Intel's next-generation Broadwell chips will be thinner, but they won't be available until the end of the year.

The Pro 3 is also fairly light at 1.76 pounds -- not as light as the 1-pound iPad Air, but not much heavier than the 1.46-pound iPad with Retina display. Given that the Surface Pro 3 offers a 12-inch screen to the iPad's 9.7-inch one, it balances the extra weight very well. The screen's 3:2 aspect ratio helps here; it makes holding the Surface Pro 3 feel like holding a legal pad. You won't want to hold it one-handed for hours like you can an iPad Mini, but it still handles well.

The screen itself is gorgeous. The bigger screen gives the Pro 3 laptop-like real estate, and the 2160 x 1440-pixel resolution displays more desktop

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio
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CdsN309
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CdsN309,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/15/2014 | 2:41:27 AM
Re: a bit too much here and too little there
slow? you have to be joking!

i own a surface pro (original) and it is ten times faster than my Acer laptop. I cant even imagine how fast the pro 3 would be.

 
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
7/9/2014 | 8:10:28 PM
Re: surface pro 3
It definitely can be. It depends a bit what kind of presentations you do, how you like to work, how much processing power you might want for more demanding apps and gaming. Depending on the gear you'll work with at school, you might be able to wirelessly mirror your Surface Pro 3 to projectors and displays, which is handy for presentations. But you can do that with MacBooks too, again, provided the right gear is there. But as far as lightweight laptops go, the Surface Pro 3 is very, very nice, assuming you're okay with the kickstand instead of a traditional clamshell. The difference doesn't really bother me, but I'm tall, so I have a lot of lap on which to position the kickstand. The Pen is a great perk with potential.

My advice is to seek out an actual model and handle it yourself. If there's a Microsoft Store, or a Best Buy, or a friend who has one, make sure you hold the device in your hand, see how it handles, etc. It's an unconventional device. For some people, it will be very satisfying, but for others, it will be hard to ignore the ways it isn't a normal laptop or tablet.
anon4859386935
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anon4859386935,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/9/2014 | 2:13:50 PM
surface pro 3
hi there....i am going to buy surface pro 3 for my university purpose...for making presentations and assignments...is this a good device for my purpose...if it disappoints me...???plz tell
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/10/2014 | 6:24:13 PM
Re: Have you used it again?
Hi David,


Great question. I'm still using it quite often. Earlier Surfaces quickly became niche options that I only used for very specific scenarios. It was clear pretty quickly that the compromises would be deal-breaking.  But with the Pro 3, I've found that compromises rear their heads less frequently, and that when they do, I'm much more forgiving. In laptop mode, sure, sometimes I'd like a bigger screen, but the overall mobility and light weight make it worthwhile. And the size is just write for note-taking and drawing. With the Pro 3, I feel encouraged to find more ways to use the device, rather than, as was the case with early models, quickly confining the tablet to specific uses. It might be worth noting, though, that I'm using the Surface Pro 3 at the expense of a Windows laptop. It hasn't really affected my iPad use.

Granted, if I had access to any device I wanted, I'd probably use a MacBook Pro, if for no other reason than I run a lot of video software. The extra processor power, bigger RAM capacity and discrete graphics card would win out over the Pro 3's slim design and undeniably cool pen. But everyone has a dream product, the products they're happy using, the products they'll unenthusiastically accept, and the products they'll resent being forced to use. I'm more than happy using the Pro 3. Great, light laptop, and the note-taking experience could offer legit sales appeal.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
6/10/2014 | 6:00:27 PM
Have you used it again?
Michael,

Since you filed this story, have you found yourself going back to use the Surface again, either for work or play? Or were you only motivated to use it while you were working on this review? Just curious whether you found yourself drawn to go back to it or happy to be done with it.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/10/2014 | 2:49:09 PM
Re: Way too expensive for a table, way too weak for a power laptop
@celtic,

I agree. I wouldn't call the Surface Pro 3 underpowered any more than I'd called the iPad Air (a laptop for which there is a demonstrated market) underpowered.

If you want something approaching desktop-class power in a portable form factor, you won't find it in anything as thin or light as a Pro 3—that much is true. A 15-inch MacBook Pro will handle more than the Pro 3, but it's also much larger and heavier. Both Apple and Microsoft use "Pro," but they're talking to somewhat different markets. There's a reason Microsoft keeps comparing the Surface Pro 3 to the MacBook Air.

Granted, I haven't used the i3-based Surface Pro 3. It might struggle with some tasks. The demo unit has an i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM, and unless you need to do substantial post work on 4K video or something, it will do the job. I think the number of people who can make use of the Pro 3's unique traits will outnumber the number of people who find it underpowered. I think consumer skepticism over the Modern UI is a bigger potential problem than the Pro 3's processors.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/10/2014 | 2:31:16 PM
Re: Surface not for me
@johnny,

Unfortunate but interesting that your friends have had such bad luck with their iPads. I've definitely seen iPhones slow to a crawl after a few years, but in my experience, iPads have fared a bit better. Refresh rates  suggest people replace iPads on more PC-like (rather than smartphone-like) cycles. But your point remains: Some people get 5+ years of productive life out of their PCs, and it remains to be seen if tablets and hybrids provide the some long-term value. Some people are still running XP on 10-year-old computers. I'll be surprised if a similar numer of iPad Airs are still in use a decade from now. With tablets and hybrids, whatever you gain in portability and sleek aesthetics, you lose in DIY repairability and upgradability.

OneDrive provides a little relief for the storage concerns you cite, though I'll concede that the cloud is a limited solution. If you end up needing external storage, that lone USB port gets a little limiting. You could go for the Surface Docking Station, of course, which gives you more flexibility for peripherals. Microsoft is building a modular ecosystem around the Surface Pro, with the tablet as the starting point, then the keyboards, then the docking station. They've done a decent job so far providing backward compatibility, meaning if you upgrade the tablet every two or three years, you could still have a three-in-one set-up with replacing all your accessories. But as I alluded in the article, this sort of hybrid approach is both empowering and limiting, depending on your needs.

I think the Surface Pro 3 will be the most successful Surface Pro to date, and that it will become very popular in certain industries. It's a very nice laptop, but it's most interesting for its uniqueness. You can do things with it you couldn't do with earlier Surfaces. Whether you want to do those things is a different matter. Some people – a lot, I think - will. But many people will ultimately prefer clamshell laptops, or iPads, or whatever—so lots of those devices are going to continue to get sold too.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
6/10/2014 | 1:21:07 PM
Re: Surface not for me
Gee, the government has a better IT budget than I would have imagined if you can dump the first Pro for Pro 2, and now move right on to Pro 3 because it is here.

I got an original Pro for use by people who need to travel sometimes (vacations) but have desktop computer, which includes myself. Runs all software that our Win 7 standard environment runs, joins AD domain, participates in our RADIUS wireless company wide standard and runs both the Cisco and Juniper VPN clients to connect to our private network anywhere there is internet. And has Remote Desktop client to connect to your work desktop over this VPN connection.

Nothing Pro 2 or Pro 3 offer are more useful above these original requirements which led me to try the Pro. I'll be using that thing until it dies.
asdmognep
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asdmognep,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/10/2014 | 2:12:03 AM
a bit too much here and too little there
The Pro may be good or better than a regular tablet, but for a tablet it is EXPENSIVE. Gallaxy is much cheaper.

For a laptop replacement it is too slow, and a popular brand laptop can be found cheaper.

For a reader, it is too big and heavy to carry around, a simple cheap tablet will do.

So what do we need MicroSlop's pro for? to impress our neighbor? I'll save my money for a holiday trip instead.
toraji40
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toraji40,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/8/2014 | 4:43:52 PM
Re: Surface not for me
@paul987,

 

WOW Paul what a good reply and full of valid points. your reply made want to say thank you for re-educating some of us...

 

Here are my two cents:

I am working as an information manager for a government institution and take care about 75 people's devices so i had my fare share of arguments about what is good, bad and better :)

For years I have been waiting for Microsoft to come out with a tablet form device and finally in October 2012 the RT arrived so I was in line at the Microsoft store the day it was released and went home happy as a kid with my new purchase. Even though it was just an ARM device (which of course i knew) it fitted my needs perfectly, then the pro came in February 2013 and because my experience with the RT was that good I had no doubt of wanting the pro so my rt went to my GF and i had the pro. The pro was a big step up from the RT in terms of power and productivity but i was not so happy with the battery life (my only complaint btw) so when the pro 2 came out in October 2013 I had to have it (8/256G) and when the pro 3 i7 8/256 comes out in august i will have that one too (I pre ordered it already :-). I forgot to mention that while owning the RT and using windows 8 I also decided to go with windows phone 8 because the ecosystem works very well together over all devices and also here i had a few devices, Lumia 810, Lumia 925, Lumia 1020 and the Lumia 1520.....

Why do I share all this info? Not to show of but to let the readers here know that every/all devices will be better over time and I am just happy that Microsoft and Nokia take the feedback from their clients serious and listens....

Can't wait for the pro 3 :-)

Regards

t

 

 

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