Mobile // Mobile Business
News
5/30/2014
11:32 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
Slideshows
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 hybrid tablet has ambitions that cross product categories. How does it compare to top mobile devices from Apple, Samsung, and others?
Previous
1 of 8
Next

Surface Pro 3: The tablet that can replace a laptop?
Microsoft touts the Surface Pro 3 as the tablet that can replace a laptop. The company said the same thing about earlier Surface Pro models, none of which sold well enough to justify the claim. But thanks to a bigger screen and other improvements, the Pro 3 largely lives up to its billing.

Earlier Surfaces are interesting as small laptops, but with a 10.6-inch screen, cramped keyboard accessory, and limited kickstand, the Pro and Pro 2 were ultimately too small. As tablets, the devices handled awkwardly, hampered by their relative heaviness and landscape-centric 16:9 shape. The Surface Pro 3 corrects these problems. It has the screen real estate of a legitimate laptop, and though heavier than pure tablets at 1.76 pounds, it's lighter and thinner than earlier models. In fact, the Pro 3, though not as light and ergonomic as an iPad, is surprisingly easy to hold for long periods, thanks to its unique 3:2 aspect ratio.

The Pro 3's included Surface Pro Pen adds a superlative stylus experience to the mix. Out of the box, it offers a deeply integrated experience in apps such as OneNote and Fresh Paint, and will soon boast optimized third-party apps from major vendors such as Adobe. Using the pen isn't quite like applying ink to paper, but it comes close -- close enough for electronic notes and drawings to feel second nature after only a little practice.

The Surface Pro 3 is a terrific device, but it's still not an optimal choice for everyone. When he introduced the Pro 3, Microsoft corporate VP Panos Panay repeatedly compared it to both an iPad and a MacBook Air, arguing that it can replace both. He's right; the Surface Pro 3 can serve as a user's sole laptop and sole tablet -- but that doesn't necessarily mean it should.

If you're looking for a pure tablet experience, the Surface Pro 3 isn't as mobile, light, or easy to hold as an iPad, and it costs a hell of a lot more than the vast majority of Android and Windows slates. Then again, the newest Pro is one of the few tablets to effectively integrate a pen into the experience.

As a laptop, it's a topflight device, but arguably less befitting a "Pro" moniker than Apple's MacBook Pros, which are heavier but offer more raw power. The MacBook Air is a better comparison. It lacks the Pro 3's touchscreen hybridity, but as a conventional laptop, it's hard to beat and a big reason why Macs traditionally rule the market for $1000+ PCs. Its new kickstand allows the Pro 3 to sit on your lap better than its predecessors, but it still requires some fiddling to get going. More conventional designs such as the Air's require less fuss.

Even if you're a fan of 2-in-1 designs, the Pro 3 might be too pricey for what it offers. Few Windows hybrids are more complete and compelling, and fewer still can match the Surface Pro 3's luxurious build quality. But these perks will matter more to some users than to others, and if your basic goal is to squeeze a laptop and tablet into one device, there are cheaper ways to do so.

Ultimately, how much you get from the Surface Pro 3 depends how you use it. The device resists comparisons because it is fairly unique, but also invites comparisons because it includes elements found in other devices. Is it as good a laptop as the MacBook Air? As productive a tablet as the Galaxy Note Pro? A better hybrid than other Windows slates? Do you get more for $800 from an iPad Air or a Surface Pro 3?

If your requirements fall within the Pro 3's strengths, it's an outstanding option. But if you're not motivated by the device's unique combination of traits, you might prefer to keep your laptops and tablets separate. And even if you like hybrids, the Pro 3 is one of the pricier ways to go. Is it the right device for you? Explore this slideshow to see how the Surface Pro 3 compares to some of its main alternatives. And share your opinions in the comments field.

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

Previous
1 of 8
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 2:54:32 PM
Re: Pro3 just right
What about replacing your desktop with a docking station and external monitor? Not sure the Surface Pro 3 would have the power you want, even in the pricey i7 configuration-- but if so, it's a way to fit tablet, laptop and desktop into one device.
any1
50%
50%
any1,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/3/2014 | 9:46:31 PM
expensive hybrids
Yes, these hydrids like the Surface Pro 3 are relatively expensive.  I think that Microsoft has developed a high quality piece of hardware here.  And in a sense you get what you pay for quality wise.  But I also think you are still paying a Wintel duopoly fee.  If and when ARM based microprocessors become competitive for performance and power efficiency to current Intel offerings that may change.  Apples new A8 chip may be close, and I would not be surprised to see some sort of ARM based hybrid from Apple in the next year or two.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 7:50:35 AM
Re: Pro3 just right
I felt about the same way but decided it was time to try and simplify as much as possible.  I have found that my Surface Pro 2 works well as my desktop, a small laptop/netbook and a tablet.  My one complaint is the small keyboard since I have big hands.  Aside from that I can't find anything that makes me want to go back to a traditional desktop and laptop solution.  When I get to the office I dock my Surface to a 24" display, full sized keyboard and mouse.  If I didn't have the tablet sitting on my desk displaying my calendar all day I'd forget that I was working from a tablet PC.  When I leave I just undock the Surface snap the keyboard cover on it and toss it into my backpack.  Now my desktop goes everywhere I go.
mak63
50%
50%
mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2014 | 11:53:08 PM
Re: compatibility
"...the enterprise acceptance of Mac is growing, overall, and that Macs are annually gaining around one percent of enterprise market share"

Yes, I've read the report from analyst Charlie Wolf. Very impressive numbers indeed. I better start brushing up my Mac skills soon.

"...but few of them are as appealing as the Surface Pro 3."

If I didn't know any better, I'd say you're falling in love with the Surface 3.
I was working on one of the latest Lenovo with a touchscreen and Win 8.1 last week. Very beautiful machine. No wonder you liked the Surface 3 so much.

 

 
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/31/2014 | 11:48:31 AM
Re: compatibility
That's a valid point; some people might not be able to run all their programs on a Mac, at least not natively. Some businesses address this with virtualization, allowing Macs as a BYOD or COPE option, but using virtual machines for specific needs. Others limit Macs to certain teams or divisions. But analysts I've talked to say that enterprise acceptance of Mac is growing, overall, and that Macs are annually gaining around one percent of enterprise market share. I've seen studies that say over half of enterprises support Apple computers-- so they're an option for many, but also a non-option for many.

As for price, yeah, the nicer hybrids are still pricey. There are cheaper hybrids, but few of them are as appealing as the Surface Pro 3.
BillB031
50%
50%
BillB031,
User Rank: Strategist
5/31/2014 | 9:50:09 AM
Pro3 just right
I still think the major difference would be between a desktop and a laptop.  I have never liked the tablet computers, and prefer a small notebook.  I loved the netbooks.   But replacing my big powerful desktop and 20" screen is not going to happen.  At least not in my life time.

I believe Msoft has actually nailed the pro3 pretty well.  I never could stand lugging around a laptop, and for my needs, tablets are a pain.  Between traveling with a smartphone and one of these Surface pro3's should be just right.
mak63
50%
50%
mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2014 | 10:36:47 PM
compatibility
Somewhere in the article says: "But if you don't care about hybridity, MacBooks are exceptional machines."

Let me rephrased that: But if you don't care about hybridity and compatibility with your Windows programs, MacBooks are exceptional machines."


In any case. I would love to get my hands in one o those hybrids. Nonetheless, they all seem very expensive. When all these major companies will think in the little guy?
InformationWeek Elite 100
InformationWeek Elite 100
Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Nov. 10, 2014
Just 30% of respondents to our new survey say their companies are very or extremely effective at identifying critical data and analyzing it to make decisions, down from 42% in 2013. What gives?
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.