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5/30/2014
11:32 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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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?
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Can the Surface Pro 3 beat a MacBook?

In terms of specs for the money, the Surface Pro 3 compares well with the 13-inch MacBook Air. The base 64-GB Pro 3 with 4 GB of RAM and an Intel i3 processor runs $930 with the optional $130 Type Cover. The Surface/Type-Cover combo hits $1,130 if you step up to an i5 and a 128-GB SSD. The 13-inch Air starts at $999 for a 1.4-GHz i5 chip, 4 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. At the high end, you'll pay $1,749 for a MacBook Air with 512 GB of storage, a faster i7 processor, and 8 GB of RAM. The top Surface Pro 3 offers the same specs for $1,949, or almost $2,100 with the keyboard. 

The Pro 3 is more expensive than comparable MacBook Airs, but the Pro 3's 2160 x 1440-pixel screen is noticeably nicer. The Air offers a decent but comparatively outdated 1440 x 900-pixel display. Microsoft's device also boasts the pen and touchscreen. That said, the MacBook Air still offers a pleasing touch experience via its track pad, and if you're focused on the laptop experience, the pen might not be an issue. The larger track pad on the Pro 3's Type Cover is a step above most Windows offers, but it's not in the same league as Apple's industry-leading tech. The Air also enjoys better battery life, promising 12 hours to the Surface Pro 3's nine. The Pro 3 is slightly thinner and lighter, however. 

At its most expensive, the Pro 3 costs more than some MacBook Pro models. The base 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, 4 GB of RAM, a 2.4-GHz i5 processor, and 128 GB of storage is $1,299. Its 2560 x 1600-pixel screen boasts even higher resolution than the Pro 3's. Even the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a 2.0-GHz quad-core i5 chip, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GM of storage is cheaper than a fully decked-out Pro 3. 

Essentially, it comes down to needs. As a pure laptop, the Pro 3's merits, such as its light weight and excellent screen, could make it preferable to comparable MacBooks. But if you don't care about hybridity, MacBooks are exceptional machines. Microsoft is charging a premium for the Pro 3's unique abilities. If you don't want them, save the extra cash.

Can the Surface Pro 3 beat a MacBook?
In terms of specs for the money, the Surface Pro 3 compares well with the 13-inch MacBook Air. The base 64-GB Pro 3 with 4 GB of RAM and an Intel i3 processor runs $930 with the optional $130 Type Cover. The Surface/Type-Cover combo hits $1,130 if you step up to an i5 and a 128-GB SSD. The 13-inch Air starts at $999 for a 1.4-GHz i5 chip, 4 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. At the high end, you'll pay $1,749 for a MacBook Air with 512 GB of storage, a faster i7 processor, and 8 GB of RAM. The top Surface Pro 3 offers the same specs for $1,949, or almost $2,100 with the keyboard.

The Pro 3 is more expensive than comparable MacBook Airs, but the Pro 3's 2160 x 1440-pixel screen is noticeably nicer. The Air offers a decent but comparatively outdated 1440 x 900-pixel display. Microsoft's device also boasts the pen and touchscreen. That said, the MacBook Air still offers a pleasing touch experience via its track pad, and if you're focused on the laptop experience, the pen might not be an issue. The larger track pad on the Pro 3's Type Cover is a step above most Windows offers, but it's not in the same league as Apple's industry-leading tech. The Air also enjoys better battery life, promising 12 hours to the Surface Pro 3's nine. The Pro 3 is slightly thinner and lighter, however.

At its most expensive, the Pro 3 costs more than some MacBook Pro models. The base 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, 4 GB of RAM, a 2.4-GHz i5 processor, and 128 GB of storage is $1,299. Its 2560 x 1600-pixel screen boasts even higher resolution than the Pro 3's. Even the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a 2.0-GHz quad-core i5 chip, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GM of storage is cheaper than a fully decked-out Pro 3.

Essentially, it comes down to needs. As a pure laptop, the Pro 3's merits, such as its light weight and excellent screen, could make it preferable to comparable MacBooks. But if you don't care about hybridity, MacBooks are exceptional machines. Microsoft is charging a premium for the Pro 3's unique abilities. If you don't want them, save the extra cash.

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Michael Endler
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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BillB031,
User Rank: Moderator
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
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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?
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