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 The Air offers a decent but comparatively outdated 1440 x 900-pixel display.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.
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