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Microsoft Surface Pro 3: What's Missing

Microsoft's latest tablet boasts some dramatic improvements, but the pricey device still lacks some key features.

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On Tuesday, Microsoft unveiled the Surface Pro 3, a tablet that the company says can replace your laptop. It has a larger, sharper screen than the Surface Pro 2, a thinner design, and an improved hinge and keyboard. Microsoft made a ton of improvements to the device -- all with productivity and the ability "to get stuff done" in mind.

That's what leads us to question some of the choices Microsoft made in planning the Surface Pro 3, which arrives just six months after the Surface Pro 2. It is the most powerful and portable tablet yet from Microsoft, but it leaves out some key features that many mobile professionals have come to rely on. Let's take a look.

The Surface Pro 3 does not support today's cellular wireless networks. According to the official spec page released by Microsoft, it supports 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, but not LTE. WiFi may be nearly ubiquitous, but it isn't available on the side of the road, out in the field, or in a million other places where people wind up working when they're out and about. Most of today's tablets include LTE options at the very least. It's disappointing to see that no such option exists for the Surface Pro 3.

[For more on Microsoft's newest tablet, see Microsoft Surface, Touch-First Office Details Emerge.]

The Surface Pro 3 starts at $799. That price includes 64 GB of storage, a Core i3 processor, and 4 GB of RAM. The top-of-the-line model, which packs 512 GB of storage, a Core i7 processor, and 8 GB of RAM, costs a whopping $1,949. Price points that fall between these include $999 for a Core i5 device with 128 GB of storage; $1,299 for a Core i5 device with 256 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM; and $1,549 for Core i7 with 256 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM. To put that into perspective, the top-of-the-line iPad with 128 GB of storage and LTE costs $929. The Surface Pro 3 may be a tablet, but it is being priced like a laptop.

Microsoft made huge improvements to the Surface's keyboard accessory -- it now has a larger trackpad and a more secure magnetic fit to the device itself for improved laptop computing. Too bad it's not included. If you want a keyboard, it'll cost you another $130. Most users agree that true productivity hinges on a keyboard for faster, more accurate typing. It's a stretch to call the Surface Pro 3 the "tablet that can replace your laptop" if it doesn't actually ship with a keyboard included. If you want a keyboard, be prepared to shell out at least $930 ($799 + $130). Of course, the iPad (along with every other tablet) doesn't include a keyboard, either, but Apple isn't really pitching its tablet as a true laptop replacement.

Questionable portability
Microsoft made a big deal about the Surface Pro 3's size and weight compared to certain Apple products. Microsoft executive Panos Panay argued that most people who carry an iPad also carry a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. He said flat out that the MacBook Air is a best-in-class device in terms of the thin-and-light form factor. Together, though, the MacBook Air and iPad Air weigh more than 3.8 pounds and are fairly thick when stacked one upon the other.

The Surface Pro 3 (by itself, with no keyboard) weighs 1.76 pounds. With the keyboard, it weighs 2.41 pounds. It measures 7.93 inches wide, 11.5 inches long, and 0.36 inches thick (9.1 mm, if you prefer). The device is by no means large, but it is much larger than an iPad Air, which measures 6.6 inches wide by 9.4 inches long by 0.29 inches thick and weighs just one pound. The Surface Pro 3 may weigh significantly less than a MacBook Air and iPad Air combined, but when pitted head to head with the Surface Pro 3, the iPad comes out on top in terms of portability.

Many users will correctly point out that the Surface Pro 3 is a full Windows 8.1 machine, while the iPad is not a full Mac. That's true, but as you'll see in its most recent iPad commercials, Apple disputes the notion that the iPad can't be used to get stuff done. Any way you slice it, the Surface Pro 3 is a tablet that has the price point and the weight of a laptop (with the keyboard included).

Microsoft achieved some significant leaps forward with the Surface Pro 3. It is a thinner, lighter, more functional tablet than its predecessors. In creating a tablet that is meant to serve as both laptop and tablet, however, Microsoft can't help but stumble on the weaknesses of both in terms of size and cost. The Surface Pro 3 may serve as a laptop and tablet replacement for some users, but others will be happy to skip out of the office with a thinner, lighter tablet that costs hundreds of dollars less.

What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
5/22/2014 | 11:31:51 AM
Lost Credibility
This author lost all credibility with me at the affordability complaint.  This is not an iPad.  We are not talking about cortex A9 chips and a watered down app ecosystem.  This is a full Windows laptop stuffed into a tablet form factor. The $799 i3 model alone is more powerful than the latest iPad. Different devcies, different usecases, invalid comparison.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/21/2014 | 11:50:39 PM
Re: New Tablets
Another innovative tablet to launch this week is the Ramos i10 Pro ($399) which offers the first Dual-boot tablet on the market that makes it easy to use both Windows software and Android Apps.

The Ramos i10 Pro first premiered at CeBit 2014 at the Intel Showcase and offers a 10-inch, Full HD display, an Intel BayTrail 64-bit processor, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and a 8000 mAh battery with 9 hours battery life.

One source with more on the new Ramos i10 Pro multimedia device is -- i P r o T a b l et
telle quelle
telle quelle,
User Rank: Strategist
5/21/2014 | 4:19:59 AM
Re: Microsoft's new strategy.
khodson, newsflash! The Surface OS is a full-blown Windows 8.1, you don't need to rely just on "apps" from the app store. But I think you knew that already. You just like trolling for red herrings, eh?
User Rank: Apprentice
5/20/2014 | 11:31:46 PM
Microsoft's new strategy.
Microsoft is like a person going through a midlife crisis. They said the word "Apple", "iPad", and "MacBook" way more than they even talked about the surface. I also thought it was hilarious that the whole front row (and probably every row) had a glowing Apple sign. How uncomfortable could that have been for the executives??? Also, I noticed on the Surface's website that Microsoft was comparing the new Surface to the clunky old MacBook Pro not the MacBook Pro with Retina display and the comparisons weren't even accurate (guess that's just marketing). I love the look of the new surface but when there's no apps to get things done (besides photoshop lol) it's kind of pointless. I also noticed there little video about inspiring people with the surface and found it strikingly similar to Apple's current "What will your verse be?" campaign. It even had the same Myriad Pro typography. Windows Store has absolutely no app selection whatsoever. Honestly everyone hates Windows 8, but I kind of like it's looks (not the app selection). However I'm a die hard Apple fan if you couldn't already tell and would never buy anything Microsoft. Don't put any hate comments I already know I'm a fanboy.
User Rank: Ninja
5/20/2014 | 6:45:07 PM
Re: Surface Pro 3 missing pieces
Ok, I missed the part about not including the keyboard. Due to that fact I agree with the author about the price point. If you are going to charge that much for it include the keyboard.
User Rank: Ninja
5/20/2014 | 6:41:58 PM

Is LTE really such an issue? Not everyone that gets the Surface will need or want it. Almost all smart phones can be used as mobile hotspots so I don't see this as a big issue.

User Rank: Ninja
5/20/2014 | 6:38:29 PM
Price point

I'm not sure why it is pointed out a few times that the Surface Pro 3 is a tablet at a laptops price point. You can use it as a tablet or a laptop so I don't see anything wrong with the price. The high end model has the hardware to back up the price in the form of a tablet. You can't do the same things on an iPad that you can do on a Surface Pro. That is a fact. I can see Apple is trying to spin that discussion in their favor but I'm not buying it.

Michael Endler
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/20/2014 | 5:57:47 PM
Surface Pro 3 missing pieces
I think the Surface Pro 3 is by far the most compelling tablet Microsoft has yet produced, and the most intriguing Windows tablet I've seen, period. But Eric brings up valid points. Microsoft is basically positioning the Surface Pro 3 as a competitor to not only the iPad, but also the MacBook Air and even 13-inch MacBook Pro. The Pro 3's marketed uniqueness is going to invite all kinds of comparisons, especially with the price. It might be the tablet that replaces a laptop, but it's definitely priced the like the latter.  Here's my take on the missing pieces Eric pointed out:

1. Definitely. A mobile device isn't truly mobile if it can't get online whenever you need it to. Really wish they'd included this. Maybe later, like Microsoft did with Surface 2.

2. I'd feel okay about the prices if Microsoft would include the damn keyboard—as Eric said, the Pro 3's been priced like a laptop, and to me, that means Microsoft should include the keyboard. Even so, of all the Surface models, the Pro 3 does the best job justifying its entry high cost. When you compare what you'd get for your money today to what Microsoft wanted for the Surface RT a couple years ago, it's a pretty big leap.

3. See above.

4. We'll see about this. I'm gonna get a chance tomorrow to check out the tablet. I've talked to some people who say it handles surprisingly well. I'm curious. The Surface 2 was light, but still awkward in portrait mode. And both of the first two Pro models were pretty lousy as tablets, which made their size-related shortcomings as laptops all the more glaring. I'll be curious to see how the new aspect ratio, thinness and form factor balance out for handheld use. That said, between the Pro 3's improved laptop capabilities and pen functions, it doesn't need to match the iPad's pure tablet experience. Earlier Surfaces were too compromised, and even though this one surely has its drawbacks too, I think Microsoft has more effectively calculated where to draw lines. It's not gonna make consumers drop their iPads, but I bet business users will like it, and that Microsoft can build respectable share. Even a comparatively modest amount of enterprise market share would offer better margins than all those cheap Android devices combined.

All of the above said, if the pen delivers as advertised, I think these concerns are mitigated.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/20/2014 | 5:47:40 PM
Office Apps for iPad, Surface Pro and Azure RemoteApps
Microsoft's vision appears to be so 'clouded', I get more and more confused with each announcement Deadmond (sorry:Redmond) makes.

During the last month, Microsoft has announced the introduction of Office for the iPad followed a week or two later by the announcement of Microsoft RemoteApps from the Azure cloud (office apps delivered by remote desktop by Microsoft from their Azure cloud). Why would Microsoft offer an Internet connection dependent application platform and then not offer cell connectivity for it on their latest and greatest hardware? Who's guiding this ship?

Microsoft also introduced a few months back a new remote desktop client. This client took the place of the most popular remote desktop client for the Mac and iPad, which they either bought or may have actually owned already. This new client is excellent, and the latest iteration includes a built-in connection to Microsoft RemoteApps in the Azure cloud. This last little bit is another nail in the coffin for companies which already host Microsoft applications as a service. Of note is the fact that the first iteration of this new remote desktop client was significantly easier to configure on an iPad or Mac when connecting to remote apps than the ability of Windows to do the same thing. The latest iteration levels the playing field by making the iPad and Mac configuration as difficult as Windows.  For those not familiar with connecting to RemoteApp resources, this is done through the remote desktop web gateway using a rather long URL in the form of This entire string is necessary in the RemoteApps and Desktops configuration in Windows. The previous version of the remote desktop client for Macs and iPads required only the, something much easier to pass along to users when they are trying to do this on their own. The new client for Macs and iPads now requires the entire string! Imagine that! Instead of making the Windows interface easier, they made the Mac one more difficult! Way to go Deadmond.

Another confusion with all of the new metro interfaces is the name Windows. It is no longer valid.  The name "Windows" came from the ability to open multiple applications in unlimited discreet, resizable and movable windows on your desktop. This was what made "Windows" the great OS it was. This no longer exists.  As such, the name Windows is dead. The namesake of the most successful software company the world has ever seen has been abandoned. I wonder what they're smoking out there in Deadmond?

Is anyone else confused.  Steve Ballmer isn't retiring.  He's taking his money and running and abandoning this ship of fools.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/20/2014 | 5:42:29 PM
Re: New Hybrid
Another innovative tablet and the first Windows 8.1 - Android Hybrid also launches this week -- the Ramos i10 Pro ($399) is the first Dual-boot hybrid on the market and makes it easy to switch between using the two operating systems and offers a 10-inch, full HD display, an Intel Bay Trail 64-bit processor, Bluetooth, GPS, and a 8000 mAh battery with 9 hours battery life.

One of the first sources with details on the new Ramos i10 Pro is -- iProTablet
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