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6/23/2014
02:45 PM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Why To Buy

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 is finally available. But just because you can replace your laptop with the Surface Pro 3 doesn't mean everyone will want to.

Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

If you've read any reviews of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 -- mine included -- you've likely been told it's a device that will appeal to some people, but not to everyone. This raises a question: How are you supposed to know which group you're in?

It's difficult to answer, because there are two distinct angles from which would-be buyers can approach Microsoft's new tablet, which hit stores Friday. Some think of the Pro 3 in terms of other devices. They might ask how it competes as a laptop with the MacBook Air, or whether it's as good a tablet as an iPad. Others look beyond comparisons, because the new Surface is unlike any other device currently available.

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

I'll get to the latter group in a minute, but suffice it to say that, for certain jobs and work styles, the Pro 3's unique traits could be transformative. The former group, which I'll tackle first, is trickier.

Microsoft calls the Pro 3 the tablet that can replace a laptop, which is fair. Thin, light, fairly powerful, and more ergonomically polished than any of its predecessors (if not than any other 2-in-1), the Pro 3 is undeniably a nice laptop. When using earlier Surfaces, I never forgot that I was using a small, cramped, and compromised laptop. With the Pro 3, I don't feel these distractions. I can just work.

But just because you can replace your laptop with the Surface Pro 3 doesn't mean everyone will want to. The device's kickstand-based stability didn't bother me, but the approach is still fundamentally different from the clamshell designs most of us are used to. The difference is minute if you work at a desk, but whether you'll like balancing the Pro 3 on your lap is more subjective.

The Surface Pro 3's infinitely adjustable kickstand provides solid stability, but it's not the same as a clamshell design.
The Surface Pro 3's infinitely adjustable kickstand provides solid stability, but it's not the same as a clamshell design.

The Surface Pro 3's design makes it thinner and lighter than any comparably powerful alternatives, but it's not like many people have criticized the newest Ultrabooks -- let alone the MacBook Air -- as being too thick and heavy. Eventually, thinness hits a point of diminishing returns. Depending on your budget and needs, the Pro 3 might be past that point. Moreover, even if you prioritize sleek form factors, the market will be flush by early next year with even thinner, lighter devices, thanks to Intel's next-generation Broadwell processors.

Ultimately, if someone were to say the Surface Pro 3 is one the best laptops available, I wouldn't quibble -- which is saying something. If anyone tried to similarly lionize the Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2, I'd have called that person crazy. But if people were to say the Pro 3 simply didn't "click" with their needs, I wouldn't quibble with that, either -- especially given the Surface's price.

As a tablet, meanwhile, the Pro 3 is a different animal from an iPad. That hasn't stopped Microsoft execs from making the comparison; when the new Surface was introduced, Microsoft corporate vice president Panos Panay repeatedly juxtaposed it with a MacBook Air and an iPad, implying that the Pro 3 could replace both. This might be true for individual users, but on the whole, it's wishful thinking on Microsoft's part.

Sure, the Pro 3 overlaps in places with the iPad Air, but the devices handle differently and are good at different things. It's easy to draw equivalencies between them now that Office is available on iPads, but from apps to OS to ergonomics, the devices aren't interchangeable. I could see someone owning a Surface Pro 3 in addition to an iPad, but I'm skeptical that the former is truly a replacement for the latter.

But as I mentioned previously, there's more than one way to approach the Surface Pro 3. Compare it to devices you already know and like, and you'll probably find shortcomings. But think of its unique qualities, and you might find new ways of doing things.

The Surface Pro Pen, for example, creates a new category of tablet experience. Yes, iPads have more apps, and yes,

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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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stotheco
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stotheco,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2014 | 3:41:45 PM
Re: A Good Alternative
I've been using a Nexus 7 for the past year or so. I was completely satisfied at the beginning, until recently. I don't know what happened, but my tablet now moves at turtle speed, it's frustrating. Now I'm definitely considering the Surface Pro 3, considering all these good things. Or maybe I just need to refresh the Nexus--we'll see, but at this point, the Pro is very tempting.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2014 | 1:08:27 PM
Re: A Good Alternative
To add to my previous comment,

I'm currently testing out a Nexus 7. I have my email and have all my files synced, so I can access them on the go. I can remote in to all my applications, so I'm able to at least review any type of files and reply back. Yet I really haven't been able to do a transition, since I constantly have to multi task, switch between aplications and perform specific task that I can't do on  tablet.

So in my case, a tablet would mostly be inviting for the purpose of note taking in a training class, or reviewing sites when in the break room.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2014 | 1:06:11 PM
A Good Alternative
"But if you're looking for a device that can enable new ways of working, it warrants a serious look."

I think this comment hits the nail on the head.

In my current organization, mostly managers are walking around with surface device, mainly to cut back on weight and be lighter.

I think the choice of which tablet to use really comes done to the specific types of activities you're trying to transfer.

If you just need to perform "light computing" (meaning you don't code and you don't need a bigger screen for design work), than a tablet solution can definitly work out.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
6/24/2014 | 10:16:59 AM
Re: Enterprise or bust
Once you go "Mac" you'll never go back.  The OS and UI on a MacBook has stayed very consistent from one version/release to the next.  Can Microsoft say the same about Windows?  I don't think too many MacBook users are insterested in going back to the  moronic shuffling deck chair updates from Microsoft and they'd pay more for a product to stay in Apple's camp.
anon5315611673
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anon5315611673,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/24/2014 | 10:16:42 AM
Re: Too expensive
What is this value you speak of oh wise one. Please enlighten me. I can use more than rhetoric to back myself up. You are buying the same internal components at a known 30%+ markup. Because of lack of hardware options. Lack of support for gaming. Limited value in a business environment because most small to mid sized B2B companies only support Windows thanks to it's huge hold on that sector. Less support for hardware concerns. If you find the OSX that amazing you can install hackintosh on a better PC that cost half as much. Now you can dual boot. There are more reasons that I can't think of off the top of my head. Anyways, now it's your turn. Tell me how I'm wrong. Tell me how the exact same i5 is worth more because Apple is on the case.

 

PS:

 I love how every fan boy's immediate go to when someone says something bad about their system is "oh you must work for M$/Apple". How about we grow up or do you work for Apple HAHA
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
6/24/2014 | 10:07:02 AM
Re: shopper report
It looks like Microsoft is making the same mistake as with the Surface Pro 2, limited model availablity.  The Surface Pro 2 256GB model never saw the light of day.  Looks like the same is reoccuring with the Surface Pro  3 (i5) 256GB model.  Both are a home run for businesses but can't get their hands on one.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
6/24/2014 | 9:59:44 AM
Re: Too expensive
Apple is a status symbol?  Apple is the largest valued corporation in the world because its a status symbol?  Not hardly.  Obviously you know absolutely nothing about a product's value.  You should work for Microsoft business development because that's their problem too.  They haven't been able to come up with a product that provides the best amount of features and price that represents a "good" value to the customer.  Apple certainly has.
anon5315611673
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anon5315611673,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/24/2014 | 9:25:28 AM
Re: Too expensive
Isn't that the problem though? It was designed on the premise of being both a laptop AND a tablet but fell drastically short. They failed to attract enough developers to their platform because so few people are adopting this technology. It may have a niche but the niche is gone if it fails to deliver on promises. Also, I'm about to let the hate rain down on me but buying a MacBook air is throwing money out the window. There are tons of ultrabooks out there that can compete with size and specs for $500+ dollars less than an Air. Microsoft should have NEVER developed something that is relatively similar in price when compared to an Apple product. Let's be honest, Apple is a status symbol. There is nothing that warrants their price tag and the worst thing a PC enthusiast can do is say "well Apple is charging...". If they're both the same price you only risk losing more PC people because Apple users already knew their product was more expensive. However, both prices being equal you'll have a lot of people begin to question "why not get an Apple since it's the same price?" 

 

Also, I don't want people to be under the impression I'm some Microsoft hating guy. I actually prefer Microsoft and I think this could be successful if they do the following for the next generation.

 

Drop the price of SP-4 to something in the 800 range WITH keyboard. Nickel and diming is no way to treat your customers.

SP-4 comes with the suggested telescopic kick stand.

Increase the screen to somewhere in the 11.4 inch range.

Make i7 the standard. These aren't cheap machines, even at $800 i7 is the norm, don't short your customers.

ATTRACT DEVELOPERS: there is no reason with Microsoft's endless resources they can't do something like make it only a 5-10% cut of all sales as opposed to 30% for a year or two so people see value in the idea of selling on the Windows Store. Also, consider allowing developers to publish with Java. Currently, developers have to use C#. Allowing developers to use Java instead means a simple port of their existing Android app.

Dedicated GPUs. Now maybe as a developer and a game enthusiast these mean more to me than most. However, PCs big sell is how they have such a focus on gaming when compared to Macs. With that in mind I'd love to see some way to turn this into a gaming machine. How about they put in a servicable at best GPU but make it dedicated so they could sell perhaps the Nvidia line SP-4 edition. Then you can turn this into something that REALLY brings in consumers since they could upgrade this. 

 

That is A LOT to ask but above me is the recipe for success. It could lead to a very special device I would gladly buy!
Fill
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Fill,
User Rank: Strategist
6/23/2014 | 10:48:55 PM
Too awkward, too expensive
I like the power and the potential of running regular Windows software, but it isn't a 'laptop' with the magnetic keyboard and kickstand.  Table top, yes, but I can't see how it is as ergonomic as a regular hinged laptop on a lap.  And for the price, you can get a lot of other things like any of the convertable touch screen laptops out there which have great specs.

That said, I do think the future will be that smaller devices will have virtually as much power and battery life as you could want and the form factor will be less of a requirement on those.  That should be obvious.

So, at least for now, I think MS is falling down on competitive price (I mean, you can buy a MBP for the cost of some of those configurations, not just a MBA).  And on ergonomics and user interface (I won't get into the problems with Metro/Win8).

As a side-note, I find it a bit desperate looking that MS has ads, trade ins offers, etc. that continually mention Apple and their products.  They were supposed to be the anti-Apple, but they keep coming back around to comparing themselves and their products to Apple's.

Thanks for the article!
beyondabraxas
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beyondabraxas,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/23/2014 | 10:29:25 PM
What about the glued in components/built in obsolescence/ impossibility to repair?
I have a story for ya'll....

I dropped my SP1, barely 15 inches onto thick and fluffy carpet at an odd angle, nothing that would damage anything usually, except the thing is, it landed on the open kickstand, and by leverage (and shoddy plastic kickstand parts) the kickstand tore off, when it did tear off -- thanks to the over gluing inside, the tabs of the kickstand peeled off some other black foil like stuff, which I'm assuming was battery related since after that I'd notice kinds of 'powder' and 'sweat' which would burn with my hands - I called MS - since it was still under warranty, However, they wouldn't fix it for me since it was considered my fault for dropping it, which I'm totally fine with, losing a kick stand, no problem, my fault for that -- whats not my fault is the kickstand being so flimsy and attached to glue inside that it would peel battery foil off, causing residue to come out on occasion, that is a product problem. And made the device very unsafe in my mind. Anyways, I had to pay $300 (in goodfaith) for a refurb exchange two months ago, in this time, they're 'supposed to be' inspecting my device to verify my claims, thats the best they could do apparently - So far, I've heard nada - And this Refurb has been a unqiue experience all over again, since I'm assuming the battery in the refurb wasn't replaced, it has been giving me all kinds of hassle. bat life has been much weaker than my old surface, I've spent hours upon hours trouble shooting with support on the phone, trying to solve the 'Plugged in - Not Charging' message I'm constantly faced with - The techs determined I should send it back in for another Refurb since mine is clearly defective even to their techs, since I followed every advice of theirs i.e. formatting numerous times, reupdating and reinstalling things. I say screw that - The amount of time and headache sunk into this thing, installing software, backing up, all cloud downloads mind you, its very time consuming having to replace and format again and again, this is just not worth it - Both my Surfaces have had some sort of Battery issue - Once my Surface dies, I'll leave it dead and be done with the Surface line thanks to their shoddy construction i.e. use of glue/built in obsoletion and all around battery problems. I'd rather get a competitors product that allows me to atleast change the battery on my $1000+ device.

I really was one of the initial proponents of this device - My friend, an animation director was an early adopter and promoter, he did commercials with them for it I believe. Anyways, he turned me onto this thing very early on, and I was all about it. In turn, I demoed it to my professional artist friends and got more than a couple handful to grab their own devices -- Since in retrospect it was a great device for an animator/artist for the price. Now, this whole experience with battery related problems and product construction/gluing, inability to replace bad batteries and built in obsoltetion has left such a bad taste that I'm done with this product line. As much as I'd like to support local American brands - The Surface is dead to me.


iFixit rightfully gave the Surfaces a repairability score of 1/10. Its non existant. All batteries die eventually - IQ or not. I gotta deal with my soon to be $1300 paperweight.

Sorry for rant - I've been a subscriber and follower of this sub for too long, contributer in its early days - now I just hate hearing about surface stuff considering my shitty experiences.

I know my post is about the SP1 - you can bet the SP3 is no different. They're annual products with no chance of repairability.
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