My review of the Surface Pro 3

So I have spent some time with a Surface Pro 3 and thought a review would make some sense.

As people who have read this blog for a while know, I reviewed the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 in the past and was intrigued but less than impressed.

Those devices seemed like they fell just a little short of what was needed to be successful in this new space but in all fairness, Mirosoft was attempting something very new.

Both devices were more like “statements of intent” attempting to show the direction that Microsoft was heading in.

With the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft now seem to be fully convinced that this is the device of the future.

Let’s get started.

Unboxing

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 packaging

This is still an area where Microsoft lags behind and with the pricing of this device I cannot for the life of me understand it. The packaging doesn’t necessarily look cheap but it doesn’t feel special.

The boxing is held together with tape and the paper background of the (separate) Type Cover seemed plain and flimsy.

I think that with a device that potentially could cost well over $2000, Microsoft need to rethink the entire packaging experience. It does not feel like you are taking out something special and that’s a problem.

Design

Microsoft_Surface_Pro_3_design_final


Every generation of the Microsoft Surface tablets has gotten progressively better and this device is no exception. The device looks pretty slick. You get the beautifully crisp magnesium alloy metal casing that’s incredibly thin at 0.36-inches but internally has the hardware and horsepower of a full notebook computer.

The Surface Pro 3 measures in at 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inches and 1.76lbs (without the Type Keyboard attached) and it’s not a bad shape.

All the reviews I read rave on about how light it is and relatively speaking that is true (compared to a laptop sure). I can tell you though it’s not insignificantly light at all.

After substantial amounts of use, it definitely feels substantial and “light” is not the word that continued to pop up.

Microsoft have modified and extended the built in (very robust feeling) kickstand so that it clicks back all the way to 150 degrees. This is genius because it means you can use the device at almost any reasonable angle.

I had mentioned that I have big hands in my last review of the previous generation of the Surface and it felt small to me. The Surface Pro 3 never really felt that way at all. The keyboard felt really solid and I definitely had no problem doing “real work” on the device.

This device has a USB 3.0 and a Mini DisplayPort, along with a microSD card slot under the stand, a headset jack. In addition it has a magnetic Cover Port on the bottom edge.

Stereo speakers can be found under small slits on the sides and there’s a slit that runs through the side of the device that allows the fan to blow the air out.

The volume button is on the upper left edge, and the Windows key has shifted from the bottom bezel to the right.

There’s also a redesigned charging port, which now clicks into place without the uncertainty of whether it’s charging, as was a common complaint about the old model.

Hardware and Performance

SurfacePro3-v7

My review unit was a Core i5 unit running Windows 8.1 but Microsoft will be offering an i3 and i7 unit at both ends of the (price and performance) scales.

The entry-level Surface Pro 3 comes with 64GB of flash storage (128GB is an option, as well as being the standard storage for the low-tier Core i5; more expensive models get either 256GB or 512GB). It also comes with either 4GB or 8GB of RAM.

The device also has WiFi a/b/g/n/ac along with Bluetooth 4.0 LE, stereo microphones, and 5-megapixel cameras front and back, a digital compass, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, and a magnetometer.

Oddly enough the devices do not have an LTE option at this time but I fully expect Microsoft to provide that in subsequent versions.

During use, even though Microsoft say the device should provide up to nine hours of use with a battery, I was averaging about 8 which is not bad at all.

The Display

SurfacePro3-v6

The first and second generation Surface devices were simply too small when it came to screen size (10 inches). The Surface Pro 3 is much better since it’s a full 2160 x 1440 resolution and 12-inches in size.

The extra screen size does make a huge difference and it feels way more useable in this form factor.

The Pen

Surface_Pro_3_stylus

Your Surface Pro 3 will come with a pen. The new N-Trig pen that comes with the Surface Pro 3 is sleek and beautiful. It’s aluminum and sleek and feels like a quality writing device. Unfortunately Microsoft have made the cardinal sin of not carving out a groove in the tablet where the pen can be stored safely.

Instead there’s a little loop that sticks to the body of the tablet or Type Cover where you can (theoretically) store the pen when it’s not in use. Honestly though, the truth is that Microsoft need to integrate storage for the pen into the body of the device. Any other location just makes you feel self conscious and paranoid about losing the damn thing.

The pen is great for using OneNote and the Surface Pro 3 turns the button on the pen into a OneNote trigger, bringing the tablet out of sleep mode when clicked, and automatically opening up a new, blank note.

Also, if you’ve got the camera app open and click on the Surface Pen’s button, it’ll not only snap an image but save that image to a new note for you to annotate.

Type Keyboard

SurfacePro3-v8

The Type Keyboard is awesome this time around. Like the Type Cover of the second-gen Surface, the keys are backlit but since this new device has a bigger screen, the keyboard is correspondingly wider. This makes for more comfortable typing, and the trackpad is larger and smoother.

I have large hands but it felt great to me.

Now what is insane is the fact that Microsoft:

  • Didn’t make the Type Cover a standard accessory that comes with the Surface Pro 3
  • Charge $129.99 for it.

These are two ridiculous business decisions that will cause consumers to pause (yet again) when they shouldn’t have to.

Pricing

Once again, here are the prices that Microsoft are charging for the Surface Pro 3.

  • The 512GB Intel i7 tablet is $1949.
  • The 256GB Intel i7 tablet is $1549.
  • The 256GB Intel i5 tablet is $1299.
  • The 128GB Intel i5 tablet is $999.
  • The 64GB Intel i3 tablet is $799.

Source – Microsoft Store.

These prices are WITHOUT the Type Keyboard so throw an additional $129.99 into each price.

Those are ridiculous prices that have to make you ask what Microsoft’s strategy is.

For those who know their Microsoft history, they will know (from former Steve Ballmer statements) that it’s not clear what Microsoft planned to do with this line of devices.

  • Are they just a reference line of hardware to “show OEM’s how it’s done?”
  • Are they meant to be aggressively sold so that all consumers have a Surface Pro 3?
  • Is this really a corporate play so that companies have them for their employees?

At these prices, I suspect the Surface Pro 3 will remain a relative novelty. Really great to look at and admire but something that most people will not buy and that’s a shame.

It’s a really great device but it’s not priced to sell and you have to question the wisdom of that.

Summary

SurfacePro3-v5

Microsoft has done a really wonderful job with this device. I am impressed by how far the Surface has come and think that this device had a lot of thought and planning go into it’s execution.

I have a Macbook Pro 15 inch Retina laptop and it wasn’t really ever an option for me to switch. The whole attempt to get people to switch from Macs to this seemed silly to me from the very beginning.

People who use Macs probably are happy with the features of OS X and aren’t really too concerned about this new form factor if it means having to deal with Windows 8.1.

I haven’t been shy about saying that the pricing for this device is way too high and by not taking losses and using these devices as loss leaders, Microsoft continues to miss the point.

If I spend as much money designing a watch as Rolex does, make it look like a Rolex watch and feel like a Rolex watch, that doesn’t mean I can charge Rolex prices for my watch. The market needs time to get to know my product and appreciate the quality. Lots of time.

I do however think that these devices are slam dunks for the enterprise.

The Surface Pro 3 is EXACTLY the device I wrote about in my piece “24 hours in an all Microsoft world” where I said:

You dock your tablet into your terminal and you can use it with a keyboard, mouse and monitor.

You log into your work domain and your Microsoft account is deactivated but your corporate account is activated. You only have access to corporate cloud services with the exception of your calendar.

Your Xbox message beeps and reminds you to give your boss the message.

Using Skype, you get on your first video conference call of the day with 5 different countries. In the middle of that call, the screen is minimized because you have an incoming video call from your wife. You take the call briefly to answer her question and once you hang up, you are back on the video conference call.

You remember you want to tape a tv show so you send your Xbox an email saying “record 60 minutes”. The Xbox at home receives the email and starts the process of recording that series for you.

You walk down the hall to a conference room for a meeting with your tablet and take notes with a stylus. Paper stopped being used 7 years ago.

At your next meeting, using Bluetooth, you are able to connect your tablet to a projector and give that presentation. During the presentation, you use your stylus to take real-time feedback on the slides.

If you’re a Windows fan and need to have the latest and greatest, this is it. If you’re a budget conscious shopper it will be hard to justify spending the money on this device and once again, that’s a shame.

What about you guys and girls? Do you have a Surface Pro 3?

Use the comments below and let me know what you think of the device.

Gallery

Please Leave Your Comments Below...

  • David Farris

    “I have a Macbook Pro 15 inch Retina laptop” or as I call it review invalidation.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      LOL “aka honesty and you know where I stand”.

      • mgp

        Then why review something you already decided not to use. Just to bash Microsoft, like always. WRITE ABOUT MAC!!!!!!!! LEAVE THE MICROSOFT WORLD ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

          Hard to call it bashing when the review says things like

          “The Surface Pro 3 is a fantastic piece of hardware that Microsoft have done an amazing job with. It’s beautiful, stylish and elegant and allows users to comfortably and conveniently work and play.”

          or

          “If you’re a Windows fan and need to have the latest and greatest, this is it.”

          But then again, you have your own agenda.

          Thanks.

          • mgp

            Don’t be condescending!!! “if you’re a windows fan” but apple is still better and I wouldn’t change. I just wish you would accept that you write about windows with a bias. You’re not an expert, cause you, by your own admission don’t use it. So PLEASE stop writing about WINDOWS and MICROSOFT and JUST DISSAPEAR INTO THE APPLESPHERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

            A tad dramatic aren’t we?

            Thanks for the comment anyway.

          • mgp

            I meant every word!!!!!

          • Yorker

            I think you’re way off base MGP. This was a fair review of a GOOD not great product from Microsoft. The truth is Apple has great products and Microsoft has some great products. Being a fan of one doesn’t disqualify you of liking the other.

          • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

            Appreciate it Yorker!

      • Alberto Gorin

        if i have to buy surface pro need to save some more money
        if you buy a good tablet need to save money
        i do not know buy android of Microsoft
        or is it apple
        ile wait or miss the boat or best have yet to come and i laugh the last

  • Charles V Brown Jr

    Surface Pro 3 is a premium (Ultimate) product at the high end (price, features & quality) … the numerous other vendors will fill the middle and the low end.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      It’s a great question Charles.

      I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Apple have spent a lot of time studying the consumer experience.

      From the wrapping to the packaging to all the materials, there’s an attempt to make it feel absolutely amazing. Call it marketing hype or BS or fanboyism, the fact of the matter is people want what they have to sell.

      The other reason is that Apple do not license out their Operating System. That means that every Apple product has that quality I spoke of and you cannot get a cheaper competing Apple product.

      Microsoft has so many competing products like the Transformer T100, that when they ask for $2000, there are choices.

      It’s complicated.

      • Charles V Brown Jr

        Hi Onuora … Excellent points. Apple certainly does go the extra mile on presentation and image and some may call that hype. I just think we should cut Microsoft a little slack. Success for Microsoft should not be measured by becoming an exact clone of Apple — Apples and Oranges are both enjoyed and they have nutrient contents that are different and complementary to each other. In other words, we are healthier because they are different .

        Later.

        Charles.

        • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

          Great points too Charles.

          As always, I respect your (civil) point of view.

          Thanks!

        • Dennis

          I see both sides here Charles. However, I can go buy a Macbook pro laptop for $1,300 right now, which is considerably less than I would spend on the Surface Pro 3. I think that’s something to consider.

          All in all, I think Apple and Microsoft do a good job offering different products to their customers. After all, this is natural competition.

          Nice review Onuora!

          • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

            Thanks Dennis!

  • http://www.audiovideofile.wordpress.com/ John Freiman

    I agree with Paul, the Surface Pro 3 is a great device, but priced too high for most consumers. That said, I also agree with Paul that the product is well positioned for business users and corporations, hospitals, etc. That is where Microsoft will be able to sell this device.
    However, I don’t agree with Paul entirely with regards to the keyboard. I believe that the keyboard should be priced separately, but should be priced much lower. A Touchcover should be made and sold for $30 and be sold as a “cover” and the Typecover should be sold for approx. $60 — the idea of keeping the keyboard separate is to keep the Surface 3 — all the Surface models, as tablets. You add a keyboard to every model Surface and it becomes a mess and confuses the positioning of the product.
    I would ague that you can compare laptops as desktop replacements, but you can’t dot that (yet) with the Surface Pro 3. However, like Microsoft points out, you can replace your laptop with a Surface Pro 3 — assuming you own a desktop computer still. 😉
    Should Microsoft create a lower priced more value oriented Surface Pro or should they lower the overall price? They should release a more value oriented tablet like of Surface Pro 3, but at a lower price to gain the K-12 market as well as the home user who wants this still very unique tablet, but isn’t part of the 1%. I don’t know if that “value” SP3 would be running a AMD APU or a Qualcomm, but this next lower cost product needs to come locked down with regards to drivers and maybe even codecs. The one thing that still sets Windows x86 apart from mass market success when compared to iPads, is that it is too easy to install stuff and have it break. Tablets should be and are expected to be headache and problem free. That is the future of the Surface Pro.

    • Mike_from_Saskatoon

      Why do you feel that you cannot consider the SP3 a desktop replacement? I’ve used a laptop as a desktop replacement for the past decade or so, and it’s worked very well. I just hook the laptop up to a USB docking station and voila! That includes a dual monitor setup, ethernet, network access including printers, wireless keyboard and mouse. It’s worked flawlessly for many years.

      Do you know what the difference is when you replace that laptop with a Surface Pro 3? Nothing. Nada. Not a blessed thing. It just works.

      I agree that the SP3 is priced as a premium ultrabook though. It will serve the same small market as every other $1000 plus portable computer, from the Yoga Pro 2 to the Asus Zenbook to the MacBook Air and Pro. It’s a relatively small market, but it seems to be big enough to interest the major players.

      • http://www.audiovideofile.wordpress.com/ John Freiman

        I didn’t mean to say that no one could use the SP3 as a desktop replacement, just that there are still some things that desktop computers still can do/achieve that a tablet such as the SP3 can not do. I personally could not live with only a tablet or laptop, I choose to have a desktop pc which remains stationary, records my cable hdtv with media center, serves and streams my content around my home to each tv.

        • faggot

          and the sp3 can do just that if you set it up correctly..

        • Mike_from_Saskatoon

          I agree that there are tasks to which a desktop PC is better suited than a mobile PC. Very intensive tasks requiring vast computing power are better suited to the desktop PC.

          What you refer to though can be done by a SP3 or a laptop easily. The ONLY difference between a portable PC and a desktop PC is power. A desktop PC will always be cheaper per power unit, and be able to handle more absolute power than a mobile PC. What you are wanting is not a function of power but of software, which is no different between a SP3, a laptop / notebook, or a desktop.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Great point about the K-12 marketplace.

      Microsoft could totally rule the school system at a better price.

      • Mike_from_Saskatoon

        I agree, except that John is wanting Microsoft to create a walled-garden version of Windows for those school systems. They tried that with the Windows RT, and abandoned it. The developers didn’t want to play in MS’s walled garden.

        John’s complaints about compatibility and IT support are warranted, but school’s already have IT departments well-versed in Windows. Adding a mobile Windows computer isn’t going to create any additional headaches for the IT people when they already have Windows computers everywhere.

  • Robert W. Burnham

    I got to play around with one of these in a store, and it did feel lighter than my SP1, but obviously not drastically so.

    I still think Microsoft missed a bit chance to get cheap Surface tablets into people’s hands by not having an Atom version that was build the same as the Surface RT tablets. Atom-based Surface tablets could have been great “home” options, whereas the current crop of Surface Pro tablets are solid options for business use. I still love the design of the Surface tablets.

    The one major upside of the SP3 is the screen. The new scree ration, plus the bigger size and resolution make it great for reading things like comic books and magazines, and appeals to me. I am not going to rush out and buy one, but it’s certainly on my wish list.

    • WillyThePooh

      If it is larger than SP1 and lighter than SP1, that should be a big improvement.

  • Terry Gold

    Mike, as i read this article i am wiping my Surface Pro 3 to return it. My assessment and reasons:

    – Really is a great device. If I was oozing $$$ I would keep it, and use it joyfully once in a while. And that s the main problem.

    1. Between my desktop with SSD, 16 GB RAM and 3 monitors, when i am in my office, I use that. My X1 Carbon ultrabook outperforms and is better to “work” on and my iPad is lighter and snappier for anything non-work related.

    2. It really is not good as a tablet. Too heavy, apps choices are thin, and seems clunky. The size is good for a laptop but too big and heavy to read papers, magazines, etc.

    3. More like a laptop replacement except for the same price you can get a better laptop that is just about as light and far more capable.

    4. Windows performance. It just doesn’t come on and off and perform like a tablet. MS did a good job on Windows 8 being less bloated but is still far from purpose built for convenience to compete with a droid or ipad tablet. At 1GB RAM the iPad Air out performs it in the tablet use category.

    5. Stylus: I stopped using it. Never really worked well for me. I did calibrate.

    6. Battery. If i turn almost everything off and just use th web and a couple apps, then yes, I got 8 hours. But if I use it to take advantage of the benefits of it replacing my laptop as well, I got closer to 3.5 at best. Dropbox, Google Drive, apps, OneDrive and other Microsoft services running in the background chewed it all up. At that point, taking 2.5 hours to charge again verses my X1 Carbon that takes 30 minutes (quick charge feature ROCKS) I can tell you which one I would rather be traveling with even despite having to carry around an extra 1 pound of weight.

    7. Price: I got 256, 8 GB version with the keyboard. After tax I was up over 1500. A new X1 Carbon costs less. They are trying to compete in the tablet space at a premium laptop price.

    8. Serviceability: If this devices really did both tablet on par with those type of devices, this is a good deal, and perhaps this is what MS is thinking. But that is not the reality for people that require optimal performance and considerations out of their devices because they either aren’t going to get rid of their other ones or get use out of this one. However, when you take into account that you REALLY need an extended warranty on this device because you cannot service this device on your own (see tear down videos as it turns out to be the “worst built device EVER for servicing” and if I do have any issues at some point, i must rely on a warranty to remediate or I then own a brick, I am now up to around $2,000 for the device, It really is a premium novelty at that point.

    Who is this device for?

    Non-business: Those who only need one PC for personal use. Can hook up to a monitor at home, take on the road easily. It’s not a bad deal. I would recommend this to someone that fits this model.

    Business: Someone that has LOTS of cash, is on a plane ALOT, wants to go light, and doesn’t have intensive work demands. Or someone that hardly travels and wants to go really light outside their office meeting with clients but work natively in Microsoft (there are benefits here).

    However if you don’t fit one of these models, I just don’t see the value. MS needs to improve the performance to be snappier on startup, make this device even thinner and lighter, improve batter and serviceability, and work on getting that price down toward the iPad levels then it would be a keeper for me.

    Don’t get m wrong, I am REALLY impressed with this device and is clear that the dev and engineering team had their hearts into this version. But in context of replacing my existing devices for my use it comes close but comes just short enough to not have a place in the lineup for the cost. I will miss it, but without impact to any of my daily activities or productivity.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Hey Terry,

      Fantastic comments.

      Thanks for the feedback!

    • WillyThePooh

      Keep hearing you comparing SP3 to iPad. But they are targeting different market. Better compare Surface 2 with iPad. SP3 is better compare with MB Air. I will not buy MB Pro, MB Air or SP3. No more want to spend that much money for a computer.

  • Jamie Martin

    As I read the comments, there are some who got this devise and said that the didn’t like it for verious resons. I have an original surface pro with a power cover., so I have some room to talk. People need to relise that the pro 3 has more power. Everything I look at says that the pro line gets stronger and stronger with every upgrade Microsoft makes. My original pro can out do half the laptops with an I5. I play a modded version of minecraft that has 211 mods and Ihave next to no lag. I can’t find another computer I5 or I7 that can preform as good as my tablet. The weight is something that you’ll just have to adjust to. As for the price, what other tablet gives you the power of a desktop in your hands? Grow up people. The pro line is priced as it should be. It qualifies for what you get.

  • yardbirdjo

    I have had my device for over a month now, and this is the future in terms of hardware. I would be surprised if the next Apple device is not in this form factor and design. The size with the touchscreen and the pen make it a perfect all in one device. I run simulations, process 1000s of photographs in my Adobe workflow, process home videos, take notes and read magazines and books while staying in touch with all my social networks all one device. Life Simplified! I love the Metro interface from the tablet aspect (80% of my time) and 20% requires one of the software applications I need for work or creative hobbies. There is definitely work to be done in getting a few more critical apps to work better on the Windows platform, but overall I think this is the best device I have owned in my life, and I have owned everything from early pcs, to palm pilots, to dell axims, ipod, iphone 1,3,4, galaxy s3, s4, to all kinds of laptops macs and pcs. Go ahead, make the investment.

  • Zom Bie

    Kind of a random question, but does your stylus tip ‘retract’ at all–I assume that’s one of the ways it registers pressure. I ask because I got one tonight, and in the drawing app it doesn’t seem like it registers the pressure difference. It’s either light or a little darker.