Fellow readers, you probably noticed – instead of traditional one, most of our recent reviews were on 2 in 1 laptop ( Acer Aspire Switch 11 / HP Spectre 360 etc). As I was making comparisons, I mentioned about Microsoft Surface Pro 3 several times. So, I think, it is time I should review about this famous 2 in 1 device. In terms of functionality and versatility, the Surface Pro 3 is far better than other hybrids and 2 in 1s, along with the popular MacBook Air. With a $799 starting price, Surface Pro 3 is surely the ultimate post-PC device.
With each generation of the Surface devices, Microsoft is getting closer to build a device that can replace both your tablet and laptop. With an i7 processor, IPS touchscreen and 800 grams weight, Surface Pro 3 is a perfect one. But, it still has some serious usability flaws, and the worst one is the keyboard. The keyboard offers a subpar typing experience and on top of it, the performance of the touchpad is also frustrating. And because of these flaws, it is not the best laptop replacement of the market. However, the Surface Pro 3 is one of the best tablet currently available, and literally Microsoft’s fastest, thinnest, lightest machine to date.
Light and thin
Great touch screen
Great display resolution
Accurate digital pen
Moderate battery life
Has temperature issue
Not good for using on lap
Model: Surface Pro 3
Processor: Intel Core i7 4650U 1.7 GHz
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5000
Memory: 8 GB DDR3
SSD: 128 GB
Optical Drive: none
Display Type: Touch screen
Screen Size: 12 inch
Screen Resolution: (2160×1440)
Audio: 2x stereo speakers
Keyboard: Type cover with backlit keyboard
Navigation: 3.5 x 1.7 inches touchpad
Camera: 5 MP
Video Ports: Mini DisplayPort
Audio Ports: Combo headphone jack
Total USB Ports: 1
USB 2.0 Ports: 0
USB 3.0 Ports: 1
Media Ports: micro SD
Battery: 42 Wh lithium ion battery
Battery Life: 8 hours
Width: 11.5 inches / 29 cm
Depth: 7.93 inches / 20 cm
Height: 0.36 inches / 0.9 cm
Weight: 1.76 pounds / 0.8 kg
Operating System: 64 bit Windows 8.1
Warranty: 12 months Limited
Base Price: $799 on Amazon
Price of the Reviewed version: $1299
Build and Design
The basic features remained the same. It still has a built-in kickstand, a keyboard cover and a pressure sensitive stylus just like the previous versions. But it’s the first serious redesign of the Surface Pro since the original and the new design is surely better. Previous Surface Pros were too large to work as a tablet and too small to replace a laptop. A larger 12 inch screen instead of the previous 10.6 inch model solved that problem. This large screen gives enough room to work, and as I see, it feels comfortable with all aspects.
The Surface Pro 3 weighs 1.76 pounds. Though it is heavier than iPad Air and the Samsung Galaxy Notes, it is a lot lighter than usual hybrid 2 in 1s and even MacBook Air. Moreover, it’s just 0.9 cm thick. That’s a lot thinner than almost all 2 in 1s, and hybrids. The build quality of the Surface Pro 3 is perfect, from the textured metal rear to the elegantly engraved edges.
Speaking of the build and design, I must mention about this new kickstand. With this amazing stand, it is possible to set the Surface Pro 3 to any angle between an upright and a near flat one. Along with the stand, the smoothness and sturdiness of the hinge is really extraordinary!
Type Cover and Keyboard
A tablet wouldn’t be much of a laptop replacement without a keyboard, and the Surface Pro keyboard was in desperate need of a boost. Luckily, the new type cover is totally something new, and honestly, it is the best version yet. From keys with deeper travel and stronger feedback to a wider glass touchpad. Unfortunately, you will have to pay an extra $130 for this accessory.
The top row of the cover has Windows 8 specific hotkeys, along with buttons for adjusting the brightness of the backlit keyboard, but we wish there were buttons to control screen brightness as well. Also, while there’s a button to mute the Pro 3, you have to reach up to the tablet itself to control the volume.
What I like best about this new keyboard is that I don’t have to type on a completely flat surface if I don’t want to. But sadly, rest parts are frustrating. The problem is that the keyboard is flimsy, and it’s nowhere as sturdy or comfortable as usual laptop keyboards. The keys are also bunched close together just the opposite of the standard chiclet layout. You will press the wrong keys a lot, if not careful.
The Surface Pro 3’s Type Cover also brings an improved 3.5 x 1.7 inch touchpad. As I have tested, it works well. To be honest, the integrated left and right mouse buttons were snappy and the pad is still many steps behind the sort of glass touchpad you’d find on the MacBook Air or many Windows Ultrabooks. However, I was able to perform all Windows 8 gestures without any problem.
Despite the bigger size, the port selection is the same as ever.
So, just like the previous versions, there is a power button on the top landscape edge, along with a Mini Display Port and USB 3.0 connection on the right side.
While on the left, there is only a volume rocker and the headphone jack.
Moreover, there is a micro SD slot on the bottom along with a magnetic guide for the Type Cover.
The Surface tablets have always had lovely displays, and with a 12 inches (2160 x 1440) IPS touch screen, the Pro 3 is no exception. The screen is sharp, colors are punchy, but balanced, and the viewing angles are good too. With 298 nits of maximum brightness, 97 percent of the sRGB gamut, and 215 pixels per inch, the screen of Surface Pro 3 is brighter, sharper and colorful than most laptops. When I was watching 4K videos, they were impressively crisp and colorful.
As for the touch feature, Microsoft used some different pen technology this time around. It supports all the old tricks, along with some new ones too. You will surely enjoy the touchscreen, while using the Surface as a tablet.
The speakers are a big improvement, too. The front-facing speakers reach decent volumes without any distortion. The quality of the audio is really impressive for a tablet. When tested, I could get as loud as (85 dB) from the Surface. That’s considerably louder than the iPad Air (67 dB) and the tablet average (78 dB).
The version I tested, came with a fourth Gen Intel Core i7 processor and HD 5000 onboard graphics. With these hardware, the Surface Pro 3 can do everything an Ultrabook can do. That faster processor gives it an edge in processor intensive tasks, too. This is no workstation class processor, of course, but anything you can throw at an ultrabook works fine on the Surface Pro 3. It’s an efficient and effective replacement for a work laptop or even an office desktop.
However, Intel’s basic built-in graphics still can’t handle even mainstream games, so don’t think of this as a portable game machine. You probably will be able to play last Gen games with mid to low settings. But there is no way you will be able to play latest games like Batman: Arkham Knight or The Witcher 3 on it.
Heat and Noise
Although Microsoft touts the improved efficiency of the Pro 3’s fan, the tablet still gets hot under pressure. If you keep it under pressure for more than 10 minutes, the right side of the laptop will get really hot (around 40-45 degree Celsius). However, as I have seen, the left side of the Surface remained cool.
On the other hand, the Surface Pro 3 doesn’t make any noise. Under simple task, it’s rare to even hear the fan spin up. Even when it does it’s a low profile mild sound. You’ll notice it in quiet surroundings, but it’s barely noticeable in an office or library, or even in the house.
The battery life of the Surface Pro 3 is about the same as the Pro 2. According to Microsoft, the Pro 3 has 9 hours of battery life. Though when tested, I was able to get 7 hours and 40 minutes out of it. And I was just listening to the music, browsing the internet often watched videos.
The version I reviewed had a price tag of $1,299. And it came with an Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD.
The cheapest Surface Pro 3 version costs $799, and has an Intel Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 64 GB SSD.
There is a version sports an Intel Core i5 processor and a 128 GB SSD and costs $999. So far, this version has the best price/performance ratio, I believe.
The most expensive version has a price tag of $1949, and sports an Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage.
However, no version comes with the free Touch Cover keyboard. You’ll have to spend another $129 to get this accessory.
As I see, What the surface lacks from one aspect makes up for in versatility in other ways. If all you really want is a regular laptop, then, with deference to Microsoft’s marketing claims, you should probably save your money and buy a regular laptop. It could be the perfect laptop replacement, only if it had a better Keyboard. But, if you can ignore the keyboard part and is looking for a hybrid tablet, The Surface Pro 3 the best possible hybrid device for you.
The Surface Pro 3 is not only Microsoft’s most striking and versatile device to date, but the most convincing poster child for the hybrid category as well.