Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: Redefining the tablet-laptop hybrid
- great display
- powerful performance
- durable magnesium alloy body
- the stylus works great
- quite expensive
- mediocre battery life
Microsoft took the ride on the tablet bandwagon last 2012 with the introduction of the Surface. For many, this is a radical step towards the future of computing as Windows is on the verge of thinning the gap between personal computers and ultraportable devices. With the Surface, Windows has been shown to work its magic in a tablet device – a futuristic approach to personal computing. After two incremental updates, the Surface Pro 3 is the epitome of Microsoft’s vision for the PC. This is the review of the Surface Pro 3 tablet, a tablet that aims to replace your laptop sooner than later.
Design + Hardware
In all viewpoints, the Surface Pro 3 looks sharp and from-the-future kind of device. It has refined, clean lines running along its precision-crafted magnesium alloy body. This chassis is termed by Microsoft as VaporMg, and is unique to tablets of its class. The body of the tablet is cool to the touch even when working under stress. The profile has been machined to weigh only 1.76 pounds, and thinned out to a slim 9.1 millimeters, just shy of the 9.4-millimeter 4th generation iPad. Although 1.76 pounds is light for an ultraportable laptop, it is quite heavy for a tablet of this size. But because of this light and thin form factor, the Surface Pro 3 has the smallest and thinnest running exhaust fan of any tablet running a full desktop operating system. The Surface Pro 3 has a revamped 12-inch high-resolution display at a unique 3:2 aspect ratio. This display is the highest-resolution panel to come on a Surface tablet, with a resolution of 2160-by-1440 pixels, way above the 1080p HD resolution. One great design feature of the Surface Pro 3 is the multi-angle kickstand that eases its stability when placed atop a desk or lap. Previous Surface tablets had some issues when the kickstand is used on the lap, but with the large footprint and improved kickstand of the new Surface, users will benefit from a greater stability of the tablet when used on the desk or lap.
Performance is excellent on the Surface Pro 3, as it is equipped for the future of tablet computing. Its raw power comes from the low-power Intel Haswell chips running from 1.3 GHz for everyday tasks all the way up to 3.3 GHz whenever the additional power kick is needed. Paired with the great processors from Intel are 8 GB or RAM, and up to 512 GB of flash-based storage with an expansion option via SD card for up to an additional 128 GB. Power users who are hungry for pure power and storage can be at home with the Surface Pro 3, as flash storage paired with fast processing power can be a huge benefit for productivity and gaming purposes.
Along the side of the tablet are some access ports found in a conventional laptop, albeit fewer than conventional. There is only a single USB 3.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort audio-video out port, a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, and the SD card expansion slot. If you carry around lots of USB devices, you need to consider buying a USB expansion adapter.
As a tablet from Microsoft, the Surface Pro 3 is a productivity beast running on the latest version of Windows 8. The latest Windows version is optimized for tablet use with its large tiles and fluid interface, which makes the Surface Pro 3 a full-fledged computer in a slim package. All the full features of Windows 8 comes with the Surface Pro 3, including the ability to run all desktop applications such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Suite, and many more. With the Windows 8 is the line of online services to enhance the overall user experience, including the Windows Store for buying apps, OneDrive cloud storage, and various Xbox services.
A great thing about the Surface Pro 3 is the optional Surface Pro Type Cover that attaches magnetically to the tablet. Once attached, the Surface transforms to a desktop screen similar to the traditional desktop interface on most laptops. This type cover comes with a full-size keyboard, and a trackpad which is smaller than most laptops. The Surface Pro 3 truly lives up to its word of being a “pro” tablet-laptop hybrid when the type cover is attached. You can touch-type on the keyboard with relative ease, and it is comfortable to use even when you position the tablet on your lap. Aside from the cool type cover, the Surface Pro 3 also comes with a stylus pen that’s digitally calibrated to the display itself. This pen gives accurate responses in your writing and makes it natural for anyone to write on a tablet. Its tactile pen tip gives a feeling of writing on paper. Basically, the stylus pen is a great tool that eliminates the awkward feeling of writing something on a smooth glass screen surface.
The Surface Pro 3 is still a tablet even with all the productivity features. It comes with a pair of front- and back-facing cameras, both sporting a resolution of 5 megapixels. The Surface Pro 3 can be awkward to hold when taking pictures due to its large size. You can get satisfactory photos and great-looking video calls from these cameras, but there is nothing spectacular to talk about.
Even with all these great features, battery life on the Surface Pro 3 is so-so. Its thin form and large high-resolution display are the factors to its short battery life. It has a small battery inside, which pairs with the high-res display – a bad combo for a tablet. Expect to be chained to the power outlet more often especially during your most productive tasks.
The Surface Pro 3 is a solidly built tablet from Microsoft. Even it has a tablet form factor, it boundaries on the productivity features of a conventional ultraportable. With the powerful hardware, great high-resolution display, and a high-quality magnesium alloy chassis, the Surface Pro 3 defines the future of the tablet-laptop hybrid. Even with some of the powerful and fully-featured hardware, battery life is something of a compromise. If you want to benefit from the tablet-laptop combo in one device, and won’t care about the battery life (which you actually care about), the Surface Pro 3 is a good buy.