Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Like Windows 8, the Surface Pro 3 is a device that innovates and compromises at the same time due to its split personality. At 12 inches across with a 3:2 aspect ratio, this is a large device for a tablet. The physical size is complimented by the display's screen resolution of 2160x1440. With these dimensions it's clear Microsoft is aiming for a device focused on productivity and content creation. Battery life is good for a laptop but mediocre for a tablet. For most people it should last a good portion of the day with moderate use. The powerful Intel Core processors found in the entire lineup are the most power efficient of their kind but still a far cry from the ARM based technology found in a traditional tablet. This was the correct choice by Microsoft for a device meant to replace a laptop. I look forward to future iterations of the Surface Pro which will undoubtedly include passively cooled, even greater battery sipping Core processors. Until then we will need to put up with a small amount of heat and fan noise.

I've found sleeping and waking the Surface Pro 3 is intermittently buggy. There have been times where it has gone unresponsive to input after sleeping and I've had to completely turn it off and back on. This could be due to the InstantGo power mode, I haven't tried disabling that to see if it improves this behavior. Hopefully Microsoft will address this with a patch, according to Google I'm not the only customer with this problem. Until then I'll be sure to save my work before locking my device.

The type cover is good but not without flaws. The keys have enough give and click to provide a convincing typing experience. Their back-lit nature is a nice touch and definitely expected at this price point. The track pad is supposedly better than the outgoing model however I still find it a weak point. Multi-touch gestures such as scrolling only register some of the time needing broad, sweeping motions to engage consistently. It seems Microsoft is banking on users fully utilizing the touch screen for anything but precise pointing needs. The pen input seems to work well as a pointer when I forget to pack as mouse however I prefer to take notes by keyboard. It's unfortunate Microsoft doesn't provide a permanent spot to park the stylus when not in use. 

If budget isn't a concern or you can get a deal on one (as I did) I'd recommend the Surface Pro 3 and type cover to anyone looking for an ultra portable PC right now. I wouldn't recommend it to those considering it along side an iPad or similar high-end Android tablet. For better or worse it's a PC in tablet clothing. Microsoft has been responding to customer feedback, refining Windows 8 and the Surface at a rapid pace. Neither are perfect but as the Surface is the reference device for Windows 8.1 it's the best way to experience Microsoft's vision. I think we'll see considerable improvement with the Surface Pro 4 and Windows 10. If you can wait for it, that might be your best bet.


  • Ultralight and made of high quality material
  • Beautiful high-res 3:2 aspect ratio display is great for productivity
  • Good battery life (compared to a traditional laptop)
  • Might save you from carrying a tablet


  • Obscenely expensive, the bottom two model tiers shouldn't exist. 4GB of RAM and 64gb of storage for a full PC operating system and apps is inexcusable in 2014
  • The type cover is not included and is not optional if you wish to use the Surface as a laptop replacement
  • A few bugs need to be worked out with the sleep/wake cycle
  • Only 1 USB port, mini displayport instead of HDMI and no full size SD card slot (bummer for photographers)

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