The Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablet that has the hardware specs and keyboard cover that can be used as a laptop replacement. I have been using it since Christmas and it has completely replaced my Dell Latitude as my daily driver. The Surface comes in 5 flavors ranging from and i3 model starting at $799 to the top of the line i7 model which is $1949. I got the middle range model that has an i5, 256GB SSD hard drive, and 8GB of RAM. The Surface offers great specs for a tablet and has a ultra-portable form factor that is only .36” thin and weighs only 1.76lbs. It features a beautiful 12” 1440p resolution touch display. Its inputs include a micro SD card slot, mini display port, headphone jack and a single USB 3 port.
Windows 8 and touch experience
I have been using Windows 8 without touch for a few years and been generally happy with it, but using it with touch makes the experience much better. The metro interface is not ideal with keyboard and mouse and is clunky when trying to do certain gestures but with touch it feels much more natural. Swiping your finger in from the right side of the display opens the charm bar, swiping your finger in from the left switches between Windows 8 apps. Trying to do these same functions with a mouse are not as natural.
The Surface also comes with a Bluetooth stylus that is incredibly precise when used for handwriting and drawing, and has two multifunction buttons that can be used in several applications. Holding one of the buttons down when writing or drawing turns the pen into an eraser. It can also be used to change slides on a PowerPoint presentation. On the top of the stylus is a purple OneNote button that when clicked launches OneNote even if the Surface is locked and in sleep mode. This allows you to pull up OneNote instantly and begin taking handwritten notes.
Speed and Performance
One of my favorite features of the Surface is its speed booting up and running apps. Any PC with Windows 8 and an SSD is going to be fast, but the Surface feels specifically optimized to boot even faster. To go from a completely powered off state to being in Windows and opening apps takes 13 seconds. With the i5 processor I have no problem running any applications, it can even play resource intensive games. For a tablet that has a similar form factor to the iPad it’s very impressive the amount of power they have packed into such a small device. Because it has an i5 processor it does have an internal fan that kicks on when you are using it heavily. I only have heard it kick on when running games and it not loud enough to be any kind of disruption. The battery life is good and can get you a solid eight hours of web browsing, but under heavy use can be less than four. It’s good enough but could be improved upon.
Kickstand and Keyboard
The surface features a built in kick stand that pops out of the back of the device. This feature is lacking on most tablets that require a case to be positioned upright. The kickstand features a hinge that allows it to be positioned in a wide range of angles. The kickstand is fantastic for use on tables and surfaces but when using it on your lap it can dig into your legs and be uncomfortable. The kickstands hinge is very sturdy and stays in position no matter which angle you have it open to.
The biggest weakness of the Surface Pro 3 is the keyboard cover. The first problem with the keyboard cover is that it has to be bought separately, and is quite expensive ($135). Microsoft’s marketing tag line is “The tablet that can replace your laptop,” but yet it’s almost a requirement to buy the keyboard for it to replace your laptop. The keys have a great tactile feel and are backlit, but the entire backside of it which covers your screen is made of a felt like material gives it a cheap feeling. The touch pad built into the keyboard is responsive and has a good feel to it. Overall the keyboard is perfectly usable and comfortable but still is needs some improvements and needs to be included in the cost of the surface.
My goal in getting the surface was to have it replace not only my laptop, but my work desktop as well with use in the docking station. The dock costs $200 and adds many more inputs including a network jack, 3 USB 3 ports, and a mini display port. The biggest downside of the dock is the lack of video outputs. With only the single mini display port output attaching multiple monitors that lack display port (most do unless you have the latest and greatest) requires purchasing additional dongles and hub. I have two Asus 24” inch monitors that are fairly new that have VGA, DVI, and HDMI but lack display port. In order for me to get both of these monitors to work with dock I need to spend another $75-100 in converters and cables. If you have display port monitors or only need to connect to a single monitor, you won’t require that much extra cost in cables.
Overview Pros and Cons
Overall I love the Surface. Since getting it I have never touched my Dell Laptop and has been true to the marketing tagline, “the tablet that can replace your laptop.” The best features of it is how insanely light and small it is, yet extremely fast and powerful. The Surface is expensive for a tablet but it has the power to replace not only laptops but your desktop when used with the dock. Windows 8 with the touch screen is great, and the Surface will soon be getting even better with Windows 10 just around the corner.
- Ultra-portable form factor, very light and thin
- Gorgeous 12” 1440p touch display
- Incredibly fast performance running programs and booting up
- Included Stylus is very accurate and is perfect for those who enjoy handwriting and art
- Built in Kickstand
- Keyboard attachment could be better and is sold separately even though it’s almost required
- Using it on your lap with kickstand and keyboard is uncomfortable