Microsoft's Surface Pro 3: A Windows Tablet for Laptop Holdouts

By Pedro Hernandez  |  Posted 2014-05-25 Print this article Print
Surface Pro 3

Its WiFi components (802.11a, b, g and n) grab signals quickly and lock on strongly, both in crowded event spaces and at home. During the Surface Pro 3 launch, Jason Graefe, senior director of channel partnerships for Microsoft, told eWEEK that Microsoft made optimizations that yielded "twice the speed."

In the real world, Websites load quickly, Web apps refresh quickly and downloads are completed at a brisk pace on a home broadband connection. A full Office 365 install took just minutes.

Surface Goes to Work

And this machine is built for Office 365. Oddly, Microsoft is sticking to its guns and shipping Office only on its Surface RT slates. It's a shame, because on the Surface Pro 3, Office shines and would be a nice perk at least for consumers who pick up a Pro 3 (enterprises typically prefer barebones configurations that they can tailor to their needs).

Word 2013 on the Pro 3, for instance, is a great experience. Although I had to zoom in a bit (120 percent) and go full screen to avoid squinting, typing up this review on the Surface Pro 3 was surprisingly laptoplike—a huge compliment.

Some of the credit goes to the new Touch Cover. Its mechanical (nontouch) keys and larger, more accurate touchpad make touch typists feel right at home. Instead of lying flat, the Touch Cover now magnetically clips to the bottom bezel, providing a wrist-friendly typing angle on both flat surfaces and one's lap.

Surface Pro 3 runs Windows 8.1 Pro, and expertly so. The problem is that I find myself constantly bouncing between the tile-based "modern" UI and the classic desktop.

Modern apps generally work well and look great—Flipboard, Kindle and Netflix provide a solid touch experience, in particular—but the Windows Store still has noticeable gaps. In the case of Spotify, it means downloading and installing the desktop version.

It's not a deal breaker, but the Windows 8.1 desktop, for all of Microsoft's progress, is still much better navigated with a keyboard and mouse. Its past also lingers, leading to an inconsistent experience. Old-school icons, dialog boxes and menus compete with newer UI elements. Microsoft should follow Apple's lead on iOS 7 and harmonize Windows 8.1's experience with a top-to-bottom refresh.

Those blemishes aside, Surface Pro 3 excels at Microsoft's mission: replacing laptops. Prices start at $799 for a Core i3 unit, a clue that the company isn't looking to compete with the iPad, but instead with the MacBook Pro and Ultrabooks.

As configured, the Surface Pro 3 in this review (Intel Core i5, 256GB) rings up at $1,428.99, before tax, with the Type Cover. That's premium Windows Ultrabook territory, but the new Surface Pro delivers the goods in a much more portable, high-quality package.


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