I’m getting more done with my Surface now than I was previously with my laptop, and that is impressive in its own right.
Microsoft has been attempting to chip away at the tablet market with their Surface series for a few years now. What started as an awkwardly sized tablet that lacked a solid ecosystem of apps has morphed into a beautiful fully functional tablet/computer that can run all of your favorite Window’s programs. I’ve decided to ditched my laptop and solely use my Surface Pro 3 (view on Amazon) for all computational work and play. Read on to find out why.
Design and Form Factor
The Surface Pro 3 is an engineering feat. The iteration that I’m reviewing is the i7 version with a 256 GB hard drive. The most striking feature of the tablet is its size. For packing an Intel Core i7 processor, 8 gigs of ram, and a hard drive that is up to 4 times the capacity of the largest iPad, the size and weight of the Surface are incredible! The tablet itself weighs only 1.75 pounds. While a bit more than 1.05 pound iPad Air 2, the components inside make the extra weight forgive-able.
Those extra ounces do make a difference when you’re sitting on the couch holding the device in your hands while reading. Your hands will get tired a bit faster than holding an iPad, however, the built-in kickstand makes up for those challenges. With a kickstand that allows you to place it on your lap and view it anywhere between a 0 and 150 degree viewing angle, why do you need to hold the tablet in your hands? Just rest it on your lap at the perfect angle for your reading pleasures.
Speaking of the kickstand, it works extremely well. One of my initial concerns of replacing my laptop with the Surface was how well the kickstand would work on my lap as compared to a laptop. I worried that it would require that I keep the computer overly close to my body so that there is ample room for the kickstand on my legs. (and to satisfy my OCD tendencies of keeping the device from toppling over my knees to its death) Thankfully, I was wrong. The device feels very secure when using on your lap. When using the type cover it has a very strong magnet that provides an added layer of stability and lap-falling security. Needless to say, my concern of using it on my lap was nullified.
In fact, I would even go as far as to say this device is better for your lap than a laptop. All of the heat stays within the screen of the device preventing you from those potential infertility woes caused by heat in the nether regions. (Trust me, it’s not worth sacrificing your posterity to look at those Facebook memes) Also, many laptops overheat while on your lap due to your clothing blocking the airways for the fans. That’s also something that you don’t have to worry about with the Surface, as all of the airways are on the sides of the screen which are not blocked by any part of your body when using it on your lap.
It’s apparent that a lot of meticulous planning went into making this device beautiful and functional at the same time. There is an extremely satisfying click when you close the kickstand. Also, there is a mini-SD port for increasing the memory on the device. This slot is nicely hidden behind the kickstand that provides both protection from the card falling out and a sleek look.Design and Form Factor98%
Type Cover and Inputs
A device is only as usable as an individual’s ability to control it. The type cover is a great upgrade from previous iterations. At 5mm thin, the type cover barely adds any bulk to the device. It plugs directly into the bottom of the Surface making it extremely user-friendly. Simply plug it in and start being productive. That also means that you don’t have to worry about batteries nor syncing with bluetooth which is a huge plus compared to the keyboards for other tablets on the market. Additionally, the keys are backlit, making typing in the dark a breeze.
Keeping the type cover thin did come with some sacrifices. Compared to a normal keyboard, the keys have much less downward motion when typing. This did take some initial adjusting to get used to typing quickly without accidentally hitting other keys. I can honestly say that after about a week of typing on the device, however, that I’ve been able to match my typing ability on a normal keyboard. It’s also a nice touch that the keyboard is activated by the magnet that adheres to the front of the device. This allows you to flip the type cover around to the back while using it as a tablet without worrying about accidentally typing; Though there is something awkward about holding a device when the back is covered in buttons. I found myself more frequently removing the type cover when using it as a tablet.
If I had to be hyper-critical about the type cover, it would be regarding the mouse touch pad. It can feel imprecise at times. On top of that, there are no actual buttons, so left click and right-click are all about ensuring that you finger is on the right or left half of the touch pad. Because the button is the touchpad as well, I often found myself moving the pointer off of what I was attempting to click due to the movement of my clicking finger. Also, because it is multi-touch, it sometimes had issues when using my right handed pointer finger to move the pointer while keeping my left hand pointer finger on the corner for clicking. It would often interpret both fingers as a pinch, causing zoom or other unwanted behavior. This became a pain for things like audio and video editing. For regular browsing and word processing that don’t require extreme precision, the touch pad functions just fine. You will want to purchased a Bluetooth mouse, such as Microsoft’s Arc, if you’re going to require precision. You won’t want a USB mouse as the Surface only has one USB input.
All of those woes are made up for with the stylus that comes with the Surface. The Window’s touch interface is getting better, but it is not perfect. Many sites and programs require a mouse hover which is near impossible with the touch interface. However, with the stylus, you can simple hover over the screen with the pen and it recognizes the location of your pen as a mouse hover. The pen is extremely precise. For those that prefer and can handwrite quickly (which is not me), there is an alternative input method that allows you to just write the word on the screen and it converts it into text. I found this to work extremely well. Having a nearly 95% success rate with my chicken scratch is quite the feat. Well done programmers at Microsoft. Well done!Type Cover and Inputs95%
Specs and Performance
The specs of these devices vary based on the model that you purchase. Here is a quick overview:
|Windows 8.1 Pro
|Casing: Magnesium • Color: Silver • Physical buttons: Volume, Power, Home
|11.50 x 7.93 x 0.36 in (292.10 x 201.42 x 9.14 mm)
|1.76 lbs (0.79 kg)
|Hard drive size
|Solid state drive (SSD) options: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB
|64GB or 128GB version with 4GB RAM
256GB or 512GB version with 8GB RAM
|Screen: 12″ ClearType Full HD Display • Resolution: 2160 x 1440 • Aspect Ratio: 3:2 • Touch: Multitouch input
|64GB/Intel i3 version:
4th generation Intel Core i3-4020Y 1.50 GHz with Intel HD Graphics 4200128GB and 256GB/Intel i5 version:
4th generation Intel Core i5-4300U 1.90 GHz (with Turbo Boost Technology up to 2.9GHz) with Intel HD Graphics 4400256GB and 512GB/Intel i7 version:
4th generation Intel Core i7-4650U 1.70 GHz (with Turbo Boost Technology up to 3.3 GHZ) with Intel HD Graphics 5000TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip for enterprise security
Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy technology
|Up to 9 hours of web browsing
|Cameras and Video
|5MP and 1080p HD front- and rear-facing cameras • Built-in front- and rear-facing microphones • Stereo speakers with Dolby Audio-enhanced sound
|Stereo speakers with Dolby Audio-enhanced sound
|Full-size USB 3.0 • microSD card reader • Headphone jack • Mini DisplayPort • Cover port • Charging port
|Ambient light sensor • Accelerometer • Gyroscope • Magnetometer
|1-year limited hardware warranty
|Dimensions: 135mm (length), 9.5mm (diameter) • Weight: 20 grams
|Flipboard • Skype Wi-Fi • Skype • OneNote MX • Solitaire • Mahjong • Sudoku/Microsoft Number Puzzle • Fresh Paint
|In the box
|Surface Pro 3 • Surface Pen • 36-watt power supply • Quick Start Guide • Safety and warranty documents
Courtesy of Microsoft.com
The device is extremely fast and performed beyond my expectations. I have never seen Microsoft Word open so quickly. Typically, you sit and watch it load all of its files while opening. On the Surface Pro 3, the program opened in fractions of a second. When showing people the device, demonstrating how quickly Microsoft Word opened was one of the top “wow” factors, in addition to the device’s weight and form factor. This is no doubt thanks to the Intel Core i7 processor in tandem with the zippy solid state disk (SSD).
I reached out to a source at Intel to find out whether the iteration of the i7 was on the low-end or the high-end of the i7 processors. He said that the version of the i7 processor in the Surface Pro 3 was on the high-end, only out-done by their i7 that was designed for gaming and extremely graphical intensive activities. (Note: not all i7/i5/i3 processors are made equal, however, Intel does not differentiate to prevent consumer confusion)
Additionally, I did some testing to see how well the processor performed under a heavy load. I opened up Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 and rendered five videos at the same time with added effects. There was no perceptible chug while rendering the video. It performed phenomenally. Additionally, I used the device for recording and mixing down our podcast. What used to take 10 minutes to mix-down on my older laptop now mixes down in around 30 seconds on the Surface. You don’t realize how much a slow computer impacts your productivity until you utilize a blazing fast computer and complete projects in a fraction of the time.
The screen as absolutely stunning. Very crisp, bright, and of high-resolution. It definitely rivals the Macbook Pro’s Retina Displays. The touchscreen is also extremely responsive and is great for scrolling through web pages, flipping through photos, and playing games. The screen size is also optimal. It doesn’t feel overly large when used as a tablet, and does not feel overly small when used as a laptop. Microsoft found a great happy medium with 12 inches.
From a performance standpoint, the Surface held true to every Microsoft claim except one: battery life. In my use of the device, the battery lasted nowhere near the 8-9 hours promised by Microsoft. The average battery life in my experience was around 4 hours during simple web browsing with multiple tabs open. This is a disappointment as I was looking forward to a device that I could tote around without bringing a charger. Specs and Hardware93%
Versatility and Software
The amount of software/apps that are available is both the strength and weakness of the device. While it can run all Window’s compatible programs, most normal programs are not touch optimized making it a bit more challenging to use when using as a tablet. I primarily use Google’s Chrome browser and found myself constantly tapping the wrong button when trying to tap the tiny back-button on the browser.
Additionally, Windows programs lack a variety of other tablet optimizations such as notifications and running while in sleep mode. When I turn on Spotify, as soon as the screen turns off after a few minutes; I lose my music as well. None of the Windows programs are optimized to run in the background while the device is sleeping.
The sheer number of Windows programs also creates a bit of a catch-22 for developers. It becomes hard to justify creating a tablet version of an app for Windows tablets when a desktop iteration is already available. Many of the cornerstone apps of other tablets are sorely lacking on the Surface Pro such as Pandora, Spotify, Pinterest, and more. This has caused a number of third-party developers to create clients for those programs, but many of them perform poorly.
Windows 8.1 as an operating system is alright when using the touch interface. While the operating system has not been overly well received, when using the touch interface it performs reasonably well. Specs and Hardware85%
In conclusion, the Surface Pro 3 is a phenomenal piece of hardware. Microsoft has truly created a device that functions great as both a tablet and laptop replacement. The powerful innards allow you to do nearly anything you want with the device. The touch interface works well enough. Windows’ backlog of software provides for your every need, although much of it lacks optimization for tablet and touch. The battery life was a disappointment, but is understandable considering the hardware in such a small body. In short, would I recommend the Surface Pro 3 as a laptop replacement? Absolutely! I’m getting more done with my Surface now than I was previously with my laptop and that is impressive in its own right. Overall93%
Do you have a Surface Pro 3? Are you clamoring to buy one? What are your thoughts on the device? Let us know in the comments below!