Surface Pro 3 review

Surface Pro 3

The Surface Pro 3 is a lightweight tablet that is powerful enough to replace both your laptop and your tablet. It features a pressure sensitive pen, a 12 inch touchscreen, and a detachable, backlit keyboard. In Microsoft’s reveal, the big message they wanted to convey was that this device is meant to replace your laptop and tablet. With a full Windows 10 operating system, the Surface Pro 3 can run any application that you would on your laptop. Microsoft hopes that the Surface Pro 3 will replace your tablet and laptop; they hope to replace your main entertainment device and productivity device. I respect its ambition and think it has accomplished what it has set out to do.

Update: Microsoft’s next model in the Surface line, the Surface Pro 4, is released. If you’re looking into getting a Surface, both tablets are very similar, so much of what I say about the 3 can be said about the 4.

In the box

Specifications

Screen size 12"
Resolution 2160 x 1440 px (3:2 aspect ratio)
Dimensions 11.5" x 7.93" x 0.3"
Battery life 9 hours (internet browsing)
Weight 1.76lbs (800 grams)
Storage 64GB/128GB with 4GB RAM or
256GB/512GB with 8GB RAM
Processor 4th generation Intel Core i3, i5, or i7
Ports USB 3.0, microSD card reader, headset jack, mini DisplayPort, and a cover port (for the keyboard)
Camera 5.0 megapixel rear- and front-facing cameras, stereo microphones, and stereo speakers
Sensors Ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer

Model choices

They offer 5 different models and, as expected the middle one will probably be the most popular, but when deciding which one I was going to buy, I asked reddit.com/r/surface which processor they were going to get (either the i5 or i7, both with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage). With over 200 respondents, the i5 won – partially due to the earlier ship date and the $250 price difference. I also asked about what color of keyboard they were going to get. Here are the results:

Surface pro 3 & 4 model differences

At the end of the day, the lower-end Surface tablets will accomplish what most people need them to do. If you’re wanting to use more resource-demanding software like Premiere, Photoshop, or some games, then you’ll need the better processor and RAM.

Microsoft has really been pushing the fact that the Surface Pro 3 will replace your laptop, but they sell it without a keyboard! I know you can use the on-screen keyboard, but to compete with any serious laptop, you need a physical keyboard, which will run you another $130. There is a few different colors you can choose from, which is nice. However, the blue touch cover is exclusive to Best Buy and the red touch cover is exclusive to Microsoft.

Surface pro 3 & 4 keyboard color choices

The pen: Wacom vs N-Trig

Charles Gbadamosi of TickTakashi reviewed the technical aspects of this tablet in regards to the pen and the technology behind it. Initially, when the news that Wacom was no longer the tech behind Microsoft’s Surface, many people seemed upset because of two reasons: N-Trig’s past technology and pressure sensitivity levels. However, Charles points out the insignificance of the sensitivity number:

When drawing with a Brush size that is lower than 256, there is no difference in sensitivity between Wacom and N-Trig. Digitizer companies use pressure levels in the same way that many tech companies use specs: they count on a lack of public understanding in order to justify expensive upgrades that are largely unnecessary. 256 vs 512 vs 1024 vs 2048 is, for the most part, just marketing.

To elaborate, he says that the pressure sensitivity of 256 is usually only important if you’re using brush sizes larger than 256 (for blown up images on a billboard, for example).

Gaming

Games look stunning on a 2160 x 1440 resolution screen, but there are a lot of games that the processor in the Surface can’t handle. However, you can use Steam’s in-home streaming service to stream games from a more powerful computer, like a desktop computer, to your less powerful Surface. The quality of this will depend on your network speed as well as the resolution of your host computer. Still, being able to stream a resource-hungry game to the Surface Pro 3 with low-latency is amazing!

Conclusion

I’ve been using my SP3 almost daily since I got it over a year ago and it has been essential at college, and convenient at home. As a visual communication major, it was the most appropriate laptop that I could get (and would again in a heartbeat). I highly recommend the Surface (tablet, book, etc.) for students, people who travel, people who draw, and anyone who needs a good performance out of a laptop.