Behind the latest attempt to make Surface popular.
Microsoft has announced Surface Pro 3, the latest incarnation of their tablet device.
This time the focus is on replacing traditional laptops with something that has the power of a laptop but also portability of a tablet.
There’s a larger 12-inch screen with various Intel Core options. The nice rear kickstand now has multiple angles to suit typing or viewing. According to Microsoft this will “transform the device from a perfectly balanced tablet to a full-functioning laptop and back again — all in a beautiful package that is 30 percent thinner than an 11-inch MacBook Air“.
Surface Pro 3 has a fast USB 3.0 socket, Mini DisplayPort and microSD card reader giving external device access that iPad users can only dream about. The Surface Pen is included but has to be carried separately.
The Pro series of Surface devices run on Intel chips which means they have ‘real’ Windows not the limited ‘RT’ version. That gives worse battery life (Redmond is claiming “up to nine hours of Web-browsing battery life”) but you get to run all standard Windows programs including the complete Office suite.
Microsoft Office is NOT included with the Surface Pro 3. You’ll have to buy separately or use one of your existing Office licences.
The headline price is $799, down from $999 for Surface Pro v2 however Microsoft is very cunning with their Surface pricing and makes you pay for things that you probably expect to be included.
The real minimum price for a Surface Pro is $928 …. here’s why
For $799 this ‘laptop replacement’ has no keyboard! Add another $129.99 for the Surface Pro Type Cover which, as for earlier Surface devices doubles as a screen cover.
Strictly speaking, you can use any Surface without a keyboard but there’s few people who do, Microsoft hype and wishes notwithstanding. The interface is touch compatible but there isn’t the wide range of apps we’re used to on Apple or Android devices. This ‘laptop replacement’ needs a keyboard to work in the real world.
Even Microsoft’s blatant product placements in TV shows like the otherwise excellent ‘Elementary’ include the keyboard in most shots.
There is only one official keyboard option for the Surface Pro. We’ve not tried it ourselves and we’d urge you to do so before buying. A quality keyboard is essential for any laptop … why do you think people keep buying Lenovo (formerly IBM) laptops?
Barely enough space
The $799 unit has only 64GB of disk space and 4GB of RAM.
The 4GB of memory is the bare minimum for practical use of Windows 8 with a modest set of running programs (say Outlook, Word and some others).
64GB of disk space will require some careful space management here’s why:
- The Windows system directories will take up at least 10GB and that will grow as you use the computer. The main Office-Watch.com laptop has a /Windows folder tree taking up over 20GB, and that’s not unusual. Our ‘bare-bones’ Windows 8.1 setup uses over 10GB just for Windows. As with previous Surface releases, Windows takes up a greater percentage of disk space than the Apple or Android OS do.
- Microsoft Office will take up another 3GB for the programs and repair cache.
- Office documents, particularly Outlook, will take up more space. Outlook PST/OST files can easily grow to 10GB or more these days. Sure, you can trim that down but Surface Pro is sold as a ‘laptop replacement’ remember?
- Your photos and videos will gobble up a lot of disk space too.
Microsoft’s argument is that you can store additional files in the cloud or on external memory sticks. That’s true but cumbersome and inconvenient.
If Dell or HP tried to sell a laptop with 64GB of disk space they’d be the laughing stock of the tech world – and rightly so. Microsoft tries to get away with it anyway.
Can’t have it both ways
Microsoft’s promotion of Surface is two-faced. On the positive side they boast about it being a “full-functioning laptop”.
But as soon as there’s any criticism, they switch to comparisons with tablets and iPad’s.
A Microsoft corporate Vice-president is quoted saying explicitly “Surface Pro 3 is the tablet that can replace your laptop” so that’s the benchmark you should use for any price and specification comparison.
Pay more for a working Surface Pro
Moving past the entry level machine, designed to let Microsoft promote the ‘low’ $799 price, you pay a hefty premium for a true laptop replacement.
To get a decent amount of working disk space (128GB) add another $200 to the price. Power Office users will want more RAM and that’ll cost you at least $1,300.
And … remember that keyboard for another $130 on top of the quoted price.
We like the idea of Surface Pro and would love to speak more highly of it. The hardware design is very sleek. What always offends is pricing which is borderline misleading. Microsoft keeps wondering why people are disappointed with Surface (and their $900 million writedown on the product so far). Maybe it’s because buyers realize too late that they’ve paid too much for too little.
Surface Pro 3 will be available for pre-order from 21 May, US time. We strongly suggest you wait until 20 June when they’ll be available in stores where you can try the Type Cover keyboard for yourself.
At the end of August we’re promised that Surface Pro 3 will be available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand and the United Kingdom
Here’s the full specifications and prices from Microsoft
Windows 8.1 Pro
Dimensions: 7.93 in x 11.5 in x 0.36 in
Weight: 1.76 lbs
Physical buttons: Volume, Power, Home
64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB
Screen: 12-inch ClearType Full HD display
Resolution: 2160 x 1440
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
Touch: Multitouch input
Pen input and pen (included with purchase)
Pen features 256 levels of pressure sensitivity
4th-generation Intel® Core™ i5-4300U (1.6 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost up to 2.90 GHz) with Intel® HD Graphics 4400
TPM 2.0 (Trusted Platform Module — for BitLocker encryption)
4th-generation Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 Processor
System memory: 4GB or 8GB memory options
TPM 2.0 chip for enterprise security
Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11ac/802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 low energy technology
Up to nine hours of Web-browsing battery life
Cameras and A/V
5MP and 1080p HD front- and rear-facing cameras
Full-size USB 3.0
microSD card reader
Ambient light sensor
36W power supply (including 5W USB for accessory charging)
One-year limited hardware warranty
Surface Pro 3
Estimated retail price (USD)
Intel® Core™ i3, 64 GB and 4 GB of RAM
Intel® Core™ i5, 128 GB and 4 GB of RAM
Intel® Core™ i5, 256 GB and 8 GB of RAM
Intel® Core™ i7, 256 GB and 8 GB of RAM
Intel® Core™ i7, 512 GB and 8 GB of RAM
Surface Pro 3 Accessories
Estimated retail price (USD)
Surface Pro Type Cover
Additional Surface Pen
Additional 36W Power Supply
Additional Pen Loop
Docking Station for Surface Pro 3
Surface Ethernet Adapter
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