Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Reviewed

By now my readers know I think the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is a solid compromise between tablet and laptop with a few trade offs you would have with any device. Starting with the bad first, the keyboard although very functional, actually feels like it is made from cardboard. There is flex when you type. Moreover, there is no key spacing. Instead, the large keyboard has large keys. This is something that you get used to with time and practice.

When typing on a desk you can keep the keyboard flat and the flex issue is not a problem. Typing on your lap is an issue – the company says lappability is excellent (a term many hate but descriptive nonetheless) but really, the tablet is at its worst when it is used in this fashion. The reason is, the tablet consumes the bulk of the weight and there is no hinge like on a traditional notebook.

Instead, to handle all this weight, you ave a kickstand with limitless flexibility built-in. This allows typing with the tablet all the way down to a near 180 degree angle which could be useful to avoid glare. The challenge is, I am around 5’10″ and it takes the majority of my lap causing the keyboard to be close enough that it is unnatural for me to type with it. In other words, I am not shorter than average so I’m not sure how a person with shorter legs may deal with this challenge.

Again, another trade-off to get used to.

The stylus loop will likely break but there is an alternative place you can store it on the keyboard. When you do this however you can’t properly connect the keyboard to the tablet when on your lap. The reason is – the keyboard has the option to magnetically connect higher up on the tablet – useful when on your lap. The pen, stored on the back of the keyboard in the provided notch, interferes with this capability.

Speaking of which, touching the icons with your finger on the bottom of the screen is obstructed when the keyboard is raised in the above fashion.

Finally, the lack of applications IS a problem. I have been involved in many forum conversations about the device and there are religious zealots on both sides of the issue (Apple Vs. Microsoft). The Microsoft loyalists say there are infinite programs out there for the PC and you can access any website which can often be superior to an app.

While this is 100% accurate, there are many apps which don’t exist in a web browser. Blogsy for example is an excellent blogging app which I use constantly and there are virtually no other pieces of software out there that can do what it does for me. The company has determined the Microsoft Windows market is not big enough for them to port to but the Mac is. This means if you are looking to decide between a MacBook Air and a Surface Pro 3, knowing which applications you might want to use is helpful in deciding which platform to choose. Moreover, there are a lot of PC programs (video editing, etc) which have yet to be modified to look good on the SP3.

Now for the good – I think the SP3 will be very popular and as such, app developers will change their tune on the device and begin to support it in even larger numbers. Microsoft better pay many of these guys off to avoid a chicken and egg problem.

What’s interesting to me is over the last decades I have seen Microsoft steal app developers away from Apple and then do the same to IBM’s OS/2. The company is not used to being so far behind… Not only losing against iOS but Android as well. Again, I think this may change soon.

Again, the iOS versions of many apps pale in comparison to their web versions which look great on the SP3.

Other positives, you can run Xbox games on it, you can keep it in your bag when you go though security at the airport. You can use it for the entire time you are on a flight because it is a tablet, not a laptop. It has a stylus, touch, trackpad and mouse support. It has a USB port. It has a microSD slot which goes up to 128 GB, it works better with Remote Desktop, it runs Flash. As it becomes more popular, we’ll see a ton more touch apps released for it. It is amazingly light – in fact HP came out with a “competitive” product, the Pro x2 612 but it is a lot heavier at four pounds, not 2.4 (a lighter keyboard is coming says HP). Microsoft’s tablet boots amazingly fast – in 10 sec
onds in some of my tests (Intel Core i5 version). The charger has a USB port built-in and there is Mini DisplayPort support on the device for a large second monitor. There is a camera on the front and back which helps when posting to social networks, blogging, etc.

It also runs the real version of Microsoft Office which is full-featured… Not the stripped-down version on the iPad. Moreover, you can actually buy the software and are not forced to pay an annual fee like you must do on the iPad.

I purchased the device – I am still concerned about blogging software but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Moreover, the keyboard flex is a concern to me but I think I will adjust over time. I expect the tablet to arrive later this month.

I recommend the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 based on my testing.

Moreover, I produced this video which in hindsight could have been more concise. This is the first time I have made a video like this and I realize now, more compact scripting would have made it even better.

Hope you like this review and video – feel free to share your comments below. Here is the pricing information:

Special thanks to Vincent Nguyen, Editor-in-Chief & Co-founder at SlashGear who lent me his SP3 to use, gave me his opinion on the device (some included above) and has a great article on the the SP3 himself worth reading.


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