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Surface Pro 3 deep-dive review: Has Microsoft finally got it right?

Preston Gralla | June 2, 2014
Microsoft's new Surface Pro 3 is supposed to work as both a tablet and a laptop. After working with it for a week, does our reviewer agree?

The device connects via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; I found that the Surface Pro 3's Wi-Fi connection is a very good one. Not only did it always connect well in public places such coffee shops, it even did well in what is often a dead zone in my house, an upstairs room fronting the street in which my home network connection is always iffy. In the worst area in my home, where my iPhone gets no Wi-Fi and my MacBook Air gets it intermittently, the Surface always maintained its connection, albeit a slow one.

One especially useful feature is the kickstand, which comes standard as part of the Surface Pro 3. It has been considerably improved — you are no longer limited to a few pre-set angles; instead, you can set it to any angle between zero and 150 degrees, just as you can position the screen of a laptop.

And how much will all this cost? Even though it's a considerably better device than the Surface Pro 2, Microsoft has dropped the price of the Surface Pro 3 by $100, so it starts at $799. That gets you a device with an i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. If you want to go whole hog, $1,949 buys you a Surface Pro 3 with an i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.

Accessories include a $200 docking station with a keyboard port, a DisplayPort, an audio input/output jack, an Ethernet port, one USB 3.0 port and three USB 2.0 ports. There's also a $40 Ethernet adapter available. And, of course, there's the Surface Pro Type Cover, which does double-duty as a cover and keyboard, and which costs an additional $130. (More on that later.)

An excellent display

One of the biggest problems I had with the previous-gen Surface Pro 2 as a laptop was its screen. At 10.6 in., there simply wasn't enough screen real estate for me to get real work done on spreadsheets or Word documents. And while its 16:9 aspect ratio was fine for watching movies and videos, it required far too much side-to-side scrolling to be suitable for work.

The Surface Pro 3 improves on that dramatically. I found the 12-in. screen to be large enough to get whatever work I needed done, and the 3:2 aspect ratio was more comfortable than the 16:9 ratio of the Surface Pro 2. In fact, I discovered that 12 in. is quite roomy enough for real work. I had expected that it would feel cramped compared to my MacBook Air's 13.3-in. screen. But that wasn't the case at all — because of its 2160 x 1440 resolution, I was able to fit quite a bit on it.

 

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