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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?

That high resolution comes at a price, though. Text and images were at times too small to be read comfortably. Zoom capabilities solved the problem, but not always. That's because, although Windows 8 Store apps (previously called Metro apps) can be zoomed in and out, not all desktop apps work with zoom. That was problematic at times.

I found that the SugarSync desktop client, for example, was barely usable because of how small the type was. True, I could always lower the desktop resolution to make it more readable, but when I did that, less space was available on screen for other apps. In addition, the SugarSync Windows 8 Store app lacked some of the most basic capabilities of the desktop app, so it wasn't a good alternative.

In other words, using desktop apps can be a crapshoot with the 12-in. screen.

The new Type Cover

The new Surface Pro Type Cover, which doubles as a cover and a keyboard, is a big improvement over the previous version.

To begin with, I always had an issue with the touchpad on the Surface Pro 2's Type Cover: It was small and not recessed, difficult to find and equally difficult to use. At times I found myself accidentally moving the cursor because it was hard to know where the touchpad stopped and the bottom of the keyboard began. And when I did find the touchpad, it was too unresponsive to be particularly useful. I resorted to a Bluetooth mouse.

Not so with the new keyboard. The touchpad is recessed, so it's easy to find; I never had to fumble for it. Because the touchpad is larger (and felt more responsive), I could more easily control the cursor. It's a small change, but a very big improvement, so much so that I no longer had to bring a Bluetooth mouse with me to get work done.

In addition, the Type Cover now has a magnetic hinge that raises the keyboard to a slight angle. This is well-suited for working with the Surface Pro 3 on your lap, but I also found it useful on a desk or table top, because I favor slightly angled keyboards. (I'm a fast touch typist and I like to pound a bit on the keyboard; with the angled keyboard, I'm no longer drumming directly on the table.) It's another example of how a small engineering change has made a big difference in the Surface Pro 3's usability.

Is it better than the 13.3-in. MacBook Air keyboard? Not for me. Having some separation between keys, as you have on the MacBook Air but not on the Surface Pro 3, allows me to type more quickly and make fewer mistakes. And because it's a "real" keyboard, the Air's keys have more give and feedback than do the Surface Pro's.

 

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