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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?

At a Glance

Surface Pro 3

MicrosoftStarting price: $799Pros: Excellent 12-in. screen, very good keyboard cover, useful stylus and handwriting recognition, lightweightCons: Expensive, Windows 8 lacks many apps, keyboard cover costs $130 extra

And even when there is a desktop app and a Windows Store app for the same application, the Windows Store app typically lacks many of the important features of the desktop one. For example, the Windows Store note-taking Evernote app, called Evernote Touch, doesn't include all of the features that the desktop version does, including good browsing and searching capabilities. In fact, even Evernote itself suggests that Evernote Touch users also install the Evernote desktop app to get "the full-featured Evernote Desktop."

In short, the hardware is willing, but the apps are weak.

The bottom line

Microsoft touts the Surface Pro 3 as a tablet that does double-duty as a laptop and, if you buy the Surface Pro Touch Cover, what the company says is generally true. Still, the cover still isn't as good as a full-blown laptop keyboard. At 12 in., the Surface Pro 3 has enough screen real estate so that it's a real laptop, not a tablet pretending to be one. At 1.75 pounds, it's ultraportable, although a bit on the heavy side for a tablet.

As a tablet, there's still a shortage of apps, so if it's apps you're after, you won't be after the Surface Pro 3. But as a productivity tablet it shines because of its stylus and large screen.

What you think about the Surface Pro 3's price will depend on how you plan to use the machine. If you look at it as a traditional tablet, you'll be disappointed. At a starting price of $799, this is a very expensive tablet, especially if you compare it to the iPad Air's starting price of $499.

However, if you think of the Surface Pro as a laptop plus tablet, things look better. You'll have to buy a Surface Pro Type Cover for $130, putting the total starting price at $930. That's not a bad price for a premium laptop that doubles as a tablet — in fact, it's just about the same price as the $899 starting price for the 11-in. MacBook Air, yet gives you more display real estate, a touch screen and a pen. On the other hand, the MacBook Air's keyboard is superior to the one on the SurfacePro Type Cover.

So will this be the tablet-laptop combo that convinces you to use Windows 8 if you're not already committed to it? No. But this machine shows that a tablet-laptop combo is not as much of a Rube Goldberg mashup as you might have imagined. It even makes sense.

With each iteration, the Surface line improves. Microsoft still hasn't quite nailed it yet. But it's getting close. If it closes the app gap, the Surface Pro 3 could be a big winner.

 

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