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Why the Surface Pro 3 has quietly replaced my work PC

Mark Hachman | Oct. 16, 2014
The Surface Pro 3 review unit Mark Hachman has been long-term testing delivers more compelling hardware with comparable performance, strong battery life, Windows compatibility, a good keyboard, and even better mobility.

The bottom line is that I don't expect the Surface Pro 3 to outshine my laptop in terms of what's under the hood. If the Surface even delivers comparable performance, that's enough to justify it, as it's thinner and lighter than a traditional notebook. 

Don't forget ergonomics
I've had brief flings with oversized tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro, a device with a 12.2-inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio device, designed from the ground up for productivity. The Surface Pro 3's 12-inch screen uses a 4:3 aspect ratio that makes the device "taller," and this display compares favorably to Samsung's, but I actually prefer connecting the Surface to a larger external monitor. In this setup, there's nothing separating the Surface Pro 3 from a full-fledged PC.

But what really distinguishes the Surface Pro 3 from its predecessors is Microsoft's attention to ergonomics. Both the flexible kickstand as well as the improved Type Cover keyboard nudge the Surface Pro 3 very close to notebook territory.

Ever since I've tested the Surface Pro 3 dock, I've generally left the tablet docked, but this isn't a productivity or workstation requirement. I use only one external monitor, which can be directly connected to the Surface via its miniDisplayPort and an HDMI dongle. I also use an external wireless mouse and Microsoft's own Type Cover keyboard. This setup obviates the need for the dock, and in my home office, that's good enough for me. That said, the dock is handy for its extra USB ports: I can attach an external keyboard for gaming and connect an external hard drive when the need arises.

About the only time I prefer using my Twist notebook is on my lap: The unified display/keyboard of a traditional notebook doesn't wobble, while the Surface Pro 3's Type Cover, however improved, still feels a bit flimsy.

Finally, there's the benefit of weight reduction. At 1.76 pounds (plus another half-pound for the Type Cover), the Surface Pro 3 is much lighter than the 3.5-pound Twist. That makes a huge difference when I'm toting this productivity machine around town.

A consistent OS makes a difference
As both the Surface Pro 3 and the Twist run the same version of Windows, you might think they're a wash when it comes to the OS experience. But that's not quite true.

If you're using the Surface as, say, a tablet, the Surface simply works more effectively with tablet-optimized apps. OneNote, for example, can be automatically launched with a click of the Surface Pro 3's stylus. With the Twist, however, I have to twist the display back, then launch OneNote, and then try to awkwardly enter a note with it cradled in my arms. A tablet is simply more effective than a notebook that tries to pretend it's a tablet. 


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