So a nerd walks into the BestBuy….
For the last two days I have had hands on with the Surface Pro 3. This is latest device from Microsoft’s nascent line of branded hardware. Up until now I have only seen videos and read the early reviews which were nice but aren’t substitutes for a nice test drive. Now this is a review, this is a hands on and even that is being generous. (At Staples the display unit kept buzzing as soon as you even touched it)
Now for background I was at a nearby Staples and a nearby BestBuy. The BestBuy had the TypeCover 3 for the Pro 3 attached, while Staples had the smaller TypeCover 2. Both had the redesigned Surface booths which honestly the devices need and they were also on (which is sometimes a gamble when going tech shopping). In addition to the device itself I also checked out the exclusive dark blue Cover which is exclusive to BestBuy.
As a product line Surface has always been nice. No the lineup doesn’t include hybrids, 2in1s, or even a pure laptop (because this would bring Ragnarok) but they are a lot nicer than most PC offerings. Now for those that aren’t following technology like the FIFA World Cup, the Surface Pro 3 is 12 inch tablet PC running an i5 Intel processor with a resolution of 2160×1440 (means it’s a nice screen).
Right of the bat this device is thin. I knew it was thin from reviews, but in person this thing is as thin as its ARM cousin the Surface 2. It’s a surprising feet given that this is an Intel based device. And its light, maybe not iPad Air light, but amazingly light for what its packing. In many ways the Pro 3 is more like the ARM based Surfaces than its predecessor the Pro 2.
Like the Surface 2, the Pro 3 has the expandable storage under the kickstand and is using the natural color of the VaporMG magnesium process. The Pro 3 has ventilation across the top of the device but it blends into the body well (the vents are or the Intel chip which needs cooling unlike ARM chips). If no one is going to give like a slow clap, standing ovation to the Surface team for this design, let me do it. This device reminds me why I think Microsoft should do laptops; I mean I this is what we get for tablets imagine a PC with this much attention given.
Every Surface device has had a decent screen (including Surface RT you HATERS) and the Pro 3 continues this. While not as pixel dense because of the larger screen, both images and video are sharp. Now I played a video during both hands on the colors to my untrained eye were bright and true.
The Surface Pro 3 now sports a 12 inch screen which I wish I had more time to use. In landscape, the extra real estate is liberating. You get to see more on the Start Screen and the desktop. In portrait the Pro 3 feels a bit more natural than the Pro/Pro2’s 10.6 screen which were 16:9 (think tall and narrow).
I would need to really live with a Pro 3 to have a better grasp though, but Microsoft deciding on the 3:2 screen ratio brings it closer to iPad which is I think has set the standard. One other thing about the screen that I like is the thinner bezel. A lot of tablets often have more bezel than screen; it makes them easier to hold but does take away form the visuals.
The Pro 3 has a nice balance between having the needed bezel but also having a decent amount of screen. It would be interesting to compare the screen to the Dell XPS 12 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 12.2, the other 12 inch tablets. For my money I like the Pro 3 because it’s a nice balance between screen, add-ons, and portability. The Samsung feels heavier even though its lighter and is using an ARM chip. The Dell is unwieldy because it’s a clamshell (laptop) with a swiveling screen and wasn’t designed to be terribly light.
I tried the new Pen at both Staples and BestBuy. I do wish they had a better setup as BestBuy had the pen connected to the device where you could write with it. Neither had signed onto OneNote with the store setup account so demo fail there. I did use the pen with a Sudoku game and it worked well. As of right now writing with the Pen feels weird because of the rubberized tip (the Pro/Pro2 had plastic styluses which were solid). Again this is one of those things for which I’d want a longer hands on with.
One of the interesting things about Windows tablets has been observing how each OEM has handled designing them. Very few PC makers opted to make large, pure slates; most make hybrids (designed with attachable keyboards or laptops that fold backwards) or small ones.
Unlike their PC partners, Microsoft has offered the Surface lineup as pure tablets. However unlike other tablets the Surfaces come with an integrated kickstand. The Kickstand has over the 3years evolved from a one position mode with the Surface RT and Surface Pro to the resistive 150 degree hinge of the Pro 3. From my brief hands on the hinge offers enough resistance to stay in place and offers better viewing angles.
Keyboards are important to tablets. Whether some like it or not people will turn these keyboard less things into mini laptops come hell or high water. For the larger Pro model, Microsoft has released a new TypeCover. The new cover matches the screen size of the Pro 3 adds a second magnetic layer that connects the keyboard to the bottom of the screen. This lifts the keyboard up and gives you a new position.
The new TypeCover also comes with an improved touchpad. The touchpad isn’t much larger than the previous ones, but its responsive and feels a lot nicer than most other PC trackpads. The new cover’s keys are cramp but that’s sort of expected from something that serves as a screen cover. Typing on the new cover was as horrible as some reviews made it seem; but mileage varies.
The Covers come in five colors with BestBuy and Microsoft Stores both having exclusives. The BestBuy has a dark blue TypeCover which is nice (hint: I want) and seemed to be sold out. If you already own one of the previous covers you’ll be able to use it on the Surface Pro 3 (the Type 2 was attached to the Pro 3 model at Staples).
All in all the Surface Pro 3 continues the Surface line’s growing reputation as some of the best Windows devices out.