To be honest, I was completely caught off guard when the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 was announced last month. But after touching and feeling the device, I completely understand why Microsoft wanted to improve upon a product that’s already been deemed a success.
The first thing I noticed with the Surface Pro 3 was the size of the screen – now at 12 inches, which puts it into the ”large” tablet class where only a few successful brands play. Not only is the screen larger, it is colorful, crisp and a pleasure to use, especially for those of us who are used to high-resolution displays on smartphones and tablets. This screen definitely improves upon what the Surface 2 had already done in the resolution department. The 2160×1440 pixel display is really nice to look at.
But then I picked it up and couldn’t believe how light the Surface Pro 3 is. Perhaps it’s because I still have a Surface Pro (the smaller Surface on the left below) and expected it to be heavier. Or maybe it’s because it was a larger tablet. I just expected it to be heavier. Not so much – at 1.76 pounds, this is the lightest full function notebook/tablet combo I’ve ever used.
Spotting the Differences
While the Surface Pro 3 borrows a lot from its predecessors, it also makes significant improvements, which will make for a justifiable upgrade. The advances include:
- Keyboard – Now a bit sturdier, with larger keys and spacing along with a wider touchpad; you almost don’t notice that it’s not a traditional keyboard. You can still get it in multiple colors to suit your personality and taste, which is a plus in the ”customize everything” era. If that wasn’t enough, they’ve added a magnetic latch so the keyboard props up against the screen enabling you to type at an angle. This is a very nice addition from a company that made the ergonomic/natural keyboard so popular for those of us in the era of Windows 95 and NT.
- Pen – This is a brilliant upgrade. Not only does it feel better in your hand, it is more nimble and precise. And the natural usability gets even better when you factor in the fact that when you click the button on the top, OneNote automatically pops up on the screen. This alone will save you a ton of time based on literally any other device out there in the market.
- Kickstand – On the first version of the Surface, in particular, this was a big problem in usability (in my opinion), given that there was only one angle you could use effectively. However, this time around, you have a 180 degree angle so not only can you prop it up at the right angle, you can even lay it almost flat for drawing and/or typing on the pop-up keyboard. All of a sudden, the possibilities are endless.
More Power to the People
This may be an understatement, but I’m a power user. In the world of bring your own device (BYOD), I use all of my devices for both work and play. But, when it comes to building powerful animations in PowerPoint, the most complex Excel Macros, a killer edit in Adobe Photoshop or just syncing thousands of documents in Box or OneDrive, I have to use my beefed up notebook which usually has an Intel i7 processor, at least 8GB of memory and a 512GB SSD.
Given that the Surface Pro 3 tops out at these specs makes it finally possible for me to use this as a full notebook replacement. I now understand why Microsoft says this is the tablet that can replace your notebook.
Ditch the Notepad – Forever
Like most people, I take a lot of notes. But there was always something lacking with the older inking versions on Tablet PC editions of yesteryear.
I bought my first tablet in 2002 (ironically from CDW when I had my own consulting firm). It was the Compaq TC1000 with the Transmeta Crusoe processor and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.
While the design was stunning for its time, the hardware wasn’t really there yet. Over the years, I’ve tried using a barrage of note-taking apps on other tablets, but I’ve always longed for ”OneNote-like functionality.” Now we can finally do this, but do it even better.
With the Surface Pro 3, digital inking is better, faster, more precise and you can take notes with your handwriting, draw diagrams and objects, share your notes on demand and sync them to all your devices straight to OneDrive. Sometimes it just takes time to get things right, and this finally does make me feel like we’re at the inflection point in digital note taking.
It’s just the beginning
One can only imagine how future versions of Microsoft Surface (and the convertible market in general) will evolve with advancements in hardware, software and the continued adoption of cloud and mobility. The Surface Pro 3 is a huge leap forward in mobile office productivity. However, you have to actually hold it in your hand and try it out to see what the buzz is all about, because on the surface (pun intended), it may just look like another tablet. Rest assured its not.
More to Come
I’m going to continue to road test the Surface Pro 3 for the next 60-90 days and will report back after I get to put it through its paces – wireless presenting from it, loading up large macros in Excel, note taking, editing images in CS6 and using it from airports, cars, coffee shops and possibly some abuse from my kids as well…if I let them use it.
Check out the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and pre-order yours today here.