Surface Pro 3: Design plus thinness

To call the Pro 3 a tablet, almost seems unfair to the competition. Yes, it is a tablet but it’s really an ultrabook smashed into a tablet form factor.  When you compare the base Pro 3 to the other tablet competition, it’s not even close (albeit the Pro 3 usually commands a higher price point). But, when you add in the Type cover 3, it becomes an ultrabook, one that easily competes with the others at the ~$1000 price point.

But we are here to talk about the design and Microsoft’s best and brightest came together to create this surprisingly thin, but also powerful computer. For starters, you get one USB3 port, a display port, charging port (that has a few added bonuses), micro SD slot and a kickstand. We would love another USB port here, as the single port does require us to carry around a USB hub in the event that we need to connect more than one device to the Pro 3.

The design is unmistakable Surface, with a squared off design and tapered edges, it’s Surface DNA is present in the look and feel of the Pro 3.

The device only comes in one color and if you have seen the Surface 2, the color is the same as that device. Frankly, we love the color and prefer it to the black of the previous pro setup.

One issue we do have is that the paint appears to scratch relatively easily, as there are quite a few small marks on the back of the device. When chatting with a few others who have the Pro 3, some had noticed it while others had not. I’d like to think that I am generally careful with my devices, so the scratches were a bit of surprise. On the other hand, I have been using this device extensively as we work towards our final review.

When talking about the design, the first thing you do notice when you pick it up is not the exterior, but how ‘not-heavy’ the device feels in your hands. I say not-heavy because it is so light that you are almost caught off-guard. You expect a full sized tablet to have some heft, but with the Pro 3, all you get is lightness.

The device on the exterior is all professional and sports lean lines from every angle. From the vents that are tucked neatly into the sides of the tablet to the the kickstand that folds flush against the back, Microsoft has made a svelte looking tablet that performs as well as it looks.

In your hands the Pro 3 feels great. The angled edges make a subtle, but notable, difference when holding the device and make it feel a bit more ergonomic than a simple square design would have afforded.

The bezel of the device is the right size for the 12 inh display, While some may think that having a super-thin bezel would make for a good looking Pro 3, the practicality of it is likely not good. Think about it, with a thin or even no bezel, your hands, when holding the tablet, would be all over the display. Thus, having a modest sized bezel makes sense and, the Pro 3 seems to have found a sweet spot for the size.

Microsoft has done a good job of creating a device that stands out, and that's not an easy thing to do. Since all tablets are roughly the same shape, making a device that looks unique can be quite the challenge. But that's exactly what Microsoft has done here and with the third generation Surface launching soon, the dividends will start to be paid.

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I got to use one of these for quite a bit at a MS event last night. I truly believe they have finally gotten it right - the screen is the right size and resolution, the pen works amazingly well with zero lag, and the touch pad feels as smooth as a MacBook Pro's glass one. The device itself, like the article says, is shockingly light. All in all I can see myself owning an i7 512GB version when they are released in August for sure.

Darn. I wish I knew about this event earlier. Our resident tech columnist (Dwight Silverman) never publishes anything useful regarding Microsoft news.

Per a previous report, Microsoft only plans to be 25% of the Windows hardware market.

*** In fact, to keep OEM's engaged, I would bet they have told OEM's they will not exceed 25% of the market using a few strategies:

1) Build a limited number of devices, sell at a premium price, and run out of stock.
2) Don't make a rigid keyboard 2 in 1 device. Leave this for OEM's
3) Don't build Atom processor devices. Leave this for OEM's
4) Require new MS devices to push the technology barrier that OEM's haven't reached yet.

The Surface Pro 2 seams to have followed #1 above. It has often been out of stock and the price hasn't dropped much even now. So I'm not sure the price will drop soon. Stock availability might be the bigger concern.

If this is true, that'd be interesting. I like Microsoft as a hardware/software company, but they do have OEMs to also answer to. It sucks that before the Surface, none of them were innovating enough. At least Lenovo, Sony, and Dell and some of the others have done a decent job of catching up.

The mechanics of the infinitely-variable stand hinge interest me greatly - how does it maintain the strength to support the device at the deep angles as shown - and how will it maintain that tension over years of use?

It kinda sucks (while still being awesome news) that Intel just announced their new line of chips that allows even THINNER and LIGHTER designs than the SP3 ... before the SP3 is even widely available. Now all I can think about is "Man, the Surface Pro 4 is going to ROCK", when I should be marveling over the Surface Pro 3. Kinda takes the wind out of the SP3's sails a bit... do I buy this one or wait for the SP4 which might be out as soon as the end of the year at the rate they're releasing new models? (the SP2 was only releases last fall!)

They will be in the surface 4 for sure. Hard to say what MS will do, though since the processor won't be available until the fall, it probably aligns pretty well with a summer release again for the surface 4.

To note, I own a SP2 so that's one of the reasons I am waiting. That said, if I was still using a first gen pro, I would have no problems upgrading to the SP3.

Corey C said,
That said, if I was still using a first gen pro, I would have no problems upgrading to the SP3.

You will never be able to buy and enjoy technology, if you always are worried something new will be released. As that always happen!

Wall-swe said,

You will never be able to buy and enjoy technology, if you always are worried something new will be released. As that always happen!

Not at all, I had a first gen pro and loved it, upgraded to a pro 2 because my mom needed a new PC and I gave her my first gen and a dock.

In general I upgrade when I see value in the upgrade (or if it's free), for me a pro 3 isn't worth the cost since I have a pro 2, but if the pro 4 uses broadwell and the other technology that will be available for the pro 4, for instance I wouldn't be surprised to see a dedicated video card or 16GB memory option in the pro 4.

In the mean time though I love using my pro 2, not sure why you think someone can't enjoy what they have while looking forward to what's coming out.

It's hard to believe that the company who designed the Surface Pro 3 also designed the XBOX One...

Why couldn't they have chosen a better design language for the XBOX?

architecton said,
It's hard to believe that the company who designed the Surface Pro 3 also designed the XBOX One...

Why couldn't they have chosen a better design language for the XBOX?

After the heating issues with the XB 360, they wanted a nice open air cool design. It could have possibly been done another way, but for me the size fits right in my entertainment center so that's good enough for me.

Lord Method Man said,
They should sell a developer version of the SP3 that includes Visual Studio and SQL Server Management Studio.

If your a developer don't you already have access to those tools? There is a cost to the software, but the pro 3 can run both of those pieces of software quite well.

One of the problems I have with the Surface Pro 3 is that the kickstand doesn't work for anyone who's lap is short like children. The other day I saw a report that a school district somewhere was going to use Surface Pro 3s for some of their students and I couldn't help think that this would be a problem. Personally I like and prefer the traditional 2 in one Tablet with keyboard model as its better in the lap and pretty much anyone can use it with its physical keyboard attached.

surface is too expensive for schools. plus they are less likely to be typing in visual studio. more likely schools will opt for cheaper non surface tablets.

Not just the Surface 3, the 1 and 2 Pro/RT are a pain for lots to use on their laps. One of the things I do not care for on the Surfaces...the kick stand.

Enron said,
I guess Microsoft wasn't expecting 6 year olds to be running around with $1200 tablets.

Or for children to go to schools without desks ;)

I know that Microsoft are responsible for making a fuss about this so-called "lappability" but it is really overblown.

You don't buy a high spec expensive device for a little kid to trash on the bus, that's just throwing money away.

And there's a reason they sell iDevices at Toys R Us.

jakem1 said,

Or for children to go to schools without desks ;)

I know that Microsoft are responsible for making a fuss about this so-called "lappability" but it is really overblown.


It's most likely overblown by those who really want the Surface to fail.

Or it may be personal preference. Not everyone likes 100 percent of something they buy and just because they dont like a feature, doesnt mean they want it to fail. I like my SP and hope to get the SP2 up and running soon. But the kickstand, not so much.

Computers, including the Surface devices, belong on the table or desk.

Laps are for cats. Or small dogs.

But I love the fact that my Surface can stand up on a table with no help.

techbeck said,
Or it may be personal preference. Not everyone likes 100 percent of something they buy and just because they dont like a feature, doesnt mean they want it to fail. I like my SP and hope to get the SP2 up and running soon. But the kickstand, not so much.

And I agree with that to an extent. However, many people who overblow it is not just based on a preference issue, they overblow it on purpose. They can take a minor issue and blow it out of proportion just to make their fanboy supported product look better. Plus I do believe the kickstand and keyboard of the SP3 is a huge improvement over the SP1 and SP2. I'm actually going to the Microsoft store in NY tomorrow to get my hands on the demo of the SP3.

Great comment on the bezel. So many silly people think a thin bezel device is a feature without actually realizing it would be a horrible experience even if it looks good as a CG render. get over it.