Review

The lay(wo)man's review of the Surface Pro 3

Reviewing gadgets is a lot of fun but it can be an overwhelming experience too. The amount of time that goes into using a product and then thinking through all the use-cases and trying to simulate (or at least try to empathize with) those can be cumbersome and frankly, it can give you tunnel-vision about the purpose of a device or its target market.

This past week my wife, Corrine, took the Pro 3 on a business trip and she has provided her feedback of the device that, I believe, provides a more genuine look at the device than you can get from someone who makes a living critiquing devices.

Before we start, I should point out that my wife is not a technology enthusiast. If you ask her what Threshold is, she would say that it is the piece of wood between our kitchen that has tile and our dining room that has wood floors. She does not care about Windows Phone GDRs and if something isn't working correctly on the PC, she yells at me for breaking it. Corrine, in short, is a perfect example of the average consumer who is (luckily?) married to someone who has documented her use of the device at a conference in Texas.

I charged up the Pro 3, gave it to my wife and off she went - alone in the wild with Windows 8.1, a Pro 3 and what I hoped would be enough training on how to use the pen to not get a frantic call that she somehow keeps launching OneNote by accident.

The Pros:

The form factor is fantastic for using at a conference. Corrine took tons of notes and to no surprise, the Pro 3 was ideal. The battery life was more than adequate and the Type Cover worked quite well as a keyboard. Pen input felt natural and OneNote, which my wife had not used much previously, received high praise for its organizational features.

The high-resolution screen was easy on the eyes and allowed her to get everything she needed on to the screen. The device also allowed her to leave the iPad at home as the Pro 3 filled both needs while traveling; tablet for watching movies and laptop for getting work done.

Using the device on her lap worked quite well too when taking notes and she had no issues with the stability of the device on her legs. She did not mention any issues about performance, which I interpret to mean that the device had no issues running the tasks she threw at it. 

The Cons:

Of the things that she did not like about the device, most notable was that the pen was heavy. I should point out that Corrine has small hands and generally uses pen and paper but I thought that was an interesting issue as for me, the pen weight is fine. Also, she wanted the ability to re-map the buttons on the pen to have one button turn the pen into a highlighter.

Other complaints were that the track pad was not easy to use and that if she were to use her mouse, then the only USB port would be occupied, leaving no space to plug in a USB drive to share documents.

The on-screen keyboard was not responsive to the content that was shown, having to manually launch the keyboard is a step-backwards compared to the iPad.

The bottom line:

The interesting thing about Corrine taking the Pro 3 is that she had been using an iPad/laptop setup for years. So, to even think about wanting to use the Pro 3 set me back a little bit but it paid off. She loved the Pro 3, but more so, her co-workers who traveled with her loved it as well - so much so, in fact, that her department is looking into purchasing a few, which is the ultimate win for Microsoft, when it comes to people trying out their device.

The fact that the Pro 3 met the needs of my wife while traveling and that she would recommend the device to others - over an iPad and laptop setup - is precisely the kind of scenario that Microsoft would have hoped for when developing the device. The previous iterations, like the Surface RT or Pro 2, did not receive such praise from her as the Pro 3. 

The Pro 3 has gotten good reviews from the press - not perfect, but better than the past. Given that my wife was taken from skeptic to fan in only a few days of use, this shows that the device clearly has potential with 'ordinary' users, which means that it is now up to Microsoft to communicate the value proposition of the device effectively.

The reason I say that Microsoft needs to work on its communication is that she was the only one at the conference using a Pro 3. There were plenty of iPads with Bluetooth keyboards and those are all users who Microsoft should be able to target with its marketing campaigns.

Microsoft was able to win over one consumer who had been an iPad + laptop user, so they are heading in the right direction; the question that remains is how quickly they can convert a large number of users to turn Surface into a household brand.

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Care to elaborate on the "limitations" as you put it? I fail to see how flame-baiting with the whole Microsoft screwed up with windows 8 on the desktop etc etc, that has nothing to do with Surface, or more specifically this review. You are living in a world of the past and need to live in the now. 8 is fine on the desktop and I fail to see how traditional laptop and desktop users are abandoned. Rather than spark a debate here on that matter, feel free to PM me or join the conversations in the forums regarding this.

Windows XP and Windows 7 tablets did not sell well. I firmly believe a major reason for that was the fact that the OS and most desktop software was a terrible experience on a tablet that requires primary interaction via the screen - pen or touch.

Its fine if you want a laptop, but the rest of the world is moving to a more diverse way of working with our devices. Tablets and touchscreens are a big part of that. Accommodations had to be made. I think the only mistake MS made with Windows 8 was in trying to push people too aggressively into the new paradigm. They should have made the new stuff optional to let people ease into it.

TsarNikky said,
..... same damned tired comment I post on every Surface / Windows 8 article.....

Do you actually take the time to rewrite this drivel or do you copy and paste from a source?

I also have a wife experience to share. My wife often makes PPT presentations with videos...rather large ones. So, I gave her my Surface Pro and downloaded the videos, inserted them in the PPT and crossed my fingers. She was presenting before about 250 educators. I was awaiting a call, which in the past was a panic call because her laptop was not connecting to the hotel system. NO call. Super success. She loves the Surface. I got her a Bluetooth mouse (we both hate track pads on any computer) and the connection to the hotel system went on without a hitch. We're both very pleased with the Surface.

I bought a Surface Pro 2 and the Touch mouse. Played around with it some until my daughter-in-law saw it, she liked it. It was decided that since she had given me 2 grandchildren, I should give her the Pro. Hard to argue with that logic :-)

My grandson decided his mom wasn't using the Pro correctly, so he should have it, this logic did not stick as well. I told him when he gets his Master's Degree in a few months I'd buy him a Pro 3.

So here are 2 more Surface fans.

I think MS has done a terrible job up to now in promoting the Surface, but what do I know, I lost mine to a girl... :-)

Was she used to Windows 8.1 to begin with? Do you have the desktop as the dominant screen or the Start Screen? I'd love to know if the majority of her time was spent in desktop for Metro. Also was she using desktop or touch version of OneNote? I found the touch version unusable for my purposes until I discovered that you could enable pinch to zoom in settings, now I use the touch version on the Surface 3 exclusively. Surface 3 rocks, MS really nailed this one.

Manually invoking the on-screen keyboard is necessarily only when you're using desktop applications. If you're using Metro apps, it comes up automatically if a keyboard isn't detected.

I think MS has great products, but they need to do a much better job at 1) getting stores and their employees (i.e. carriers, BestBuy, etc.) to give the products the attention they deserve, 2) getting their products in the hands of kids.

Their ads have gotten much better actually. The ads are much more real world and they show how the Surface and Surface Pro perform the tasks people care about.

I REALLY like the suggestion that the buttons on the pen be able to be remapped. In fact, the highlighter idea is spot on. I pre-ordered the i3 version of the SP3, so I'm very anxious to see that show up at my doorstep soon.

sl@nw said,
I am thinking about i3. How do think about 64G SSD. Is it enough?

If you're going to use it for store apps primarily and the occasional desktop app, then yes. If you're installing Office on it, maybe.

Anything more than that, or if more than one person will be using it then you'll want to look at getting an SD card or just staring with the 128GB model.

My wife just replaced her MacBook air 11 (mid-2012) for a Surface 2, really. Mac Os X has been too puzzling for her and she never achieved to adapt. Plus, she only need Office for work, and use an iPad for fun.

Now, she is looking to replace her iPhone 5s with a Windows Phone, despite what I told her about apps and stuff. The Surface 2 really pleased her, and she just don't use the iPad anymore.

Maxime Tremblay said,
My wife just replaced her MacBook air 11 (mid-2012) for a Surface 2, really. Mac Os X has been too puzzling for her and she never achieved to adapt. Plus, she only need Office for work, and use an iPad for fun.

Now, she is looking to replace her iPhone 5s with a Windows Phone, despite what I told her about apps and stuff. The Surface 2 really pleased her, and she just don't use the iPad anymore.

The owner just brought his daughter on board. I recommended a Surface Pro 3 with a docking station and she is so thrilled, she wants a Windows Phone as well. Like you, I explained that it won't have local banking apps, baby monitor app, etc. she uses and she was OK with that. So I imported her iPhone pictures to OneDrive and setting up her new Lumia Icon now. :)

Silly question: Why did you have your wife write up her own opinions? This article is basically what you understood from talking to your wife and essentially what you interpret her thoughts and opinions are. There is room for differences here between what she really liked and what you understood she liked.

I really want SP3 but the only thing that holds me back? The windows key on the bezel, give me an option to turn that off and I'm getting one.

ffMathy said,
You can just delete it from your device manager. No big deal.

How about just disabling it? Deleting seems a bit drastic.

Potato potarto. Right-clicking and pressing "Scan for hardware changes" will re-add and install it automatically. I see no reason for drivers to be there when they are not really being used anyway.

That's all subjective though. Cheers!

You delete it from device manager and Windows will add it back automatically next time you restart. Disabling it is actually what you need to do.

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