Three tiny software tweaks to bring the Surface Pro 3 closer to perfection

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 is a fantastic blend of style, function and performance. Over the past couple of weeks we have been digging deep, like really deep, into every facet of the Pro 3 as we prepare our final review. But, before we get to that, there are a few software enhancements that Microsoft needs to make before it launches the Pro 3 - to give all new users the best experience possible.

For a bit of background, I have been using the Pro 3 constantly since we first got our hands on the device. From taking it for a ride in the cattle car section of an airplane to a 1400 mile road trip, this device has been thoroughly put to the test. And during my time with it, I have found that there are a few things that could do with being changed on the software side that would greatly improve the end user experience.

With the product launching in only a couple weeks, there is not much time left to get these tweaks ready for launch. 


The ability to turn off the Windows Key on the bezel

On the right side of the Pro 3 is a Windows key that is touch sensitive. If you have been reading Neowin, you will know that it's not that big of a deal as, most of the time, it does not activate when the side of your hand hits the button. But, there are times, as you can see in the video below, when it does engage. While it does not happen every time, when it does happen, it can be quite annoying.

If (and we honestly hope it is a 'when' not an 'if') Microsoft were to provide a simple option to turn off this button, it would solve this issue. While most users may not need to toggle the button on and off, for those that do, it makes the Pro 3 much more enjoyable. This would be a very simple fix to a rather irritating problem.


Alignment of the Windows buttons

There is more of a cosmetic issue than anything else but the Windows button on the bezel and the Windows button in the charms bar do not align. It's a very simple thing but once you notice it, you will not be able to ignore it.

Grasping at straws with this one? Maybe, but it's these little things that will go a long way to make the Pro 3 the best it can possible be when it launches. The Pro 3 is not a cheap device, and its premium pricing reflects this. It's not too much to expect a little more attention to detail - and this can easily be fixed with a software update. 

(Also, we are sorry for pointing this out as you will now never be able to un-see the awkward alignment of these two items.)


Change the functions of the buttons on the Pro 3 pen

The Pro 3 comes with possibly the best peripheral for any tablet. The pen is fantastic and offers up a fun and deeply integrated way to work with the tablet. With three buttons on the device, the pen offers a ton of functionality in a small package.

The pen includes a button on the end that allows you to quickly launch OneNote and the two buttons near the tip are for selecting content and context menus, but what we would love is the ability to re-map these buttons. 

Not everyone who buys the Pro 3 will be a OneNote user and for them, having a dedicated button for this application could be an annoyance. For us, we take a ton of screenshots and the pen makes it super easy to define the area that you need to capture. So, we would love the ability to re-map the cap button to launch the snipping app instead of OneNote, for example.


It's only software

All of these changes can be made with software updates and are relatively minor enhancements. If Microsoft were to introduce these fixes, it would help make the Pro 3 the best tablet it could possibly be when it launches later this month. While all the tweaks are small, there is a fine line between a good device and a great device; with these enhancements, the Pro 3 will assert its position in the latter category.

Don't get me wrong, the Pro 3 is a great product and is miles ahead of the Pro 2 in many ways. But when it comes to taking on other OEMs and even Apple, it's all about the details and getting everything right, not getting everything mostly right.

The good news here is that these are all software tweaks that can be pushed down via an update from the crew in Redmond and when they do finally arrive, the Pro 3 will take another small step towards perfection.

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Another thing they could do to fix w8.1 in general, advanced settings for Bluetooth. I have my Home theater receiver and a Bluetooth speaker connected to my PC tablet. It would be nice to have individual settings for each Bluetooth device, like connect automatically, manually connect or asks every time.

The misalignment is not really a misalignment, the software button has a text caption underneath it, the physical button does not. They both are likely center justified but since the physical button doesn't have the text underneath it, its not going to align up with the software button is my observation.

audioman said,
Sure, perfection. Fan = fail.

So what was your perfect solution to reliably cool a Core i# again?

You can't make up a solution to a design that's inherently flawed. I have a little standalone fanless computer with a much more powerful CPU, with no special cooling necessary, but of course it's the form factor that enables it. If you use a CPU that's inadequate for the tablet form factor and which has to be cooled by a fan, then your product is ridiculous and idiotic. I would prefer to get a tablet with a CPU that has 2/3 the processing power but doesn't require a fan inside the tablet (or ANY moving parts for that matter), and hence have a much more reliable product that makes no noise (and any "low noise" claims in articles are total BS).

audioman said,
I would prefer to get a tablet with a CPU that has 2/3 the processing power but doesn't require a fan inside the tablet

And I'd prefer a villa to a normal house. Only problem: it's not affordable - just like the CPU you envision does NOT exist…

If you compare a iPad class device to the Surface Pro, you don't understand that the Pro is a subnotebook - which everyone builds with a fan…

Yeah, relax, such CPUs DO exist (Broadwell Y / Core M) and they will soon be used in tablets, and both your comparisons are completely irrelevant, since we're not talking about any significant price range differences if at all, nor "iPad class devices" with non-x86 CPUs.

The case for the start buttons not being aligned might be stronger if the tablet were actually aligned straight on that grid.

The image should have been rotated so the side of the Surface was straight up & down. How much of that misalignment is due to the image itself not being totally straight? Everything looks a little off thanks to the skew.

You can't get a distance that big only from skew. Besides, the Surface team are bragging with the thinness of the display. It's not like the display is at the bottom of the tablet...

I don't mean skew from the device itself. I mean the tablet is crooked in the image compared to the grid laid onto it. Or the grid is crooked compared to the tablet . . .

Now that you mention it, the tablet does seem a bit tilted to the left in reference to the grid. But straightening it would only accentuate the misalignment.

The Windows button isn't just for branding or aesthetics! It's also a way to active the Task Manager. You press and hold the Windows button and the power button at the same time to active the Task Manager screen.

You can also activate task-manager by opening the desktop, press-and-hold the taskbar (some empty spot on it), and then selecting "task Manager".

Or Press-and-hold the Windows button on the taskbar, and select "Task manager".

I don't think it's grasping at straws mentioning the misalignment of the Windows button/Charm. It's something that should not have happened but it did because it's Microsoft.

What is it that's not centered, BTW? I'm guessing both the Windows charm and Windows button are at the center of the right-side of the screen. So why don't they align?

If it was up to me, I would get rid of the Windows button and just go with software buttons.

Has anyone asked Panos Panay about the Windows button/charm not being aligned?

hagjohn said,
Are you going to use the pen with the kickstand out? I suppose you can but I bet it's not comfortable.

You can't imagine a scenario where someone would sit at their desk and draw?

The new Microsoft usually doesn't make things customizable beyond changing color and background etc. :p Btw try "Windows Key Opens" to nothing in Classic Shell and see if it disables the touch button.

The alignment of the Windows button is purely aesthetic, but still annoying, like crooked stickers on a new laptop's palm rest. The other two suggestions make a lot of sense. Any freelance coders out there willing to write programs that perform these sensible changes? They doesn't need to come from Microsoft, after all.

Looks to me like the hardware button is aligned with the bottom of the software Windows button (meaning the label, rather than the logo).

It looks fine to me.

Kalint said,
git a jab! pay MS who after an year will be willing to sell you same device at huge discount. So I will say keep a patience.

Auditor said, pay MS who after an year will be willing to sell you same device at huge discount. So I will say keep a patience.

After releasing another device. Then, this conversation will happen all over again.