Surface Pro 3: Your Next Business Laptop?

Has Microsoft finally gotten tablet PCs right, or has it jumped the shark with the new Surface Pro 3? Pundits’ opinions vary, with some gushing over the performance of the new “business laptop replacement” while others gasp at the price. Let’s take a look at both…

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3

The Surface Pro 3 is Redmond’s third attempt to inject a touch- and pen-based user interface into the computing paradigm. Unlike the iPad, Android-based tablets and the low-end Surface models, the Surface Pro 3 runs full-blown Windows 8.1, making it a contender for the notebook’s spot in business and professional computing.
It’s touted as the “thinnest Intel Core PC” on the market right now, but that doesn’t translate into less weight or bulk. On the other hand, the Surface Pro 3’s larger screen, higher resolution, and add-on options make it more comfortable to use, if not to carry.
Thankfully, the Surface Pro 3 is not trying to depose the iPad. The original Surface Pro launched in 2012 had ad 10.6-inch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Microsoft declared this configuration the ideal one, selected after testing many others.
Surface Pro 3
But the Surface Pro 3 has a 12-inch screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio, much closer to that of a traditional laptop. This is just one sign that Microsoft is backing off of the “iPad imitation” idea and steering back towards the “portable productivity machine” that was its bread and butter for so long.
The Pro 3’s optional snap-on keyboard, called a TypeCover, has real mechanical keys and a better touchpad than previous Surface Pro versions. Combined with the infinitely-adjustable kickstand, it makes a more lap-friendly laptop alternative.

Surface Pro 3: Inside, Outside and Price Tag

Other options are more commonly found in laptops than on tablets, e. g., Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 CPUs; the docking station, and Ethernet adapter. The Pro 3’s pen is driven by technology from a company called N-trig rather than the Wacom tech used in the first two Pro versions.
Software included with the Pro 3 shows some tweaking to reassure traditional desktop users that the world has not gone entirely to touch. The Photoshop app on the Pro 3, for instance, has been modified to perform some functions using touch but retains the fine control of keyboard and mouse that users demand.
If you add the right options, the Pro 3 stacks up as a capable workhorse for business use. But the cost of that horse with blanket, saddle, bridle, and other “optional necessities” is rather breathtaking.
The base model of the Pro 3 costs $799, including an Intel i3 CPU, 4G of RAM, and 64 GBs of flash storage. Virtually every Pro user wants (needs) a TypeCover, which costs an extra $130 when it should be standard equipment. So already, if you want to use the Pro 3 as a laptop, you’re up to $930. Traditional laptops with similar specs go for $600 less.
A top-of-the-line Surface Pro 3 with 512GB of storage and an Intel i7 processor will set you back $1,949. Add another $130 for the TypeCover, and you’ve crossed the $2000 mark. The good news is that you’ll have all summer to save up for a Surface Pro 3, because they’re not shipping until August 31st.
Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Surface Computing, Panos Panay, has said that the Pro 3 is aimed at “consumer first,” including students who are going use it for note-taking. At these prices, I don’t think so. If the Pro 3 finds traction it will be among business users.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below…

More Posts about Hardware:

  • Is BYOD a Good Idea for Small Biz?

  • Surface Pro 3: Your Next Business Laptop?

  • Seven Great Laptops for Business Travelers


  1. Michael Shames says

    Thanks for the overview of Surface Pro 3. There’s little doubt that Pro 3 carries with it a premium for the base model — you estimate $600 and that probably isn’t far off given the availability of sub-$300 13″ screen chromebooks by HP, Acer and Lenovo. In a future article on this OS, it might be helpful for your readers if you were to examine what comparative advantages the Pro 3 offers over those other Chromebooks. Other than the touchscreen and the Windows OS, I’m not seeing Microsoft’s justification for the premium. Is that your conclusion as well?
    EDITOR’S NOTE: Aside from those factors you mentioned, the only other things I can think of are better portability and the touch interface. Some may feel otherwise about touchscreen laptops, though!

  2. Rhetorical questions:
    Run Linux?
    Run emacs?
    Drive a DVI display?
    High-speed (not WiFi) connection to a desktop PC?
    Handwriting recognition?
    If I toss it out a window, will the accelerometer tell me the acceleration of Earth’s gravity?
    EDITOR’S NOTE: I don’t see why you couldn’t install Linux on it. It’s the same Intel CPU as other PCs. Emacs for Windows? (See DVI? Probably not. Maybe with a USB adapter. Ethernet connection to a PC? Yes, with a USB accessory. Handwriting? That’s a software issue.

  3. I agree the price tag of the Pro 3 is a bit steep. For my money, I’ll be sticking with a traditional laptop. I think I would also find the 12-inch screen a bit small, as I’m used to my laptop’s 17-inch monitor.

  4. The Surface Pro 3 is overpriced and not worth it. Read my review at:

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