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Has Microsoft finally made a tablet to replace your laptop?

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With each generation of Surface devices, Microsoft gets closer to building a device that can replace both your tablet and laptop. Unfortunately, though, the company's progress has been gradual, and even after three attempts, it still hasn't addressed some serious usability flaws. This time around, the biggest problem is the keyboard. It's tough to say who should buy the Surface Pro 3 as a laptop alternative when the very thing that makes it a notebook replacement -- its optional keyboard -- offers a subpar typing experience and a frustrating trackpad. Adding insult to injury, it's not even included in the box; it's an optional $130 accessory that helps drive up the cost compared to similar PCs.

The good news is that despite its larger screen size, the Surface Pro is easier than ever to use as a tablet, thanks to a thinner, lighter design and more sensible aspect ratio. If Microsoft could just figure out the keyboard thing (and start throwing it in for free), I'd be more inclined to recommend this as a laptop replacement. For now, unless you want a tablet and laptop in equal measure, and sincerely enjoy using Windows Store apps, a touchscreen Ultrabook is still your best bet.

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Critic reviews

7.6
14 reviews
  • Speed and features
    7.5
  • Design and form factor
    8.2
  • Battery life
    6.5
  • Display
    9.1
  • Durability
  • Expandability
    8.0
  • Noise
    5.6
  • Portability (size / weight)
    8.1

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User reviews

8.5
22 reviews
8.0
Engadget May 23, 2014

The Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft's biggest and best tablet yet, but it needs a better keyboard to truly replace your laptop.

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8.0
CNET May 22, 2014

While the new Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft's best PC to date, it's more successful as a tablet than a laptop replacement.

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8.0
Ars Technica May 23, 2014

Surface Pro 3 is the closest Microsoft has come yet to producing a laptop-killing tablet. But the laptop will live on to fight another day. This time around, the third iteration isn't the one that gets it right.

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8.0
PC World May 27, 2014

Microsoft's Surface lineup just keeps getting better and better, with an improved screen for desktop use and an upgraded Type Cover for the road.

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8.0
The Wall Street Journal May 27, 2014

On its third attempt, Microsoft has leapt forward in bringing the tablet and laptop together—and bringing the laptop into the future. But the Pro 3 also suffers from the Surface curse: You still make considerable compromises for getting everything in one package.

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8.0
Gizmodo May 27, 2014

The Surface Pro 3 is now a passable laptop, which is fantastic. But the added benefit of a full Windows tablet is still pretty niche.

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7.0
PC Mag May 22, 2014

With its 12-inch, high-resolution display, full-friction kickstand, and Surface Pen, Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 tablet aims to be the only mobile PC you need. But will you ditch your laptop? We're not so sure.

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7.0
Wired May 23, 2014

It’s a machine that makes a ton of sense for business deployments, road warriors, casual photo editors, and artists. With the Surface Pro 3, you’re paying not just for the individual components, but for the sheer thin-and-lightness of it all.

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7.0
Computerworld May 30, 2014

So will this be the tablet-laptop combo that convinces you to use Windows 8 if you're not already committed to it? No. But this machine shows that a tablet-laptop combo is not as much of a Rube Goldberg mashup as you might have imagined. It even makes sense.

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6.0
Laptop Magazine May 21, 2014

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet has a larger and sharper screen, more versatile kickstand and better pen integration, but it's a pricey laptop replacement.

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9.0
Yahoo Tech May 22, 2014

If you own or carry around both a tablet and a laptop, then the Surface is calling out your name. There’s nothing like it.

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8.0
The Verge May 23, 2014

If you believe that Windows 8.1 hasn’t taken off because the hardware hasn’t been good enough, the Surface Pro 3 removes that argument from the table. It’s simply hard to identify areas where it can get radically better.

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7.0
Penny Arcade May 23, 2014

It’s so close to being perfect that the problems it has feel especially maddening. If it just performed a little better! If they just hadn’t put that button right there! Grrrr.

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8.0
HotHardware May 29, 2014

We, however, think Windows 8.1 is ideal on a device of this type and think the Surface Pro 3 is a compelling, worthwhile update to the Surface line-up.

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First Looks

product preview
Engadget May 20, 2014

In addition to being the biggest, highest-res Surface, it also brings new pen tech, a new kickstand, and a new keyboard, to boot. Also, it's surprisingly thin and light, considering this thing is big and powerful enough to replace a full-fledged Ultrabook.

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Gizmodo May 20, 2014

Of the many things that are new about the Surface Pro 3, the screen size feels the least remarkable. Yeah, it's bigger, but not in a way that's immediately ... noticeable. That's a good thing; the screen sort of fades away into the background right away without assaulting you with its largeness.

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Ars Technica May 20, 2014

The build quality is as good as we've come to expect from the Surface lineup. The aluminum chassis is nice-looking and solid-feeling, and the hinge was perfectly stable as long as I kept my lap level.

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product preview
PC World May 20, 2014

By moving from a 10.6-inch form factor with the Surface Pro 2 to a 12-inch screen with the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft’s tablet feels more like a PC than ever. Really, the only thing differentiating it from a traditional notebook are the strength of the hinge and the weight distribution.

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product preview
AnandTech May 20, 2014

Despite featuring a thinner chassis, I measured performance improvements over both previous Surface Pros. I'll have more data in the final review but here I'm seeing a 3 - 20% increase in performance over the Surface Pro 2.

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GigaOM May 20, 2014

Overall, I like what I see here initially. Surface Pro 3 already looks like a much better laptop. Time will tell in tablet mode because a 12-inch slate can become unwieldy after a while; at least in portrait mode. The kickstand will help for content consumption times, of course.

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CNET May 20, 2014

The Surface Pro 3 still doesn't feel quite as thin and ethereal as, for example, the iPad Air, but its slightly thinner body, coupled with the larger screen, give it a more upscale feel than the Pro and Pro 2, both of which we criticized for a certain boxiness.

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ZDNet May 21, 2014

If you liked the earlier iterations of the Surface Pro you'll no doubt love the changes in this, the third edition. If you were put off by the Type Cover or the heft of earlier versions, the improvements here make it well worth a fresh look.

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product preview
SlashGear May 20, 2014

It's certainly lighter in the hand than you might first expect when you pick it up, with the 9.1mm-thick metal chassis and 12-inch display turning out to be fairly comfortable to hold, even single-handed. That 800g would probably add up over a few hours of use, however.

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Pocket-Lint May 20, 2014

The Surface Pro 3 certainly takes it up a step in the Surface line and while the storage and RAM options remain the same, a lot has improved with the successor to the Surface Pro 2.

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Mashable May 20, 2014

The kickstand hinge is impressive. The minimum angle is something like 30 degrees (otherwise the tablet would tip over), but you can go way beyond that, up to 150 degrees. The level of resistance is just right.

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product preview
The Verge May 20, 2014

Unsurprisingly, Windows 8.1 runs quickly and smoothly on the Pro 3, and the touchscreen had no issues tracking our swipes and inputs. The new Type Cover keyboard cover features a new touchpad that's tremendously better than earlier models, as well as backlit keys.

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product preview
IGN May 20, 2014

Overall, I'm not convinced the Surface Pro 3 is revolutionary enough to completely replace my laptop, but it's a well-designed device that delivers improvements on its predecessors and some new features that might boost your productivity compared to a standard tablet.

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VentureBeat May 20, 2014

Thanks to its larger screen, using the Surface Pro 3 to browse the web and use Windows 8 apps felt far more comfortable than past Surface models. I always felt cramped by the 10.6-inch screens in the previous Surface.

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WPCentral May 20, 2014

We're really, really liking the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft has addressed some of the major qualms users have had with the Surface over the past few years. Battery life is up to nine hours, performance has increased, weight is down and viewing angles have increased.

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Gizmag May 20, 2014

Microsoft also redesigned its Surface Pen with a weightier, more premium feel. The biggest news on the pen front, though, is its "one-click" note-taking capabilities: click the end of the pen and OneNote pops open on the Surface. Double-click the pen to take a screenshot.

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TabletPCReview May 20, 2014

Taking all of the refinements in, and the Surface Pro 3 is certainly an impressive piece of hardware that leaves the team at TabletPCReview feeling good about its chances against... well... the thin-and-light notebook market.

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TechRadar May 20, 2014

The driving idea behind the Surface Pro 3 is putting the full weight of Microsoft's software and hardware chops behind a single device. And features like this Surface Pen and OneNote instill confidence that the company is doing good by that vision.

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Neowin May 20, 2014

With an Intel Core i7 under the hood, the tablet flies through the apps and any quick test we were able to put the device through. We also couldn't feel any air being pushed out through the vents, nor could we hear the fan.

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Geek.com May 20, 2014

As far as first impressions go, Microsoft has done an amazing job updating a confusing concept and turning it into a compelling product.

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The Next Web May 20, 2014

It’s clear Microsoft made loads of improvements to the Surface Pro 3, though it is, at first glance, still a far cry from the Macbook Air. We liked the processing speed of Windows 8.1 and the improved trackpad is nice, but it’s still a bit too tiny to comfortably perform gesture controls.

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7.0
eca637 eca637

With Microsoft's quest to have a tablet replace a laptop, they've churned out the Surface Pro 3. I purchased this device with the intent of using it in engineering classes as something I can carry around and work math on. First Impression - very thin, light, and sturdy feeling. Silver coating...

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9.0
nerva2940 nerva2940

the SP3 is incredibly underrated. for the power you get, it's the most portable product out there. it's not "like a PC", it IS a PC with full Windows 8.1 that weighs under 2 lbs. at home, i use it as a full desktop replacement. in class, i no longer carry paper. the stylus is responsive and...

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6.0
gorbay gorbay

I have pre-ordered an i5/128GB version Surface Pro 3 with hopes to have one device that can replace my tablet and laptop and can let me doodle/paint on the road but ended up sending it back. So please interpret my comments knowing where I'm coming from. First thing I noticed when I turned on the...

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9.0
Siri325 Siri325

So I am writing this review on my Surface Pro 3 (SP3) after 1.5 weeks of use, beginning on June 20, 2014. Previously, I owed a Surface Pro 2 (SP2) for about a year and decided to sell it after weighing the Pros & Cons after seeing the SP3 floor model. Both devices were an i5 128GB model. For...

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9.0
geeky geeky

Bought this on impulse, but I really really love it so far. Can't wait to see how it stands the test of time and whether it can really replace my laptop.

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7.0
ajcosgro ajcosgro

overall i think this is a great product. random times i have trouble with the speed of the device wishing it was faster at downloading programs and apps. very portable and love the new design of the key board specifically the track pad, compared to the surface 2 the track pad senses your finger...

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4.0
light8 light8

Returners remorse: On opening day I eagerly went and bought the surface. I got the 8 GB ram with a student discount, the keyboard, the whole deal. 5 days later I returned it. now i regret it but will I buy it again? NO! The Tablet: -The surface is undoubtedly the best device I've ever held....

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7.0
mwml mwml

I needed to upgrade my own laptop and decided to go with SP3, but it simply wasn't enough to be a good productivity laptop, and for the price, I felt that there were better options out there.

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9.0
boxswatter boxswatter

This was the first non-Apple computer I have purchased in 10 years and it is quite nice., The screen is amazing and the type cover keyboard is better than expected. I don't know know the trackpad worked on the previous generation but this one is okay. It is nowhere close to a MacBook trackpad but...

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