Surface Pro 3 review: Has Microsoft finally made a tablet to replace your laptop?
The Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft's biggest and best tablet yet, but it needs a better keyboard to truly replace your laptop.
- Remarkably thin and light for a machine with laptop guts
- Easier to use as a standalone tablet
- Fast performance
- Gorgeous, high-res display
- Keyboard can be propped up at a more comfortable angle
- Flimsy keyboard is inferior to what you'd get on a proper laptop; worse, it doesn't even come in the box
- Not that comfortable to use in the lap
- Middling battery life
It didn't last long, but there was a moment earlier this week when I was sure Microsoft would unveil its own laptop. At a press event, Surface chief Panos Panay took the stage to remind the reporters in attendance how they once said tablets would make laptops obsolete. A quick scan around the room revealed rows of journalists, all typing on Ultrabooks -- including the MacBook Air, no less. For a moment, it seemed like Panay was conceding defeat.
Indeed, Microsoft has had multiple chances to prove it can bridge the divide between slates and laptops: Both the first- and second-gen Surface tablets were intended as do-it-all devices. And both times, the company fell short of its mission. The Surface Pro in particular was powerful enough to rival Ultrabooks, but suffered from several usability flaws: It was awkward to use in the lap, and also unwieldy as a tablet. For most people, a touchscreen laptop was still the better choice.
Even so, that wasn't Panay conceding defeat up there on stage -- that was him being persistent. When he finally did get to the point, he unveiled not a laptop, but a tablet, the Surface Pro 3. Most notably, this third-gen device steps up to a larger, 12-inch screen, bringing it in line with contemporary Ultrabooks. The keyboard has been born again too, this time with a larger, more responsive touchpad and the ability to prop it up at a more comfortable angle. As a tablet, meanwhile, the Surface Pro 3 is thinner and lighter than the Surface Pro 2, despite having a bigger display. Just as important, the device will start at $799 when it goes on sale next month -- that's a hundred dollars less than last year's model. All told, the Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft's biggest, fastest, thinnest, lightest, best tablet yet. Panay even went so far as to say, "Today we take the conflict away." Did they, though?