May 20th 2014 11:23 am

Heads up! A newer version of this product has been announced and will be released on October 26, 2015!

final rating

reviewed on
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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Speed and features 1 year old CPU but still good enough. The disappointing pen doesn't compare to Wacom. so-so
  • Design and form factor Kickstand and keyboard don't help much. so-so
  • Battery life Good enough. good
  • Display Bright and beautiful colors. great!
  • Durability Beautifully crafted and manufactured. great!
  • Expandability Can't expand other than micro sd cards. Nothing is modular. No upgrades at all. poor
  • Noise Pretty quiet. Heat management is way better than MacBooks. good
  • Portability (size / weight) very light for a laptop. good
Detailed review
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 device was that the display had serious light leaks on the bottom and right edges. With colors on the screen it was not visible, but with anything dark on the screen (e.g. watching wide-format videos) it bothers like hell.

The wireless adapter has some issues as well. In an hour or so after rebooting, it loses wireless connection with the wireless adapter nowhere to be seen. The only way to get it back is to reboot again. Device manager doesn't detect it if you do a scan for hardware changes, the network options doesn't allow you to add the wireless adapter back. Even if these remedies worked, it wouldn't make is less of a problem.

Then I tried the mighty "pen." I must be somewhat spoiled by all the Wacom tablets I have owned; this pen fails to transmit the correct pen tip location. I have compared it with an attached Intuos and the difference became crystal clear. For some reason, N-trig does have a delay but not in the sense that there is a time difference between the physical pen location and the pointer on the screen. The location seems to improve as you keep the pen steady at a location. This is where it lost me. If you have a relatively fast drawing style, your small and fast strokes will be missed if not appear as shorter than the original. From time to time, you also experience large gaps between sampled points and get flat, linear regions within strokes. Probably because of the combined touch/pen sensing, the pen can act weirdly depending on where your hand is positioned. I couldn't figure out how but it affects it. After all, I couldn't care less if the screen was 0.1mm farther from the glass.

Then the pressure curves. 256 levels are okay for the most part (peeps will argue that even color channels have only 256 values) but with other dynamics like 'pen size with pressure' 256 levels start falling short. MS is already talking about adjusting the pressure curves and it will result in losing pressure sampling resolution at different pressure ranges. With the insufficiently calibrated pressure curves right now, all you end up doing is to press harder and harder which pushes the glass down so much that you start seeing the ripples on the LCD. On top, you end up wearing out the pen tip so quickly. I'm not even gonna go into the WinTAB driver issues. The updated drives did very little for me.

The kickstand is probably the most suitable solution if you want to keep every piece of hardware behind the screen and still want to make it stand stably. It couldn't get support from the lightweight keyboard after all. But if you want to use it on your lap, that very sharp edge of the stand is not the most comfortable thing to rest on your legs, especially while wearing shorts. Speaking of that, male users should be extra aware; the kickstand is probably the best form of hair removal technique known to men. If you want to adjust it to stand up right, and if you go just a little bit too far, it clamps on to whatever is on its way and pluck it out.

The keyboard was the most satisfactory piece although it feels flimsy. When the big magnet is folded toward the tablet the keyboard gets too close to the display. Did you want to use the swipe-up gestures when keyboard was docked? Forget about it.

All in all, physically very sturdy device but it has a lot of design quirks. Pen doesn't compare to Wacom in any way, kickstand is okay but can be painful on bare legs, screen has light leaking issues despite the excellent brightness and the beautiful colors, keyboard folding helps the stability but almost blocks the view and disables some swipe from edge gestures, wireless problems, etc. After all, when I wanted to use a tablet to read/watch sth, I find myself reaching my DellVenuePro8: comfortable, small, light, you can actually write with thumbs, and it does the job.

I quickly gave up on the hope that I can have only one device. The form factor is everything for tablets and MS seems to forget that a lot. It is very light for a laptop but not light and small enough for a tablet. My work device and my leisure reading/websurfing device can still be separate for now.
review history
Updated detailed review
Edited comment on Portability (size / weight)
Updated detailed review

Comments (6) subscribe to this review's comments


"But if you want to you is on your lap, that very sharp edge of the stand is not the most comfortable thing to rest on your legs, especially while wearing shorts."

I know that feel

"can't expand other than sd cards"

Really? with the minidisplay port, bluetooth, and a simple USB hub, i have a 24" monitor, mechanical keyboard, mouse, bluetooth speaker, and a 256gb ssd attached to my sp3 at home. transforming a tablet into a full desktop is pretty damn expandable to me.

You can also get the docking station and then you have a true desktop.

OP, a question regarding the Pen. Did you use the last windows surface pro (2)'s wacom pen? Some reviews said that this one is better than the wacom pen. On my test drive on the SP3's pen I find it slightly slow and a bit off - just want to confirm that. I haven't used the old wacom pen so I can't really compare.

I am well acquainted with the Wacom pens and SP3 pen is visibly slower when hovering. I have seen tests that somehow conclude N-trig response type is shorter. In practice, I found it to be different. It takes more time to pick up when the pen touches the surface. If you have a quick drawing style, you probably won't like how late it responds. Some of the strokes will appear short, and some probably won't at all if they are short enough. I don't know how others conduct their tests. Maybe after the first touch, N-trig acts faster. But even if that is the case, I don't think the experience is better. Overall, I think Wacom is still the closest you can get to the actual pen/paper experience.

From the Microsoft App store download the App called Surface. You can adjust the pen sensitivity and top button.
Wireless connection is managed on the charms bar that pops from the right. When I first bought, after updates, it took a few reboots, or holding down the power button for an extended time to do a reset for the WiFi to work right. No problems since my first week in September.