- Speed and features With an Intel i5 processor inside this thing does everything I would ever need it to do without any lag. From reading emails to video editing, I'm satisfied.
- Design and form factor A Larger screen, thinner & lighter body! I can't argue with the upgrades. Since I do a lot of note taking with the pen, its like writing on a sheet of paper.
- Battery life After using it since June 20, 2014 I can say I have been able to get just a little more than 8 hours of use at the office without needed to recharge.
- Display After comparing the resolution to other options I know the display on the Surface Pro 3 is second to none. I can't see any pixels and its also a touchscreen.
- Durability The body is solid metal and the screen is glass. Add the keyboard and I'm pretty certain this thing will hold up to any normal usage.
- Expandability I picked up the 128Gb i5 model. I figured it was the best bang for the $. However, should I need to, I can also expand local storage with another 128GB SD card.
- Noise Even when I an pushing the limits with the video editing software over a video conference meeting the fans silently hum along. Certainly not noticeable at all.
- Portability (size / weight) I like the Surface line for its balance between power, portability and pen input. Always moving I really like the ability to do anything at a moment's notice.
Overall many of the positive things about the SP2 are still present in the SP3. Software, performance, storage, ecosystem, etc are about the same when comparing my experiences of the SP3 to the SP2. You can read my review of the SP2 below:
Now with this in mind let's review what has changed (for better or worse) from the SP2 and the SP3.
The display is obviously significantly larger and has a 3:4 aspect ratio. I know this may not sound like a big deal but I often found the 16:9 aspect ratio of the SP2 a bit annoying while taking notes in portrait mode during meetings. To say the least, there was lots of scrolling left to right and difficultly printing onto 8x11 pages as OneNote does not have a setting to format this appropriately. Now with the SP3, the writing experience in OneNote is very natural as the larger size and aspect ratio resembles that of a 8x11 sheet of paper. As a by product, I know whatever I see on screen in OneNote will be more or less the output on a printer, should I need hard copies. In landscape mode, I just appreciate having more screen real estate. More on this at the end of the review and how I re-purposed my iPad.
While on the subject of taking notes, lets discuss the pen. On the SP2 the pen was made of black plastic and felt cheap. However over time, I liked how I can erase things on my note by flipping the pen upside down and using it as an eraser. On the SP3 the pen is now metallic, resulting in a bit more weight and matches the silver body of the SP3. These aspects for me gave the pen a premium feel. Additionally, the pen on the SP3 now has 3 buttons (e.g. left click, right click & OneNote). Although I will miss the ability to just flip the pen to erase, I really like the ability to launch OneNote at a moment's notice with a click of the pen's top button. In terms of writing performance, I feel the SP2 is slighter more sensitive to pressure. From reading articles on the internet I understand this is due to the technology used (wacom in SP2 vs N-trig in SP3). Regardless, the difference for me was negligible and both perform very well when taking notes during meetings. On the down side the SP3 pen now needs a AAAA battery (yes 4A's). Not yet sure how long that will last. Whereas the SP2 I believe charges itself when docked to the SP2. Final comment on the SP3 pen revolves around the fabric loop which is used to hold the pen. Specifically, it attaches to anywhere on back the keyboard. Some reviews indicate its a flimsy solution, but I thought that was cool as I can decide where I want to keep my pen.
The SP2 had a dark color, thicker body with a smaller screen and felt heavy in your hand at about 2lbs. The SP3 has a light color, thinner body with a larger screen and was lighter in your hand by comparison, especially so when the keyboard is not attached. Some reviewers say the tablet is too big, heavy and unruly. I think those folks need to hit the gym or something, as I found the tablet to be very comfortable. Both have the same number of ports. Since I am very mobile on a day to day basis, the decision to pick up an SP3 was a no brainer. For those of you interested in the darker color, consider the fact that its paint and areas were rubbing occurred (e.g. the SP2 charging port) exposed the bare silver colored vapor magnesium body. Whats also nice about the SP3 is the fact that the charging port was redesigned into blade where no such rubbing would occur. The biggest difference in between the SP2 and SP3 when considering the body are the kickstands. The SP2 was "OK" with 2 positions, whereas the SP3 I would say is "excellent" with it's 150 positions...er degrees. In other words, its nice to prop up the SP3 to the exact degree for watching movies on the plane.
I previously owned the Type Cover 2 for the SP2. Now I own the Type Cover for the SP3. Both I feel offer a very good typing experience and are back lit. Yes, not identical to a conventional keyboard experience but very good. However, with the SP3 the keyboard is obviously bigger and therefore more comfortable. I think the major difference in this area would be the mouse. The SP2's type cover had a terrible mouse that was a kin to the old touch cover keyboards produced by Microsoft. The SP3's type cover on the other hand has a physical mouse pad which, dare I say it? Is just as good as the Macbook Air's mouse pad. Yeah, I went there. However, I should point out there is no multi-touch on the mouse pad. Not sure why you would want it when you have a touch screen that supports multi-touch. My only gripe about the keyboard is Microsoft should include it with the cost of the surface. I think that's the least they can do, if they are going to market it as a laptop replacement.
Ok so I previously mentioned how both have Intel i5 processors and therefore there was no significant change in performance. However, I should mention the SP3 has an "Always-On" feature which is new to Intel processors. Microsoft has marketed this feature as "InstantGo" on the SP3. What this means is the SP3 stays connected to the WiFi network after its gone to sleep. This eliminates the need to reconnect to a WiFi network when you pick up the SP3 off your desk. I can't tell you how I was first surprised and later annoyed with the fact that I needed to reconnect to the WiFi network with the SP2 every time after it went into sleep mode. I guess it was just something that I had come to expect after using an iPad for so long. This was probably the main reason I decided to sell my SP2 and pick up the SP3. Long story short...major time and frustration saver.
In general I have not seen too much of a significant change in this area. Not sure if the battery is larger or the processor is more efficient, the battery life on the SP3 is on par if not slightly better than my SP2. On average I get a little bit more than 8 hours of typical use at the office and on the road before needing a charge under default settings and "Always-On". Obviously I have noticed more powerful applications drain the battery quicker. Conversely, I would imagine placing it in Airplane mode would extend battery life. Either way, roughly 30-45 minutes of charging gets me back to 100%.
Expansion & Upgradability
With my SP2 I had 128GB of SSD storage. The same can be said about my SP3. However, I believe the SP2 can only expand to 192GB with a 64GB SD card. (Not sure if I am right about that last comment) On the SP3, I know I can expand up to 256GB with a 128GB SD card. In my experience, I have not needed to expand. Which prompts me to raise the question of why some reviewers get so bent out of shape regarding upgradability? I would never attempt to open up other devices such as an ultrabook, ipad and the Macbook Air in order to add an upgrade. Not sure why the Surface would be any different. If you want to future proof, just buy the higher end models like any other device.
Overall, I am very happy I decided to move on to the SP3. The larger display, lighter form factor and "Always ON features were well worth the $200 after selling my SP2 on eBay. Now my daily loadout includes my Android phone, and Surface Pro 3. Between this two devices I am able to do anything as I use the phone as a hotspot when needed. Of course, I will also bring my iPad on occassion for when I want more screen space. Yes, I started to use my iPad again! I recently discovered how I can re-purpose my iPad as a second monitor to extend my desktop using the USB cable it comes with. The results have been great while on the road. There are some alternative WiFi options out there but the USB cable eliminates the need to connect over WiFi and resolves any video performance issues related to latency.
If you are interested in doing the same, check out the link below:
(you might need to select English on the top right corner)
Finally, I hope you found this review helpful. As a consumer who always wants more innovation from companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft I hope my experience will help you seek the same so they can compete and offer better products for everyone.
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