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?
How It Stacks Up
Yoga 3 Pro
MacBook (early 2015)
XPS 13 (2015)
Series 7 Chronos (2013)
ARM-powered Windows 10 laptops will arrive this holiday
Hopefully Microsoft has learned its lesson from Windows RT.
Windows 10's biannual update schedule starts in September
Expect new feature releases every spring and fall moving forward.