The Buyer's Guide

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79
Engadget
Score
A good product that falls short of greatness.
79

A good product that falls short of greatness.

How we score

The Engadget Score is a unique ranking of products based on extensive independent research and analysis by our expert editorial and research teams. The Global Score is arrived at only after curating hundreds, sometimes thousands of weighted data points (such as critic and user reviews).

Engadget Review

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

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • 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
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Scores

Engadget

79
 

User Reviews

70
eca637
With Microsoft's quest to have a tablet replace a laptop, they've churned out...read more
90
geeky
Bought this on impulse, but I really really love it so far. Can't wait to see...read more
90
marcusmann
The best in its category. We highly recommend it. - Engadget
Write a Review

Score Breakdown

 
76
Average user Score

Durability

85
 

Speed and features

87
 

Portability (size / weight)

95
 

Display

96
 

Noise

83
 

Battery life

82
 

Expandability

75
 

Design and form factor

90
 
 
70
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 seems good, but the test of time will tell, as the titanuim black on the Surface Pro 2 came off after a while. Buttons are placed well, ports not in funky places or anything; it seems pretty good. Friction lock is a very nice addition to the surface. The Screen - high resolution and responsive. Both key in a laptop/tablet combo. The touch home button is a nice touch and responds to the pen (which I'll get to in a minute). Edge sensitivity for the pen is awesome. It writes right up to the edge without big problems. Pen - Last pen was horrible, and this pen is pretty awesome. Two button design is helpful, as one button is eraser and one is select/right click. The top button opens one note even when in sleep mode for quick note taking. Pretty fancy features. Cursor comes up about an inch to an inch and a half above the screen. Tracks the pen pretty well, no lagging when writing. Overall, a huge improvement on the other. NOTE: this runs on bluetooth as wellType Cover - This is probably the biggest thing that people have problems with, and they're not without reason. The cover is improved from the prior generation, with more comfortable typing, another fold and additional magnets to angle it when on a desk or lap, and a larger mousepad (a plus, but I usually just use the pen). It is not ideal for the lap. Period. This is simply because the joint between the keyboard and the tablet is flexible. That's it. If the joint was like the friction hinge, then it'd work perfect for lap use. Nonetheless, it is manageable in the lap, comfortable enough, but better on a desk. I'll leave it at manageable overall. Speed - the SSD is a big plus. Because of the thinness of the tablet and battery life needed, the SSD was needed. Runs smooth, start up time is as expected from an SSD. No problems here. Installed Software - This is nice because almost no 3rd party software is installed, unlike if it was made by Lenovo, HP, Dell, etc. One note comes standard, and is pretty chock full of features. Nice interface and overall, pretty good. Battery life - I haven't had too much time to play with it, but the 9 hours claimed by Microsoft won't hold up, as manufacturer use times (almost) never do. I played with it all afternoon on 50% and it went down to 20% over a period of about 3 hours or so. Not bad, but I'll bet it will fall just short of 9 hours.Expandability -Internally, it's so packed that it's not feasible to do it. Period. Externally however, you could just get a usb 3.0 hub and run whatever you want off of that. Also, the mini-SD card slot is helpful as well, as every little bit helps. Performance - I got the i5, 256gb, 8gb RAM version. It's pretty speedy for the package it comes in (about one of those cheap 70 page spiral notebooks, albeit a little heavier). Good response times, just look up some of the benchmark tests on google and that'll explain it in detail. Overall, it's up to par with a regular laptop. Overall, this is a step closer in the right direction, but not there by any means. Computers started being sold as unfinished so feedback could make them better. This is no different. Feedback will improve each subsequent generation. I'd suggest a friction lock on the keyboard to prop it up like a regular laptop. Not a bad buy at this point, I'd suggest it.
 
90
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.
 
90
marcusmann
The best in its category. We highly recommend it. - Engadget
 
100
kepner
A gadget unicorn - Engadget
 
90
bulls96
The best in its category. We highly recommend it. - Engadget
 
60
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 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.
 
90
Siri325
The best in its category. We highly recommend it. - Engadget
 
90
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 accurate with no lag while writing my fast cursive. OneNote 2013 is an incredible program for compiling information and writing notes. i actually use it for everything, so i also ditched MS Office. I use my i5 256gb sp3 to take notes, word processing, photo editing, streaming vids, listening to music, gaming, and browsing the net. for these activities, it has performed flawlessly thus far. in terms of portability and features, it absolutely wrecks any ultrabook or hybrid due to its light weight, decent battery life, and of course stylus + touchscreen. the keyboard and trackpad are very responsive and comfortable, and feel sturdy to me (you may hear otherwise in the official reviews). the sp3 is fully functional (even productive) as a tablet + stylus combo, without the keyboard attachment. unless youre a hardcore gamer, you'll be able to use it as a full desktop replacement at home as well. i havent missed mine.the one major downside of its portability and thin form is heat management. even a modest amount of strain on the integrated graphics unit (i.e. gaming, 3d rendering, video editing) will generate a lot of heat, kicking the fan up and eventually throttling the processor. unless im gaming, i never hear the fan, but it's something to be aware of. tablets and ultrabooks this thin and light do not ventilate well. sp3 is no exception.some people have had problems relating to wonky wifi speeds. personally, i havent had any issues whatsoever. download speeds are as i remember them on my desktop PC, and i have my bluetooth speaker (UE Boom) connected all day. wifi strength is 5 bars and in the 16 days of nonstop use, ive yet to drop my connection or have any issues streaming vids. Further improvements: the latest firmware patch addressed WiFi and throttling issues. Power consumption is now more efficient but I haven't tested the new battery life yet. Many are reporting much improved (normal) WiFi speeds, and I can now comfortably run some newer games like dota2, age of wonders 3 and xcom on low/med for 3+ hours at 30-40fps without any problems. While the back of the surface still gets hot, i havent noticed any performance drops while gaming. i couldnt be any happier with my sp3 after the firmware update.
 
90
legator91
The best in its category. We highly recommend it. - Engadget
 
90
rkarolak
The best in its category. We highly recommend it. - Engadget