Home / Mobile / Tablet / Surface Pro 3

Surface Pro 3 review

Andy Vandervell

By

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

1 of 22

Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 3

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Pros

  • Oustanding build quality
  • Sharp and bright screen
  • Hugely versatile all-in-one
  • Very accurate digital pen

Cons

  • Not great on your lap
  • Too big for small tray tables
  • Lacks full-size SD card slot

Key Features

  • 12-inch, 2,160 x 1,440 screen; 800 grams; Intel Core i processors; 64GB to 512GB storage; Surface Pen
  • Manufacturer: Microsoft
  • Review Price: £958.00

Update 17/06/2015: It's over a year since the Surface Pro 3 came out, so how does it look now? More or less the same. It's still an outstanding hybrid and there isn't a product in its class that surpasses it. That's partly because the Surface Pro 3 is so unique, but it's no less true. Its outstanding performance and unique design make it a stand out product.

One caveat is the cheaper alternative, which is Microsoft's own Surface 3. If you like the idea of the Pro but can't justify the cost, the Surface 3 offers a similar design and features in a smaller, more portable design. It's nothing like as fast, so it's only suitable for basic computing, but it's a great product.

But if you are planning on the buying the Surface Pro 3, it might be worth waiting to see if Microsoft updates it soon. Windows 10 is just around the corner and now would be the perfect time for Microsoft to upgrade it. Whether you wait or not, though, the Pro 3 remains an outstanding hybrid that's great for highly mobile professionals.

Version Tested: £849 Intel i5, 128GB with £109 Type Cover

What is the Surface Pro 3?

Microsoft calls it "the tablet that can replace your laptop". That's can, not will. If you need a laptop, you should probably still buy a laptop. If you want an iPad, you should go buy a damn iPad Air. It's not a straight replacement for either. It's something more. Something different.

What it is a very talented hybrid. The most talented. It's as adept at watching Netflix in bed as it is working on-site and on the move. It's a complete PC, but it's not a PC 100% of the time. It's a graphics tablet and a digital notepad. It's the tool you'll never leave at home or at work, because it's essential to both. Microsoft has taken three swings to strike a proper hit, but the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is one. Read on to find out why.

Related: Everything you need to know about the Microsoft Surface Pro 5

Watch our Surface Pro 3 video review

Surface Pro 3: Design & Features

The basic Surface Pro concept remains the same. It still has a built-in kickstand, a keyboard cover (optional but essential) and a pressure sensitive stylus. But it's also the first serious redesign of the Surface Pro since the original and Microsoft has made all the right moves. Previous Surface Pros felt simultaneously too small and too large. Too wide and too tall to work as a tablet; too small to replace a laptop. A switch from the 10.6-inch, 16:9 aspect of previous models to a 3:2 aspect 12-inch screen solves this problem.

This underplays the difference, actually. It transforms the Surface Pro 3. It's intimidating at first, but the 12-inch screen gives you ample room in which to work and it feels comfortable in any aspect. And while videos have black bars where once there were none, the screen is so large it's still better for them too.

SEE ALSO: Surface Pro 3 vs Surface Pro 2

It helps that Microsoft has worked hard to keep the Surface Pro 3 thin and light. At 800g (before you add the keyboard) it's not light in tablet terms, but it's lighter than any laptop in this class. It's 107g less than the Surface Pro 2, too. Even with the keyboard attached it weighs just 1.08kg. That's the same as the 11-inch MacBook Air and 300g less than the 13-inch MacBook Air.

What's more impressive is it's just 9.1mm thick. That's thinner than the first, pre-iPad Air retina iPads and with proper PC components inside. That's incredible. Indeed, everything about the industrial design and build quality of the Surface Pro 3 is staggering. From the textured metal rear to the chiselled edges and discreet air vents, the Surface Pro 3 oozes quality.

In fact, the only substantial criticism is the redesigned charger connection falls out too easily. It's better than the old one, which had the same problem and left unsightly scratches, but it still needs a little work.

SEE ALSO: Surface Pro 3 vs MacBook Air

Surface Pro 3: Kickstand & 'Lapability'

Nothing demonstrates the build quality better than the new kickstand. Where there was once just one position, then two, you can now set the Surface Pro 3 to any angle between upright and a near flat one. This is remarkable enough in isolation, but the the smoothness and sturdiness of the hinge is astounding. Whomever was responsible for its design should receive a prize for awesomeness.

The result is it's never a problem to find an angle that's comfortable. Moreover, the extra flat angle is ideal for small tray tables as you can lay it flat and use the on-screen keyboard to type on. So large is it on this screen, it's a decent makeshift typing experience.

SEE ALSO: Best Windows 8 Laptops and Tablets

This does belie the Surface Pro 3's principle weakness, though: it doesn't fit where laptops do. It's near impossible to use the keyboard and kickstand in most commuter settings. There's not enough space. Indeed, on planes there's no where for the kickstand to stand as there's a gap between tray table and the seat in front.

This is one reason why the Surface Pro 3 can't replace a laptop for everyone. The other is it still feels awkward to use on your lap. Microsoft is so keen to persuade us otherwise it coined a phrase for the problem: lapability. The argument goes this is the most 'lappable' Surface Pro yet, but it's an unconvincing argument. It sort of kind of works if you try, but deep down you know it doesn't feel right.

SEE ALSO: Best Laptops 2015 Round-up

SEE ALSO: Best Tablet Round-up

What it lacks for here it makes up for in versatility in other ways. Anyone who works on their feet all day will appreciate the large touchscreen and accurate stylus. The tablet format, meanwhile, brings the benefits of Windows 8.1 to the fore better than any other Windows device. And when you're done working on location or back from a meeting you can plug it straight into a monitor and carry on where you left off.

It's also worth stressing it's a fine laptop replacement in any other setting. Set it down on your desk and the large screen invites you to work, and the keyboard (more on which later) is excellent. The keyboard also has the neat trick of clipping magnetically to the front edge, creating a comfy 'wedge' angle for typing.

ExRoot

July 4, 2014, 7:29 pm

Love my new Surface Pro and it will fit MY needs. I also own a ipad 2 and an ipad air. There are also 2 other ipads, and ipod touch and an Apple TV so I have done my bit with Apple. That being said this Surface is absolutely beautiful. I've ha doit for a week now and I just realized today I'm getting to understand this Metro 8.1 even though my main purpose was for the standard desktop. Though there is a laptop for my son in my home I am a desktop user as I have never been comfortable using a laptop. I am a graphic designer who's been using a wacom tablet for about 12-14 years so that is what is natural and I could never get that with a laptop even though I could just plug it into a laptop. When me last laptop went dead many years ago I just stuck with my desktop and also went through several ipads beginning with ipad 1. Because I like the digitizer feel I decided between SP3 and the Yoga Pro 2. I am very happy with my purchase and productivity. The hinge adjustment fits all circumstances right down to laying on my side in bed. This is the most exciting electronic device I have ever bought. Selling my ipad 2 but keeping my ipad air as it is a great consumption device and it's jailbroken and allows me to stream free movies wink wink. FYI.....I keep going to the Windows store looking for apps that I used on my ipad and they look have assed as the Windows store is bare. Then I remember oh yeah, I don't need an app for that. I have a full blown windows machine. It feels great not to have to jump through hoops and works arounds to get anything really done with my ipad.

The ipad air was not an option for me as my software is invested in windows not to mention there is not touch screen. I'm also so over the Apple hype that I have been following for to long and invested too much money in just to watch Netflix in bed.
JMO and based on my experience.

toboev

August 20, 2014, 1:06 pm

So my question to you would be, is it a tablet which replaces a laptop, or is it actually used as a laptop, period?

I ask because, whilst I can see that it could do both jobs, I actually wonder whether most people wouldn't rather have a tablet kicking about the home for casual consumption, controlling the Sonos, whatever, and separately a laptop/work device which is not there to get lost down the back of the sofa, indeed it must not, and hence it is not available for those duties.

Tim Sutton

August 20, 2014, 2:53 pm

It's a full PC, so a laptop replacement.

I don't think I'll get rid of my two 7" existing tablets as ereading and streaming and NAS control to the TV is more easily done from them.. but as far as the laptops go, they are now entirely obsolete.

I also think if I had any larger tablets I would be a little unsure about why.

This is genuinely the best device I have ever owned.

pixelmike .

August 21, 2014, 5:40 pm

Not cheap are they......but there are more affordable windows tablets coming so I read.

Rich Blenkinsopp

August 22, 2014, 12:40 pm

For sure it is not for people who lose things so easily. For responsible people, one device is probably enough.

Prem Desai

September 1, 2014, 12:01 pm

What a stunning machine. Third time lucky for Microsoft.

It's like an iPad that you can use for serious/real things ...!!!

Fantastic - will definitely be going into the shops to check it out with a view of getting one ....

danielfrisbee

September 1, 2014, 2:16 pm

Hi Exroot- I'm trying to find out about how well the pen performs, I have an n-trig digitzer on another product, (vaio) and you cannot draw a slow diagonal line, it steps and jitters. How have you found the pen with the pro 3?.. can you draw slow diagonal lines!?!?!

Zero Unfinished

October 5, 2014, 6:25 am

Great but there should be at least 2 usb port

Laurie Hackett

November 24, 2014, 5:19 pm

I bought the new Surface Pro 3 from Microsoft’s online
store. When I received it, it wouldn't turn on. Microsoft told me I had to
visit a store in order to return it. The store charged me for another one and
told me I would be reimbursed when Microsoft received the defective one. For 3
weeks I asked about my refund and was told it was being processed. Then I got
an email saying I should be receiving my reimbursement. Instead of being
reimbursed, they charged my debit card a third time without my authorization!
So, I've paid 3 times for 1 computer. I contacted Microsoft numerous times to
get this resolved and nobody was willing to help me. I've had no choice but to file
a complaint with the State Attorney’s office. It’s pretty clear that Microsoft
only cares about their own profits and doesn't care about their customers. I
thought people should know in case they didn't already.

Gordon Hickley

January 27, 2015, 1:28 pm

Generates a lot of heat and fan is constantly on full blast as a result. Makes for an unpleasant user experience.

thiefofhearts

April 14, 2015, 3:33 am

Proven unreliable. Out of the 20 of units that I purchased for my company, one unit has defective screen that did not work, two units had defective power cables that failed to work within a few months and one unit came with defective speakers. One of the power cables supplied to replace the 2 defective ones was defective upon receipt. The time to receive replacement power cables is too long – it should be within the next 2 to 3 days instead of weeks.

Recently, we purchased 13 units. Out of that quantity, one unit was defective. The unit was returned to be replaced with a new unit. The replacement unit was also defective and has been returned.

All these defective Surface Pro 3 units cause a lot of inconveniences to our users. Microsoft must do something effective immediately to rectify and compensate us.

It is totally unacceptable for customers to receive defective products. Microsoft must ensure that their Surface Pro 3 products are test before delivery to customers.

Mudflapman

May 24, 2015, 8:35 pm

The Surface Pro recently slashed their prices by $150. I don’t think Microsoft necessarily has to undercut the cost of the MacBook Air, but the Type keyboard cover should be included by default in the first place and bundled in at the base price for the Pro (and the Touch keyboard cover for the RT) . It is an optional accessory, but it is a necessary component for the Surface Pro 3 to be transformed into a laptop and live up to its tagline. Charging $130 extra for it is a nickel-and-diming approach that turns potential customers off.

My Name Is Oliver Queen

July 25, 2015, 10:55 am

Out of the 100+ Apple devices that my family own, 92 of them have required new power cables within a month as they stopped working. Apple should really ensure that their products are tested before delivery to customers.

Parapetos

August 5, 2015, 11:16 am

Actually the battery life mentioned in the article is not that good at all. It depends LARGELY on the apps used. Of course the article refers to benchmark numbers but can't be further from real world usage.

After 1 month of use I get roughly half the battery life when viewing movies ie 4-5 hours. About 6-7 hours browsing the web (news sites mainly) and about 2 hours with heavy tasks like video editing. With Photoshop ( CS5 version ) about 3 hours.

When browsing the web the Edge browser surprisingly wastes less battery than Firefox.

So, no, you can't spend most of the day carrying the Surface for serious work unless you carry the charger along.

On the first day of their release I upgraded to Windows 10 Pro (yes Microsoft gave priority to Surfaces) and the bat.performance is about the same.

Also forgot to mention that I use the MS Sculpt Mouse (bluetooth) but I don't think it wastes too much energy.

My equipment: Surface Pro 3 i7-4650U, 8Gb RAM, 512MB SSD.

Will Howie

August 9, 2015, 1:56 am

You have no idea how much I agree with you!!!!!!!! The Power Cable for the newer iPhone 5 models and beyond are absolutely terrible. I'm going to the Apple Store tomorrow and they are going to fix this sh*t or I promise on God I am going to raise hell on a Sunday in that Apple Store if they don't do right by their customers. I don't want some bull excuse either they're either going to give me a new iPhone and tell me that my current phone is broken or give me a refund. I'm sick and tired of them those chords 20$ each and I seriously have about 17 of them sitting around the house bought from various different stores and none of them work to charge my phone.

Kamon Kur

September 10, 2015, 2:57 am

Actually, you can call your Bank and contest the charges. Microsoft has to prove contested charges are legitimate. Your Bank should straighten this out in no time (or, you need to change Banks).

hdela

September 14, 2015, 8:00 pm

Aftet more than one year I'm still very happy with the Surface Pro 3. It works better than expected as hybrid, the versatility is great. It has fallen a couple of times on hard stone floor and has only very minor dents in the case that are hard to see. The typecover is good enough typing all day if you lay it flat.

It is probably the only product I ever bought that so many people get curious about. Apparently if you see it in action it becomes clear what it is.

Definitely one of the most expensive devices I ever purchased and one of the best. Worth every cent. Curious about the 4!

The E.

October 29, 2015, 12:31 pm

SP3 has real potential, but our reality is... its unsuitable and
plain unreliable for a business person (that MS claims the device is designed
for). We have 3 in our company and they all have issues.

1. Overheating when using intense software (for example 3D, even Adobe Suite apps). The machine shuts down with a thermometer displayed on the screen. I understand these apps are CPU heavy, but SP3 is supposed to be a business machine. We are not programmers or designers, but when we need to open these apps to approve files and designs and first the fan sounds like a jet engine and then the machine shuts down....
2. The Type Cover is just expensive trash. I'm not sure why everyone is kissing its b__t, it really falls short. First of all, its really clunky when traveling. You cannot hold it by the keyboard and it falls open (and sometimes off) when lifting the device by the tablet. The keys leave really nasty smear marks on the screen after closing (we may all just have really greasy fingers). Using it on the go (train, plane or car) is very awkward and the pen in the loop gets caught on things (torn off a few times), you need to have very long legs to accommodate the kick stand.

Additionally, 2 of the Type Covers started having non-working keys (top right corner: o,p,backspace etc..). MS's SP forum advice is to rip the keyboard off the tablet 5 times in a row - seriously! I just look like a rage monster in a cafe ripping my laptop apart over and over again. MS refuses to replace the Covers stating the replacement warranty is only 3 months. They will repair if we send it to the nearest service center, but that will take a minimum of 2 months. We would need to buy 2 more to use in the interim... if they fix the broken ones will they refund the loaners?
3. Headphone jack is wonky. Sometimes the sound pipes to the headset, sometimes it doesn't. Add a Bluetooth audio device into the mix and its just a circus. Switching between audio devices during an AV call is comical. Sometimes the sound just disappears when plugging in headphones. Audio hardware management has been around for many years and works solid on the cheapest of devices, why its such a disaster on the SP3 is a mystery.

These issues are not only experienced by us, a quick search on the internet shows a LOT of folks run into these exact same issues.
As a browsing device or social tablet for teenagers, its a very handy machine (if the keyboard will work). But at the specs pricepoint (for business) its just a downright disappointment. Sadly we are migrating to another hardware maker.

smith_09

March 28, 2016, 11:49 am

I like Surface pro 3 more than surface pro 4. Nice review.

Boomstick

April 20, 2016, 2:05 am

On Windows 8.1, my Surface Pro 3 would get 8-10 hours of continuous, moderate usage. On Windows 10 however I get about 70 minutes of extremely light usage. I have checked all of the power settings, ran the power troubleshooter, reformatted but the battery life in Windows 10 still downright sucks!

Ryan Black

April 22, 2016, 5:58 pm

"omg i got one that had a defective type cover... might as well get a samsung "
"omg the battery sucks.. i need a lenovo "
"the speakers turned defective.. Im going back to my mac"

I don't disagree that defective SP3 units exist. BUT, apple, samsung, lenovo, and all other fucking companies also produce defective devices. Technology is so elegant and complex that it is easy for things to go wrong. Its just the way technology is.

bottomline: you will not solve the problem of defective devices by switching to a new company.

Amit

April 25, 2016, 1:25 pm

9 hours of battery usage? PLEASE
I have a SP3, the i5 model. From a full charge, the estimated life is 4 hours. This is the optimistic estimate given by Windows 10. In actual usage I get maybe 3 hours. After the first 60 minutes the tablet gets uncomfortably hot, it's a good thing I most use it as a laptop with the kickstand out.

Simon Papworth

June 19, 2016, 5:21 pm

Some people are finding their Surface Pro 3's Batteries are dead just out of warranty with no replacement from Microsoft and over $500 to replace.

check out http://answers.microsoft.com/t...

Is this you - add to the thread above, if if you haven't brought a surface device yet - don't.

comments powered by Disqus