From the moment that Microsoft announced its innovativePro 3, I've been steadily documenting my experiences with the device as I use it and learn more. This guide provides access to everything I've written about Surface Pro 3, and will be updated as I publish my review and other articles in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Note: I'm serious about Surface Pro 3. So serious, in fact, that I'll also be writing a Surface Pro 3 Field Guide this year. Stay tuned for that, but enjoy what's unfolding here on the SuperSite in the meantime.
Real world usage
For the past two weeks, I've put the new Surface Pro 3 through the wringer, using it as often as possible and in as many ways as possible. And while my tests will continue through the product's initial release date later this month, I feel comfortable stating now that Surface Pro 3 is the premium Ultrabook/tablet hybrid that I've been waiting for. And it's an excellent, if expensive, choice for anyone who needs both types of devices.
Microsoft's bigger and thinner Surface Pro tablet is indeed called Surface Pro 3, the firm confirmed on Tuesday, and is positioned as a device that can replace both a tablet and a laptop. It certainly appears to be the first Surface Pro device that can accomplish this long-stated goal, and it's bolstered by a new click-in keyboard design, an improved kickstand, a new desktop dock, and other improvements.
One of the most common questions I receive about Surface Pro 3 is whether this device is suitable as a tablet. That will depend on your needs, of course, but it's fair to say that the device's large size and PC innards presents a problem for anyone who wishes to use this device as a tablet regularly.
For the most part, Surface Pro 3 excels on the road. This is a thin and light travel companion that can keep up with the best Ultrabooks on the market and do double duty as an entertainment tablet, offering several hours of battery life and a great looking screen.
Well, we got the bigger Surface Pro we were all clamoring for. But how does the larger form factor impact the size and weight of this device? Will it be a beast in your bag, or is it something you can happily carry without worrying about injuring yourself?
I'm a little uncomfortable discussing this topic since it's early and because I believe that a coming firmware update will improve matters. But I've received many questions about the battery life situation with Surface Pro 3. So here's what I've seen so far.
While most have focused solely on Surface Pro 3's suitability as a replacement for both a tablet and a laptop, Microsoft highlighted an interesting third possibility when it launched the device: a desktop PC replacement. To that end, the firm will soon start selling a Docking Station. But since that's not available yet, I've begun testing Surface Pro 3 in this configuration as it did originally with its predecessor, using a USB 3.0-based docking station.
While I tend to think of a portable PC like Surface Pro 3 as something to use on the road, many users will of course use this device as their sole PC, whether they're at work or on the go. For such people, Surface Pro 3 should work very well, thanks to its thin and light form factor, PC compatibility, and OneNote integration.
For Surface Pro 3 to succeed as a tablet, it needs a superior reading experience. And while this isn't fully Microsoft's fault, Surface Pro 3 does comes up a bit short because of its large size and a few software-related issues. It works, but it's not ideal.
I had one of those heart-stopping experiences this morning when Surface Pro 3 wouldn't power on despite my best efforts. The good news? The issue is related to the power management bug that Microsoft knows about and will fix before Surface Pro 3 becomes publicly available. As good—for me, at least—Microsoft told me how to make it right.
Well, they finally did it: With the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has delivered on a bigger-screened Pro device, as I and so many others had requested. But Surface Pro 3 exceeds expectations in this regard in several ways, with the 12-inch unit offering a "pixel-free" resolution of 2160 x 1440 and a 3:2 aspect ratio. These unusual qualities come together to provide a unique computing experience that could very well put Surface Pro 3 over the top.
While Surface Pro 3 falls short of offering a true configurator for mixing and matching components during the online purchase process, it still provides more options than any previous Surface device. This time around, you can choose between product editions with different CPUs that span the range of Intel's Core mobile processor lineup. Which makes the most sense for you?
If there's one thing about Surface Pro 3 that's proven controversial, it's Microsoft's use of a pen that is ostensibly less sensitive than the unit it provided with Surface Pro 2. But the new Surface Pen is in fact superior, overall, and it appears that the decision was the write, um, right one.
To say that the kickstand Microsoft provided with the original Surface RT was innovative is an understatement: Once you've experienced it, it's a feature you miss in every other device on the market. Surface 2 improved matters with a two-position kickstand, which was of course even better. So how does Microsoft improve on such a wonderful feature with Surface Pro 3? Three positions? Oh no.
The Surface Pro 3's internal construction is both innovative and an industry first, in particular the custom-designed power and cooling systems. But on the other hand, it is of course an evolution of the original Surface Pro design, reinvented for a much thinner form factor. So what's it like in the real world?
Microsoft has evolved its power supplies since the first Surface RT device, but until Surface Pro 3, the devices and power supplies were all interchangeable. Not anymore: The power supply that comes with Surface Pro 3 retains the basic design from previous Pro devices, but when you look at it closely, you find that everything, in fact, has changed.
While Surface Pro 3 is primarily a productivity device, it also seeks to satisfy the user's consumption needs with a superior screen and tablet experience that is optimized for reading and content consumption. And it is in this less essential, entertainment-focused side of the fence where the device offers up some subtle but nice improvements: From an A/V perspective, Surface Pro 3 is a small step up from its predecessors.
Offering the same backlit keyboard that debuted in Type Cover 2, the new Surface Pro Type Cover is of course resized to match the unique new size of the device it serves. But this Surface Pro 3 accessory isn't just a bigger version of its predecessor, it also offers a unique new magnetic connection that keeps the keyboard at a stable, more useful angle.
While Surface Pro 3 doesn't offer a truly integrated port for storing the Surface Pen, you do get a cute little pen holder called Pen Loop with a Type Cover. The only issue is what happens if your Pen Loop ever detaches. No problem: Microsoft will sell you a replacement in any of five different colors for just $5.
Like previous Surface models, Surface Pro 3 comes with a bare minimum of expansion ports, perhaps in a bid to keep the device as clean and elegant looking as possible. But given the size of this device, and the real world needs of typical users, just a few additions would have made a huge difference.
OK, it's no surprise that Microsoft's new Surface Pro 3 ships with the very latest version of Windows. But the timing of these releases is interesting and, I think, not coincidental. With.1 with Update 1, Microsoft is acknowledging that a big percentage of its user base still wants to use Windows efficiently via keyboard and mouse. And with Surface Pro 3, Microsoft is applying the same logic on the hardware side, providing a device that is a wonderful Ultrabook first, instead of a compromised sort-of tablet. More so than ever in the past, this software and hardware was made for each other.
If you still use a lot of desktop applications as I do, you know that some handle high DPI displays and the desktop scaling functionality in Windows 8+ better than others. To date, the worst offenders, by far, have been Adobe's creative apps, like Photoshop. But with this week's release of Adobe Creative Suite 2014, the company finally enters the 21st century. So what's the experience like on Microsoft's "pixel-free" high PDI Surface Pro 3?
I've had my review loaner Surface Pro 3 for over a month now, but with the device finally hitting store shelves and arriving for those who preordered, today's the day it goes public. So here are some resources to help you get started with your new Surface Pro 3.
When Microsoft first launched Surface Pro 3, it touted some interesting integration features between Surface Pen and the Modern version of OneNote. But some reviewers wondered about using OneNote desktop instead, so Microsoft promised a way to configure that. With Surface Pro 3 now arriving in stores, the firm has come through on that promise, and you can now choose between OneNote Modern and OneNote for desktop. Here's how.
While you probably won't need to do this very often, it's a good idea to understand how you can access the firmware on all of your PCs. And this is a bit non-obvious with Surface Pro 3, which provides a unique access method that can work without having an attached keyboard or a properly running version of Windows.
Surface Pro 3 has attracted interest from a wide range of new user types, including IT pros, business travelers, developers, creative professionals and more. But this expansion of the user base often results in obscure issues that impact certain users doing certain things. And here's a great example: The Hyper-V functionality in Windows 8.1 doesn't play nice with Surface Pro 3's Connected Standby functionality.
I was reminded by a reader that Microsoft shipped the Surface Pro 3 Wi-Fi fix two days ago: Thanks to all the excitement this week around WPC and the Microsoft layoffs, I had completely forgotten about it. If you use Surface Pro 3, however, you'll want to fire up Windows Update and install this update. It's an important one.
Well, this is unprecedented: This month, every single Surface model ever made—Surface RT, Surface Pro, Surface 2, Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro 3—received a set of firmware updates. So fire up Windows Update, folks. It's time to get busy.
With just hours to spare—the firm had promised this in time for the device's public release on Friday—Microsoft delivered its first firmware update for Surface Pro 3. It's not clear yet what changes and improvements this update provides. Yet.
News and commentary
With the first Surface Pro 3 tablets shipping today, Microsoft has updated its schedule for delivering the remaining Surface Pro 3 models. And it will deliver all Surface Pro 3 models to 26 additional markets by the end of August, and has opened up the Surface Pro 3 Dock to preorders for the first time as well.
While I like that Microsoft has expanded the number of available Surface Pro 3 configurations compared to its predecessor, and that these choices provide a range of processor options, the firm still falls short by not offering the real configuration options we expect from PC makers. This is likely by design, but I hope to see the Surface Pro lineup expanded to include "build your own" configurations in the future.
While my initial impressions of Surface Pro 3 are overwhelmingly positive, at some point we need to address the less-than-ideal aspects of this new device. Key among them, I think, is the price: Surface Pro 3 is positioned as a premium transforming Ultrabook and as such it is out of reach, financially, for many. So let's step through that and discuss why Microsoft is targeting only the high-end of the market, and which of the Surface Pro 3 models—if any—represent the best value.
Last week, Microsoft introduced the striking new Surface Pro 3, with its unexpected and welcome new form factor, and it didn't introduce its long-awaited Surface mini, after a second last-minute delay. Both of these events are of course related in a number of ways. But the most interesting, I think, is how these products both fit within a subtly-introduced new strategy for the Surface team.
Microsoft corporate vice president Panos Panay and his Surface team took on the masses today in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session. In it, they provided a few more details about the recently-announced Surface Pro 3 that will start shipping to customers. Here's what we learned.
Responding to feedback from its business customers, Microsoft on Tuesday announced a larger and thinner new Surface Pro 3, which it says can replace both a tablet and a laptop. But the firm mysteriously delayed its long-awaited Surface mini for a second time, disappointing those who were looking forward to a smaller device focused on note-taking.
Today, I'll be heading to New York for a Microsoft Surface event, where the firm is expected to announce an 8-inch Surface mini and a larger but thinner Surface Pro. There are all kinds of rumors swirling around this event, which some are thinking of as "Surface 3.0," as in "it always takes Microsoft three tries to get it right." But I'm not sure that the old rules apply anymore.
When Microsoft pioneered the tablet PC market a decade ago, the firm was pushing a digital inking innovation that was personally championed by cofounder Bill Gates. Those efforts, though technically impressive, failed, and when Apple reinvigorated the tablet market with the iPad in 2010, that company eschewed inking and styluses for the multi-touch technologies it had honed first with the iPhone. But Microsoft has never given up on digital ink, a technology that is now deeply integrated in Windows and could provide a key differentiator for devices targeted at students, lawyers, reporters, and note-takers of all stripes. Are we on the edge of a digital ink renaissance?
Sources tell me that Microsoft plans to launch a new Surface Pro model on Tuesday that is both bigger and thinner than the current Surface Pro 2. Beyond that, I don't have too many new details, but I'm wondering whether the new device is an additional model and not a replacement for Surface Pro 2.
Next week, Microsoft will finally launch the Surface mini, a device that was originally slated to ship alongside the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 last fall. The Surface mini should see some success as a note-taking device, thanks to a superior stylus experience and deep OneNote integration, and that's all well and good. But we also know that Microsoft is launching a second new Surface device this month. And I'm hoping for a large format Surface Pro Ultrabook.
Microsoft has invited press and bloggers to a "small gathering" in New York City on May 20. As the invite suggests, the firm will finally launch its delayed Surface mini. But I'm told we might also see another surprise at the event.