A laptop by any other name: Surface Pro 3 review

I’m a tech junkie. I’ll admit it, I have too many old laptops and towers at home, but I managed to fight the urge to pick up a Surface Pro. It didn’t fit my needs, lacked grunt, whatever. I always found an excuse. Then they released the Surface Pro 3.

A handsome box.

Let me start by saying how much I like the Surface Pro 3. My partner has the Surface Pro 1. I skipped that one because I felt it just didn’t have the grunt I wanted. The model that I finally got was the i7, 512GB unit. I must say, I’m impressed.

Surface Pro 3 with credit card sized card for comparison

While the screen is bigger, and is a little awkward in portrait, that’s a good thing for me (the bigger screen, not the awkward bit). A larger screen is good for my purposes and the screen on the other Surface’s was just too small. I couldn’t justify the device over a regular laptop.

90 degree kickstand

Flat/drawing kickstand position

While I haven’t really played with the Surface as a drawing tablet, it is excellent for reading. Sure, you’ll look a little silly holding it in portrait, but you can properly read articles and ebooks in landscape, and the high resolution makes for a very pleasant experience.

I do some gaming and the Surface Pro 3 meets the needs very well. You won’t be playing the latest, greatest on high settings, but it’ll do justice even to modern games. One thing to note, however, is that the fan will almost certainly kick in, and it is loud. Don’t worry too much, because the sound quality (almost) makes up for it.

Speaker

The sound quality is great. The speakers may be small, but they’re not tinny and they put out the volume just fine. From explosions to the dulcet tones of Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly, the Surface presents quality. It’s not perfect, but you can always hook it up to a dedicated sound system or break out headphones. Assuming sound really matters to you, you’ve likely already invested on that front.

What would I change?

From a cost position, I’d like to see them include the Surface keyboard. You can use any Bluetooth keyboard, but it’s not the same. I tried a travel keyboard with it and you really lose out on the experience. Buying an already expensive piece of tech to shell out for a proprietary keyboard is a touch galling.

Surface pro 3 with keyboard in typical position. The keyboard flexes a little.

Additionally, typing on the Surface 3 keyboard is mostly good. The added angle makes a big difference. The problem is that by angling the keyboard you lose the solidity of the table top. As a result, the keyboard can flex under pressure. When I get really rolling the keyboard starts to bounce a little and it throws my rhythm off. For light typing you don’t notice it, but if you pound the keys you sure will.

Proprietary power connector.

The power connector is proprietary (a negative), but is an improvement over the earlier ones. There’s no fiddling to get it into place (the magnet is quite good), but it’s also different from earlier Surfaces. Don’t forget it anywhere as you can’t cannibalize it from another piece of tech.

So do I recommend the Surface?

As a tech geek it’s awesome, but the price is too high if you just need a net-surfer/email machine. Additionally, it’s not a gaming rig so you will want a different machine for that.

I really see this form factor as the future of super mobile laptops. Ultrabooks always struck me as strange. The Surface will really start putting pressure on that part of the market. It simply makes more sense, and you can use it as a proper tablet without a keyboard, rather than folding away a keyboard.

Besides, it’s one of the rewards for #DevMov, so you can get one for free with a little effort (if you’re in Canada). What’s not to like?

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