Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Why To Buy - InformationWeek

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Michael Endler
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Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Why To Buy

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 is finally available. But just because you can replace your laptop with the Surface Pro 3 doesn't mean everyone will want to.

Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

If you've read any reviews of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 -- mine included -- you've likely been told it's a device that will appeal to some people, but not to everyone. This raises a question: How are you supposed to know which group you're in?

It's difficult to answer, because there are two distinct angles from which would-be buyers can approach Microsoft's new tablet, which hit stores Friday. Some think of the Pro 3 in terms of other devices. They might ask how it competes as a laptop with the MacBook Air, or whether it's as good a tablet as an iPad. Others look beyond comparisons, because the new Surface is unlike any other device currently available.

[Want to see more on the Surface Pro 3? See Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Visual Tour.]

I'll get to the latter group in a minute, but suffice it to say that, for certain jobs and work styles, the Pro 3's unique traits could be transformative. The former group, which I'll tackle first, is trickier.

Microsoft calls the Pro 3 the tablet that can replace a laptop, which is fair. Thin, light, fairly powerful, and more ergonomically polished than any of its predecessors (if not than any other 2-in-1), the Pro 3 is undeniably a nice laptop. When using earlier Surfaces, I never forgot that I was using a small, cramped, and compromised laptop. With the Pro 3, I don't feel these distractions. I can just work.

But just because you can replace your laptop with the Surface Pro 3 doesn't mean everyone will want to. The device's kickstand-based stability didn't bother me, but the approach is still fundamentally different from the clamshell designs most of us are used to. The difference is minute if you work at a desk, but whether you'll like balancing the Pro 3 on your lap is more subjective.

The Surface Pro 3's infinitely adjustable kickstand provides solid stability, but it's not the same as a clamshell design.
The Surface Pro 3's infinitely adjustable kickstand provides solid stability, but it's not the same as a clamshell design.

The Surface Pro 3's design makes it thinner and lighter than any comparably powerful alternatives, but it's not like many people have criticized the newest Ultrabooks -- let alone the MacBook Air -- as being too thick and heavy. Eventually, thinness hits a point of diminishing returns. Depending on your budget and needs, the Pro 3 might be past that point. Moreover, even if you prioritize sleek form factors, the market will be flush by early next year with even thinner, lighter devices, thanks to Intel's next-generation Broadwell processors.

Ultimately, if someone were to say the Surface Pro 3 is one the best laptops available, I wouldn't quibble -- which is saying something. If anyone tried to similarly lionize the Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2, I'd have called that person crazy. But if people were to say the Pro 3 simply didn't "click" with their needs, I wouldn't quibble with that, either -- especially given the Surface's price.

As a tablet, meanwhile, the Pro 3 is a different animal from an iPad. That hasn't stopped Microsoft execs from making the comparison; when the new Surface was introduced, Microsoft corporate vice president Panos Panay repeatedly juxtaposed it with a MacBook Air and an iPad, implying that the Pro 3 could replace both. This might be true for individual users, but on the whole, it's wishful thinking on Microsoft's part.

Sure, the Pro 3 overlaps in places with the iPad Air, but the devices handle differently and are good at different things. It's easy to draw equivalencies between them now that Office is available on iPads, but from apps to OS to ergonomics, the devices aren't interchangeable. I could see someone owning a Surface Pro 3 in addition to an iPad, but I'm skeptical that the former is truly a replacement for the latter.

But as I mentioned previously, there's more than one way to approach the Surface Pro 3. Compare it to devices you already know and like, and you'll probably find shortcomings. But think of its unique qualities, and you might find new ways of doing things.

The Surface Pro Pen, for example, creates a new category of tablet experience. Yes, iPads have more apps, and yes,

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Apprentice
6/23/2014 | 4:06:46 PM
Surface Pro is another device for it's purpose
Personally, I don't see the point of an ipad/tablet.  Basically, large smart phones that can't make calls. Why have a macair, ipad, and a iphone....putting apple aside.

My wife an I originally bought new lighter laptops, but found they did not quite fit the need.  Tablet/ipad really didn't fit the need (wife has an ipad from work, that mostly collects dust).  the Surface pro 2 looked like the ticket, which we bought.

Keep in mind, this is a different device, treat it as such.  It fills a nitch I think the author discussed well, if not in too much detail.

True, it does lack the clamshell design, but then if Applie never made the iphone, how would we know we liked that new device?

She uses the suface pro 2 in many places, but loves it most of all at school (masters), or in the car (rider).  Sits great in the lap, and in class, the surface sits on the desk, while she uses the remote keyboard on her lap.  This does not take up much room on the desk, and allows her to be more productive.  We are looking forward to the SP3.

The question really is price.  it's a bit high, but so are apple products - Apple has a known 30+% markup on all their products.  If people can afford it, and like it, go for it.  i highly recommend the SP line, but it comes with some understanding that it is not a laptop nor a tablet.  Significantly better in most cases, lacking in others if you want it to be one of the others.  I think the MS marketing had the right idea, but executed it incorrectly.


Tom Mariner
IW Pick
Tom Mariner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/23/2014 | 3:59:37 PM
Re: Reveal Any Compensation From Micro$oft...
Why would anyone attempt to "debate" with someone with such an irrational hatred?
User Rank: Apprentice
6/23/2014 | 3:49:08 PM
Re: shopper report
This comment from 'IraMcCown' is obviously a hired-gun comment.  Disregard.  Irrelevant.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/23/2014 | 3:47:00 PM
Reveal Any Compensation From Micro$oft...
These fluff articles that pop-up weeks after Micro$oft releases another failed product demands that 'reporters' reveal any and all affiliations with and compensation from Micro$oft.

Microsoft is a company in steep decline.  Put anyone you want at the helm – it's over, even if it takes two or three years.  It's over even if M$ can purchase articles to attempt to promote their failed products.

M$ brought this upon themselves.  InfoW should run a comprehensive survey of tech professionals and the average user who made the mistake of purchasing M$ products over the years.  The level of frustration, disappointment, regret and anger that is seething out there will reveal the core and essential reason M$ is in decline.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO debate with me.  I am not interested in your 'opinion'.  Your opinion is irrelevant and trivial compared to the inside world of M$ I have been living in.  Arrogant, self-serving and, yes, intentionally demonic, M$ took it a step too far and off the edge of the cliff.  RIP.  M$ will not be missed.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/23/2014 | 3:38:27 PM
Re: shopper report
Surface Pro 3 is a great machine. Way lighter than any of the Apple notebooks, even the MacAir, and has lots more capabilities and neat features than any IPAD yet designed. Thumbs up to Microsoft and wondering why Apple can't keep up with neat new computers that can compete.
User Rank: Author
6/23/2014 | 3:12:38 PM
shopper report
Did you go play with the Surface pro 3 in a store this past weekend? Let's hear from you.
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