Surface 3 Vs. Surface Pro 3: Picking The Right Tablet - InformationWeek

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4/17/2015
07:05 AM
Kelly Sheridan
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Surface 3 Vs. Surface Pro 3: Picking The Right Tablet

The Surface 3, the newest hybrid from Microsoft, packs the hallmarks of Surface Pro 3 into a thinner and lighter device.
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Microsoft is aiming to broaden the scope of its Surface customer base with the arrival of Surface 3, which was announced in March 2015 and will ship in May. The device certainly has potential for universal appeal, with full Windows functionality packaged in a thinner and lighter design. 

The Surface 3 was developed as a smaller, more accessible version of its predecessor, the Surface Pro 3, intended for students and mobile professionals who don't need the Pro's extended capabilities. It comes with a thinner screen, a more lightweight structure, and a lower price. Surface 3 will run you $500 to start, about $300 less than the Pro.

If you want to take full advantage of the Surface 3 capabilities, however, you'll have to shell out a bit more. External accessories include the detachable keyboard, or Type Cover, for $130, and the Surface Pen, for $50.

Personally, I don’t understand why the Type Cover has to be separate. I can't imagine using either Surface without a keyboard, and isn't this supposed to be a laptop replacement anyway? But I digress.

[Microsoft Zero-Day Bug Being Exploited In The Wild]

A big chunk of the inspiration for Surface 3 came from customers. "[They said,] 'Give me everything that's in the Pro 3 but make it even thinner, even lighter and even more portable,'" said Microsoft's Brian Eskridge, senior manager for the Surface line, in an interview with InformationWeek earlier this month.

On the surface (zing!), there isn't much difference between the two. The Surface 3 has a 10.8-inch display, which is noticeably smaller than the 12-inch Pro screen but offers a 1920x1280 resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio. The screen has also been revamped to improve digital pen use, Eskridge explained.  

Other hardware features were taken directly from the Pro, including USB 3.0 port, micro-USB 2.0 port, microSD slot, and mini DisplayPort. Its type cover has a shorter key-throw, said Eskridge, and comes in a wider range of colors including red, slate gray, burgundy, purple, and light and dark blue. 

Surface 3 is a bit slower than the Pro, with 85% of its performance, which isn't a bad trade. I found it to be pretty speedy. It does offer 10 hours of battery life on video playback, said Eskridge, which is more than the Pro can handle.

Microsoft is killing Windows RT with the Surface 3, which will ship running Windows 8.1 with the promise of Windows 10 upgradability later this summer. The less expensive model has 2GB of RAM for $500, but you can upgrade to 4GB of RAM for a $600 device. An LTE version is expected to launch later this year.

Right now, it's time to take a closer look at the Surface 3, both on its own and next to the older Pro model. After you are done with the InformationWeek review, let us know what you think in the comments section. 

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
4/17/2015 | 8:00:31 AM
Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
"Personally, I don't understand why the Type Cover has to be separate. I can't imagine using either Surface without a keyboard, and isn't this supposed to be a laptop replacement anyway?"  

This confused me when I bought my first Surface Pro.  My intent from the start was to use it as a small laptop not as a tablet so the fact that I had to buy a separate keyboard was annoying.  When I bought my Surface Pro 3 I felt exactly the same way but a little more annoyed when I had to buy a new docking station because they changed the connectors and the Surface Pro 3 wouldn't have fit into the original Surface dock.  These are a couple short sighted issues though and I think they'll end up addressing these as people recognize how versatile these little tablets are.  I've been using a Surface as my Desktop PC, laptop and tablet since the Surface Pro 2 was released in 2013 and I have no intention of going back.

 
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
4/17/2015 | 9:31:37 AM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
@SaneIT I hope so! When I first found out the keyboard was a Surface accessory, not included with the device, I was also confused. I'd rather see Microsoft include it and up the overall price, or at least offer a discount to customers who choose to purchase a keyboard along with their Surface.
TBar38547
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TBar38547,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/17/2015 | 10:19:26 AM
Nice machine, did they address power connection?
I have a Surface Pro 3 and had an original Surface RT.  I like them both.  I was surprised how much the larger screen meant as far as useability.  My original thought was it would be too big.  It would be hard for me to use a Surface 3 at this point for that reason.  I do like the battery life of the Surface 3, which brings up one other issuue I have had with both of the Surfaces I have owned (I admit, I don't know what they did about this on the Surface 3).  Why did Microsoft go with proprietary power connections?  Now, if I go anywhere, I have to take an extra cord.  Additional, I have an external battery that I can't use to charge my Pro 3 because there isn't a cord with a USB connection on one end (to connect to the battery) and a Surface Pro 3 connection on the other end.  At least I can't find one.  With battery life always being an issue, I consider this a big miss.  Other than that, I use my Surface Pro 3 almost exclusively even though I have a very nice laptop.  And, I think the Surface 3 would be a great option for my son, who is in college, to take to classes for note-taking, etc.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
4/17/2015 | 10:35:44 AM
Re: Nice machine, did they address power connection?
The Surface 3 uses a regular micro-USB port for charging. I agree with you on screen size. Surface 3 is a great little machine, but that's the thing... it's little. It would be a big jump for someone used to a bigger laptop to scale down to a 10-inch Surface. As far as student use goes, I wish I had a machine like this in college. Would've been very handy for taking notes and writing papers. I had a clunky Dell laptop as a student - a monster truck compared to the Surface 3!
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
4/17/2015 | 2:49:17 PM
Re: Nice machine, did they address power connection?
Te new model is rather slim and lighter compared to its ancestor, which indicates that MS is on the right track. I totally agree that it's a handy tool for students to take quick note and write papers. When I was in the university in year 1996, even a 486 desktop is considered an advanced machine.:-)
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
4/17/2015 | 4:03:53 PM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
Seems like a nice machine. Is it really 10 hours of battery life? What if you're running 30 tabs under Chrome, many of which include video?
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
4/18/2015 | 9:35:57 AM
Re: Nice machine, did they address power connection?
@Li Tan,

Agreed, I think the Surface 3 will provide what most students have been craving...a full desktop experience in the smallest package as possible.

Hopefully the battery life won't degrade with heavy use.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
4/18/2015 | 9:41:03 AM
Re: Nice machine, did they address power connection?
@Kelly22

(First, great article!! Was looking forward for a comparison)

As has been heavilly discussed in other forums and sites, tablets are aimed to be a mobile companion, with the Surface being the one that blurs the line.

I think the Surface 3 is definitly hitting the sweet spot, mainly because it provides a fully featured windows environment in a more lighter package.

I think that for most professionals that don't require heavy processing will find the Surface 3 very appealing.

I do agree with what you mentioned, not sure why the type cover is seen as an additional purchase, but I would definilty consider having a docking station with a monitor, keyboard, mice for when doing some desk time
LEdwardsAK
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LEdwardsAK,
User Rank: Strategist
4/18/2015 | 12:56:25 PM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
Great article, but one part I always find with nearly all reviews of the Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 is the one that says the lack of type cover is horrible and it is essential to getting the full experience. Then the price of the type cover is tossed on the device's cost and then its pronounced as a bit of trickery by Microsoft. As a Surface Pro 3 owner I agree its essential to having a fully rounded experience, but the on-screen keyboard is fine for mobile moments. Even if not, why are the reviewers so myopic in this area? Both Surface devices come with Bluetooth and USB so you can use an existing keyboards without spending any additional money. Even for traveling there are a myriad of options including size/weight factors to fit your needs. Saying that, I love the type cover, with its back-lit keyboard, thinness, magnetic attachment to the device (including lifting it up for a decent angle), and even color choice. Its a premium accessory I want to buy. Otherwise, I am far from without a keyboard, even those cheap $7 discount ones. 

As for the docking station, I would do the same thing I have done for previous devices and didn't want to pay a premium for it. I would look at 3rd party solutions. Such as the pen holder which I got from CleanInt (even in color to match my type cover). 

So please don't keep pointing out the lack of type cover means the device is lacking, rather point out its a point of flexibility for the person looking to put together their options. Also I have seen a few articles that pointed out bundles by Costcos.com and I expect we'll see others offer a bundle as well that put the device, type cover (black for Costcos), and pen together for $599 (64gb/4gb) or $699 (128gb/4gb).

 
KevinO637
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KevinO637,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/19/2015 | 1:08:44 PM
Keyboard cover. Ugh... Seriously?
I don't know why reviewers insist the Surface line not coming complete with a keyboard cover in the price is such a bad thing. The iPad doesn't come with a case, and a factory "smart" cover or case with set you back $40-80, and all it does is the same thing the Surface's kickstand does. Nobody says that's a con from Apple. A decent 3rd party back-lit keyboard case for an iPad Air 2 costs $60-90, but none of them are as nice as the surface covers... Nor do they provide a more comfortable typing position by angling a bit. Basically, you pay $90 to turn your iPad in a poor clam shell. Wow, what a rip off the $120 keyboard cover is! It's only designed to function flawlessly with the surface model of your choosing, without the headaches or poor layout of virtually all 3rd party compact keyboards out there. Oh,and the illumination of the Microsoft cover is never distracting. Can't say that about the 3rd party type covers, can you. Even with an expertly designed keyboard cover with perfect back lighting, all you can run are iPad apps. The Surface gives you the full Windows OS, plus a very good stylus for $50. How's that $80 capacitive fat-finger junk working out for you, iPad? I'm glad Apple makes such a great value for their customers...
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