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

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Mobile // Mobile Devices
News
4/17/2015
07:05 AM
Kelly Sheridan
Kelly Sheridan
Slideshows
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

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.
Previous
1 of 7
Next

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

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
1 of 7
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
SaneIT
50%
50%
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
100%
0%
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.
LEdwardsAK
100%
0%
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).

 
Kelly22
50%
50%
Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
4/20/2015 | 4:00:06 PM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
@LEdwardsAK You're right in saying that both Surfaces are nice machines with or without the Type Cover. When you're on the go, the on-screen keyboard works well and there are other third-party keyboard solutions, though none quite as nice as Microsoft's.

That said, the Surface 3 was designed as a less-expensive hybrid device for students and mobile professionals, who might reconsider when they find out they have to shell out an extra $180 for a type cover and stylus - or go hunting for a keyboard after they purchase. At that point, some might opt for a less expensive laptop instead. I hope we do see some more bundle deals from retailers, because I think that could boost the appeal for budget-conscious customers.
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 11:11:48 PM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
@LEdwardsAK- yes you could use the existing keyboard via USB port, but having a type cover is great as it could be much portable. 
progman2000
50%
50%
progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
4/20/2015 | 8:51:06 AM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
Interesting.  You've kind of made me rethink the Surface, I am in a weird "need to get a new tablet" place.  Having to buy the keyboard as an add on does kind of kill it though.
LEdwardsAK
50%
50%
LEdwardsAK,
User Rank: Strategist
4/20/2015 | 7:04:33 PM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
@PROGMAN2000: You don't need a keyboard or stylus to run one much like you don't need keyboard with an iPad but you optimize your experience with them. That said I agree with the reviewer that the Type cover by Microsoft is the best option out there and the stylus rocks if you are someone who will use a stylus. So question for the type cover in tablet is the same you would have for A keyboard need for any tablet solution. The answer depends on your expected use. While I would say yes, someone else might say no, if they needed it they could just connect to USB or Bluetooth one they already have. The Type Cover gives you the mobile option with a backlit keyboard, it's a premium option at a premium $130 price. If it fits you need and you want keyboard and are willing to pay that price great, otherwise you can choose another keyboard option that is cheaper. The stylus is another choice, and if you are a person who doodles, draws, artistic, and/or handwrites notes then this option maybe for you. If you don't then why buy it? The Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 gives you a ton of options that includes third party solutions at different price points. My question is what fits with you and what do you want it to do? To be honest my Surface 3 purchase includes both Type Cover and Stylus. That's my choice to fill my needs, what is yours?
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 10:40:35 PM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
@Kelly22 – I believe that Microsoft should give the type cover and the dock along with the Surface pro 3. I can't think of a reason why they haven't included these to the package as these are not much costly items compared to the surface pro 3 itself. 
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
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?
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
4/20/2015 | 8:16:57 AM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
I can't say that I've seen 10 hours of battery life under the pressure I put on it. It does have a surprisingly good life though when considering its size.  I don't' have any trouble traveling with it and working from airports without the fear of an early battery death.  If a couple little issues were fixed the battery life could be much better.  I still haven't figured out if it is something with my particular unit or how I use it but it has a tendency to wake up in my bag and say one.  I've taken it out many mornings and it's hot and the battery is very low (good thing for that 10 hour claim right).  I've tried making sure the power button isn't accidently being tapped, that nothing is set to wake it up, etc.  It also seems to be missing some of the power options so I'm not sure if that's a side effect from upgrading from Win 8 to 8.1 or if they intended to take those options away, there isn't any real clear documentation on the issue.  Aside from those power issues and the incredibly loud fans when I'm really pushing it I have no complaints about its capabilities or its battery life.
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 10:57:30 PM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
@Thomas – I think the battery life depends on the resources you use on the device. If you are working on a processor consuming heavy task it drains the battery much faster. If you always have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth switched on you will still see a reduction in battery life. 
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 11:01:22 PM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
@Thomas – This is why I love the Ultra Stamina Mode on my Sony Xperia Z2. This restricts high power consuming apps to give a better battery life.  It also restricts the core usage of the processor to save battery. Impressive technology that I would like all portable devices to have. 
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 10:31:02 PM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
@SaneIT –I think it's a wonderful idea to have a type cover that's could be separated when needed. Even carrying the type cover with the Surface Pro is not a big hassle. 
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 10:33:33 PM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
@SaneIT –I agree. If your are hoping to get  your hands on Surface pro 3 you should probably get the entire set of accessories. When budgeting for an upgrade you need to have this in mind. 
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 10:37:13 PM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
@SaneIT – I feel Surface Pro 3 is more of a Laptop replacement and not a tablet. Compared to other tablets is much more thick and larger in size. But the good news is that you could have your laptop replacement wherever you go. 
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
5/1/2015 | 8:17:15 AM
Re: Surface 3 vs Surface 3 Pro
@shakeeb, the Surface Pro 3 is much slimmer than the Surface Pro 2 or the Surface Pro.  I think it's right on the border for the "tablet" form factor in my mind.  I use it often as a tablet, especially when traveling.  I pop the kickstand out, put it on my lap and poke away at the touch screen.  I do agree that it's much more capable as a laptop replacement than anything else I've tried.  For me it's right there in a sweet spot for size and functionality.  I can't say that it's perfect but it is a great tool and as I walk around with it I'm getting more people jumping on board with me.  3/4 of my team carries them now and the benefits are leaking out into the rest of the company, instead of laptop requests I'm getting requests for Surfaces now.
TBar38547
50%
50%
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
50%
50%
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
50%
50%
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.:-)
mejiac
50%
50%
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.
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 11:06:50 PM
Re: Nice machine, did they address power connection?
@mejiac – Over time we should expect these devices to have a lesser battery life the same way our laptops perform. One good way to control this is to charge the battery only once the power is below 10%. Also you should always remove the power adaptor when fully charged. This will extend the cycles of the battery. 
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 10:54:20 PM
Re: Nice machine, did they address power connection?
@Li Tan – Sometimes I feel technology is not helping children unless we closely monitor and control their activity. Few months back I purchased an Apple I pad for my child to take notes and use it for educational purposes. However recently I figured out that these y use this to play games during while the class teacher is teaching them.

 
mejiac
50%
50%
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
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 11:09:36 PM
Re: Nice machine, did they address power connection?
@mejiac – That's a great idea to have a docking station with a mouse, keyboard and a monitor attached. This is one way you could use your Surface Pro 3 for business. 
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 10:46:55 PM
Re: Nice machine, did they address power connection?
@Kelly22 – Its good to see Surface Pro 3 using the default micro usb charging method, but do you think ordinary mobile charges could charge the Surface Pro 3. Mobile phone chargers                 provide 5v 800mah to about 2000mah (depending on the mobile device). Is this sufficient to charge surface pro 3?
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 10:50:18 PM
Re: Nice machine, did they address power connection?
@Kelly22 – Good old days laptops were much bulky and produced quite lot of heat when using them. Though we name it as laptop I don't think we could use it on our lap for more than 30 minutes continuously due to the heat.  I am wondering if Surface pro 3 generates a similar amount of heat, specially the one with high end processors. 
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 10:43:35 PM
Re: Nice machine, did they address power connection?
@Annon123... - How much time would the Surface pro 3 last? And How much backup time can your power bank give you? 
KevinO637
50%
50%
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...
mak63
50%
50%
mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
4/20/2015 | 4:44:49 PM
inspiration
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"

Let me add: and cheaper, a lot cheaper. $300 is just a start.
I really don't know where Microsoft gets these prices, but they look a little too much for me.
Keyboard/Type Cover $130
Surface Pen                $ 50
2 extra GB of RAM      $100
LTE                               $200 ?
How much are we really paying for a well rounded Surface? $1000?
Kelly22
50%
50%
Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
4/22/2015 | 3:55:02 PM
Re: inspiration
@mak63 all features included, yes you're paying a pretty penny. The question is, will all Surface customers need/want those extra features? My thoughts are, probably not. Students would probably go for the Type Cover, maybe the extra RAM; same for mobile workers (since most workplaces/schools have WiFi, they could forego the LTE and save $$). The pen is great to have, but you can have a functional tablet/laptop without one.
Slideshows
10 Trends Accelerating Edge Computing
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  10/8/2020
Commentary
Is Cloud Migration a Path to Carbon Footprint Reduction?
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  10/5/2020
News
IT Spending, Priorities, Projects: What's Ahead in 2021
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  10/2/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
[Special Report] Edge Computing: An IT Platform for the New Enterprise
Edge computing is poised to make a major splash within the next generation of corporate IT architectures. Here's what you need to know!
Slideshows
Flash Poll