Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Spending Time With the Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Being an IT professional, especially in academia, has it's advantages. The biggest advantage is getting access to new gadgets to play around with....I mean test. I was given the chance to test drive the recently released Microsoft Surface Pro 3. I have had a Surface Pro 2 since February and it has been my go-to, everyday computer since that time. So imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to get my hands on the Surface Pro 3.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3
That Surface Pro 3 that I am "testing" has a 4th generation Intel Core i5 processor with 256GB internal storage and 8GB of system memory. The battery life is estimated at around 9 hours. While the insides are impressive, it's what on the outside that makes the Surface Pro 3 an appealing device. Unlike the 10.6-inch displays with 1920 x 1080 resolution in the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2, the Surface Pro 3 has a 12-inch ClearType Full HD Display with a 2160 x 1440 resolution. It is also much thinner and more lightweight as well. The look and feel of the design is very similar to that of the Surface 2.

Surface Pro 2 (left) and Surface Pro 3 (right)
One of the first things that I noticed about the Surface Pro 3 was that using it on a desk was a much better experience. The way the new Type Cover connects to the Surface Pro 3, along with the new multi-position kickstand, gives it that laptop/ultrabook feel when you are using it. The new Type and Touch Covers are slightly bigger than the previous ones but the size and layout of the keys are still the same. The touchpad is larger, more responsive and has a noticeable, mechanical "click" when you use it. While it's an improvement over the earlier Type (and Touch) Covers, it's still not at the same as using a touchpad on a laptop. Furthermore, I still found it a bit awkward to use the Surface Pro 3 in my lap in the same manner as a traditional laptop BUT it's not as awkward as trying to do the same with the previous Surface Pro tablets.

The coolest feature of the Surface Pro 3 is how the new Surface pen interacts with the device. Clicking the top of the pen opens Microsoft OneNote. Even cooler is that if you click the pen while your Surface is in sleep mode, it opens a blank OneNote document so that you can start taking notes without having to log into your device. One thing to keep in mind as it relates to the new pen is that it is battery powered and requires a single AAAA battery.

Surface Pro 3 Pen
And now the question that is on everyone's mind: Is it worth upgrading if you already own an earlier model? It depends. If you have a first generation Surface Pro and it is your primary computer, then it might be a worthwhile upgrade if you can afford it. However, if you have the Surface Pro 2, it becomes a tough decision. In addition, if you are like me and invested in accessories for your Surface Pro 2 (e.g. Power Cover, docking station), the decision becomes even tougher because many of the previous generation Surface accessories, such as the docking station, power supply and Surface Pro pen, will not work with the Surface Pro 3. Surprisingly, the Touch and Type Cover 2 will click in and work with Surface Pro 3. They just will look a bit odd because they are not designed to cover the whole screen when closed. It basically boils down to what your needs are (larger screen and/or lightweight design) and if you can afford to upgrade.

Overall, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is definitely a huge improvement over the previous generations. If you are looking for the a single device that function as both a tablet and a laptop, look no further because this is the first Windows tablet that gives you portability and power without any major sacrifices. Third time's the charm as they say.